The Disastrous Employee

Ben was one of the most gifted and yet deeply flawed executives I’ve ever encountered. When I was asked to mediate tensions within the leadership team of his organization, it became evident that every person on the team was contributing to the problem to some degree.

But as mediation continued, it became clear that Ben was playing the major role in the deterioration of the organization’s unity and effectiveness.

The irony was that Ben also had the most impressive professional credentials on the team. Excellent education, advanced degrees, corporate awards, financial success. His technical abilities, sometimes referred to as “hard skills,” were top of the line.

But his relational abilities, or “soft skills,” were disastrous. In spite of his professional achievements, he was amazingly insecure. He was charming in social settings, but at work he dominated conversations, listened poorly, and was oblivious to how his pride and defensiveness offended others, stifled creativity, and damaged morale.

In spite of many coaching efforts, Ben was unable to face his relational short-comings. As a result, his employer finally saw no alternative but to let him go.

The fatal role of Ben’s relational deficiencies is illustrated by this diagram.

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This diagram shows how an employee’s soft skills have the power to magnify—or diminish—the value of his hard skills—as well as those of everyone with whom he or she works. And if a person’s softs skills are low enough, they can essentially negate the value of even the most outstanding technical abilities (100 x 0 = 0).

Soft skills, which the world often refers to as “emotional intelligence (EI),” or “emotional quotient (EQ),” and I refer to as “relational wisdom,” have such proven value that they are being promoted by business, educational, and political leaders around the world. Here are three recent articles that highlight this trend.

  • The Amadori Case, a three-year study by one of McDonald’s chief suppliers, found that emotional intelligence was the major predictor of management performance, organizational engagement, employee turnover, and bottom-line profitability.
  • Want an MBA From Yale? You’re Going to Need EI explains why the Yale School of Management (following in the footsteps of the business schools at Notre Dame and Dartmouth) has begun to use EI testing to screen applicants for its MBA program.
  • Xi Jinping Commends EI reports that China’s President Xi Jinping recently announced, “It’s not your educational background, integrity, experience, or people you know that matters. What it takes to be a good leader is ‘emotional intelligence.’”
  • Here are fifty similar articles describing the growing attention that business, educational, healthcare, military, athletic, and political leaders are giving to emotional intelligence.

The world’s growing appreciation for “soft skills” (EI/EQ) should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the Bible. Scripture repeatedly highlights the value of relational skills and their beneficial impact in group settings.

For example, if a worker (or better yet, an entire team) learns how to read others’ emotions (Prov. 20:5), understand their interests (Phil. 2:3-4), speak graciously (Eph. 4:29; Prov. 22:11), encourage the inexperienced or insecure (1 Thess. 5:14), applaud others’ innovation and accomplishments (Rom. 16:1-2), and prevent or quickly resolve conflict (Prov. 15:18), the unity, energy, creativity, and productivity of an entire team can be magnified (James 3:17-18).

Bottom line: One of the best ways for you and your employees to succeed in the workplace is to deliberately develop the relational skills that God has laid out for us throughout Scripture.

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Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 and the author of numerous books on biblical conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.