“Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging in us, we always have a choice… It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right”, says Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maguire)at the end of Spider-Man 3. Less the drama, the statement holds good for any crisis situation may it be in an organisation or in life. There are incidents that arrive suddenly in an organisation, even if the planning is perfect and the process is well in place, crisis may still be inevitable. And from such crises emerge champions and heroes; from such crises surface lessons of courage and grit; from such crises we assess our emotional strength and decision making ability. Thus, crisis acts as an arena where the bout within an individual is settled and a decision is made.
In this article, let us look at emotional intelligence and its critical role in the process of decision making during a crisis.
Understanding Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability in individuals that allows them to manage their own emotions, understand others, and make apt decisions. It encompasses five core components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. These components facilitate effective communication, catalyze problem-solving, and nurture relationships, all of which are crucial in dealing with crises. How does it happen? How does it impact an individual’s performance in the organisation? Let us evaluate.
During a crisis, heightened emotions can daze judgment and hinder effective decision-making. A study conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that individuals with high emotional intelligence were better equipped to manage their stress and maintain clear-headedness in challenging situations. For instance, consider an IR Officer making split-second decisions during a major accident in the factory, where workers are fatally injured. Those with strong emotional intelligence can assess the situation objectively and respond with clarity, ultimately providing the desired outcome.
Decision-Making and Problem Solving
Emotional intelligence is crucial in rational decision-making amidst chaos. In a study published in the "Journal of Applied Psychology," researchers found that leaders with high emotional intelligence were more likely to consider the emotional impact of their decisions on team members. This ability to balance logic with empathy leads to decisions that positively impact the team members and enhances team cohesion even in times of difficulty. For instance, the Taj, Mumbai attack where the employees risked their own lives to safeguard the lives of their guests. It was all due to leadership and organizational culture. An employee becomes a savior in a crisis because she is able to deal with her emotions rationally.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. It is a key factor in crisis management. Emotional intelligence contributes to resilience by enabling individuals to recognize and manage their own emotions. According to the American Psychological Association, individuals who are emotionally intelligent tend to possess better coping mechanisms and are likely to have less burnout or emotional exhaustion during prolonged crises. The recent pandemic has given us multiple examples of employees who lost their near and dear ones, yet resurged back to carry out their tasks and activities. “The show must go on”. Survivors of acid attacks, or traumatizing incidents, who show resilience and get back to their chores, exemplify how emotions can be channelized properly.
Empathy and Communication
Empathy is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. The ability to understand and share the feelings of others promotes trust and solidarity. For instance, a study published in the "Harvard Business Review" revealed that leaders who demonstrated empathy during the global financial crisis maintained positive employee morale and commitment. By acknowledging employees' concerns and offering support, these leaders effectively managed uncertainty and anxiety within their teams. There are many examples but one of the best examples is Green Trends. The Spa and saloon chain was kept shut for more than 6 months, yet the managers kept providing motivation and financial support to the employees.
During crises, maintaining positive relationships is essential for collective well-being. Emotional intelligence facilitates conflict resolution and negotiation. It helps in maintaining stable relationships. It is important that the managers imbibe social and emotional skills for exhibiting positive social behavior. Such skills include active listening and perspective-taking that translates to improved communication and collaboration in all kinds of situations.
Thus, the importance of emotional intelligence during crises cannot be ruled out. Its influence on decision-making, coping mechanisms, empathy, and relationship management empowers individuals to navigate challenges with resilience, grit and grace. Various studies conducted across the globe establish the fact that those with high emotional intelligence possess a distinct advantage in effectively managing crises. And it can be learnt, practiced and mastered. All that an organisation needs to do is to initiate learning and development sessions on emotional intelligence, and assess the EI of employees on a regular basis. Such endeavors will equip the employees with the right tools to manage their emotions, communicate effectively, and handle crises constructively.
To face an unpredictable world, nurturing and developing our emotional intelligence emerges as an imperative investment so that We Always make the Right Choice!
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)