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Imagine yourself in this scenario:
You're a silent type at work, and often you feel like an outsider. You do your job well and perform all your duties, as required. However, whenever something goes wrong at the team or section level, you are usually 'scapegoated' unfairly.
You have seen a pattern; if things don't go according to plan or if something goes awry, you end up with more blame than you rightfully deserve.
Now let's build the scenario further:
The same situation has played out on repeat for some months now. Your section manager calls you in his office and says:
"Sammy, so I have noticed that you haven't been pulling your fair share of weight, and not just that, you, I feel, often work in ways that are counter to the interests of the projects and tasks that you're assigned to. . . I don't think this behavior is compatible with the objectives of the firm and what we are looking for in team members."
You are shocked. Not only do you put in more effort than others, you are also often left with tasks that others carelessly just dump on you. When a team member is going for, say, coffee, they usually just expect you—the silent type—to complete their share of work. . . even when it obviously falls under their domain.
You also put in more hours and are left with more technical work than others in your section. So, the comments of the manager come as a shock to you—a violation of expectations—as you were expecting to be appreciated for the discretionary effort you put in, and the support you provide to others, going above and beyond at times than many others.
In this situation, a fundamental question arises nonetheless . . . Do you, or—should you absolutely—regulate, comprehend, and analyze your emotions, as prescribed under emotional intelligence (EI)?
Surely, if it's the first time this is happening, you should calmly dissect the situation with absolute clarity of thought, rationalizing your feelings, comprehending the natural emotions you're mind may be feeling to deliver a thoughtful response that would compel the manager to think about the possibility of you being scapegoated by others in your section. You should also have an honest conversation with others your directly work with.
For example, you can have an emotionally intelligent conversation:
"Look, guys, I know that sometimes work can get overwhelming, and when you add personal commitments on top of that, it may seem easier to leave your tasks rough around the edges and expect someone else to chip in to complete the work. Also, sometimes, it becomes difficult to introspect and evaluate our shortcomings; deflecting and transferring burden seems like an easier way out, canceling all awkward conversations with the managers.
However, doing so unduly burdens other team members, eroding trust and eradicating all synergies. If we all work in a flow mode, we can achieve so much more and possibly receive bonuses. Wouldn't that be a better outcome?"
You may also evaluate whether or not you have accurate mental models regarding what is expected of you, and how you may make adjustments to realign your mindset for improved assimilation. EI should also assist with coping with the stress at a personal level, of course.
But what if you have done that, say, multiple times, and yet, you're facing the same critique and experiencing the same problems/toxic environment? What would an EI coach or a mentor advise you in such a condition (especially if you can't afford to resign and search for another job)?
More likely than not, their advice for someone in such or a similar condition will be something along the lines of: "Go back to the drawing board when you're 'de-escalated'; try to evaluate the points that you're failing to convey; try to present the situation with more clarity and try to have an honest conversation with your section mates."
However, we must ask a further question, which at times, is the reality that many in difficult scenarios face.
We must understand that sometimes, the environment and other elements, social structures and people, for example, we're trying to deal with, aren't responsive to tactical approaches prescribed under EI/EQ. Most professionals know that, as with all other approaches in leadership, management, and social interactions, EQ/EI has limitations.
We must accept, as most people do with experience, that there are certain scenarios, conditions, and engagements in which the guidance that methods under emotional intelligence provide us, just don't yield a definitive resolution.
This can occur in professional matters, emotional issues, or personal matters; a scenario at work, or a complexity at home; yes, EI is one of the most powerful tools an individual can possess to excel in social engagements, nonetheless, as most professionals know, it's no panacea.
EI really is a substantial leap forward in handling a variety of personal and professional situations. Under the majority of such conditions, say, 98% of interactions, EI/EQ is the best approach for realignment of workflow, social engagements, resolving issues, & increasing the bandwidth of communication, which helps to build a higher level of interpersonal understanding.
These advantages enable efficient resolution of issues, build a more nurturing work environment, and help build trust. Nonetheless, there are some, say, 2% of engagements/scenarios and conditions where EQ provides limited advantages, if none at all; under some conditions, it may even backfire as a tactic.
These issues (under such marginal scenarios) are explained in detail in this work.
There are times when those we are dealing with, or the conditions under which we must operate, just aren't responsive for a more sagacious approach. As discussed in the scenario illustrated above, Sammy can try to continually use EQ to resolve the problems she faces—however, such an approach may be an exercise in futility (given the situation); we must accept that there are times when we must think of logical strategies that aren't, well, let's say a derivative of EI.
Another critical point that we must understand is that when dealing with an incredibly frustrating or overwhelming situation, we mustn't always expect ideal, almost robotically sterilized responses from people with an expectation that everyone should, fundamentally, regulate all their emotional processes so when externalized, the encoding of the message has an erudite persuasiveness grounded in an almost mechanical comprehension and regulation of emotions in a way that best fits tactical or strategic objectives.
Arguably, such a way of thinking is an expectation of unrealistic meticulousness from people that cannot reasonably be considered realistic.
Here's another setting:
Geeda is a young woman; she had to leave her studies due to financial constraints and works in an office in a developing country. Ever since she started working, she has experienced sexual harassment from some male colleagues at work. Under the culture she operates, such horrendous actions, unfortunately, aren't considered aberrant behavior; the law enforcement authorities, and managerial authority in her section, do not provide her any protection.
Under such conditions, if Geeda responds to her harassers in a regulated, mellow manner, they may misconstrue it as acquiescence.
For example, if another repugnant episode of harassment unfolds, yet she responds in a mellow, empathetic, regulated manner to the harasses, trying to explain to them how the situation is overwhelming her to the point of having a nervous breakdown as she has no escape, can't quit the job, and can't bear the harassment; such a response, more likely than not, would be construed as a form of admittance of no access to any form of power that may hold such men accountable. Such uncivil men are more likely to be emboldened with such a response.
EQ/EI techniques may indeed offer her better coping mechanisms in terms of dealing with such stress at a personal level; even so, a solution to the fundamental problem faced isn't likely to come from such approaches. If the fundamental cause of the stress isn't resolved, the psychological pressure will continue to compound.
Thus, even if EI enables Geeda to handle the stress better, if the core problem isn't resolved, such a remedy can be compared to a pain killer prescribed to a cancer patient—the patient may use the pain killers to dull the agony, but the cancer would continue to metastasize further.
Thus, as we can see with the two examples stated in this work, there are many scenarios/conditions/engagements under which EI/EQ just isn't the approach to take; put mildly, it has limited applicability in some situations. Everyone who is proficient in emotional regulation yet has experienced complex settings under which such regulation just didn't cut it, understands the limits of such' powers.'
Emotions and their 'practical uses'
The ventilation fallacy, as explained by Daniel Goleman, illustrates how emotional outbursts can be counterproductive; moreover, applying a Socratic understanding, we can easily comprehend how such outbursts 'breed more anger,' worsening the condition more than the initial starting point. Goleman and other coaches all prescribe regulation of emotionality.
Exaggerated emotional responses—especially outbursts—put succinctly, are often described as vestigial remnants of our past, when we often faced life-or-death situations that required a swift emotional response—grounded in our 'reptilian brain.'
The proposition is that as humans and human society evolve, we'll rely more on the regulation of emotions than on emotionality & its derivatives. Of course, this viewpoint is pertinent; however, the complexities workers, managers, and leaders face now—in the present—demand tactics that would work in scenarios where EI just doesn't cut it.
Emotionality is part of the human condition; it's always been with us, for better or for worse. Therefore, tactical use of emotions shouldn't be ruled out absolutely, in favor of an 'always measured'; approach.
The fallacy of constantly regulating and amending feelings that arise naturally
"All theories are wrong, but some are useful—George E. P. Box."
Philosophically, if we try to understand a state and its complexities, we must recognize that observations regarding a particular condition, and the mechanisms we develop to achieve our objectives, aren't and cannot be absolute. If something works, say, eight times out of ten, it cannot be considered an absolute law. In science and philosophy, we can only state likelihoods; we can't make statements regarding absolute truths. If a phenomenon is empirically observed to occur nine out of ten times in, say, 1000 simulations, we may confidently say that it is likely to occur in the next 100 simulated results.
However, arguments/persuasions developed to implement a faith-like devotion to findings/empirically observed phenomenon, especially in a social setting, more likely than not, can set up the followers of such preaching for failure. Theories that have yielded results in the past are useful, but we must strive to develop further functions/refinements that improve them or replace them.
We have seen that in recent years, HR and OBHRM divisions of corporations have emphasized a faith-like devotion to EI and its derivatives. Nonetheless, as elaborated above, we must accept that it isn't an approach that can yield meaningful resolutions for all problems/conditions.
Furthermore, those operating under conditions where emotionality is frowned upon may find themselves operating in a sterilized environment; such an environment also eliminates alternatives that may be used as the state requires (i.e., contingent upon the situation). And, of course, a lack of strategic alternatives leaves one at a strategic disadvantage, especially at a leadership level.
Imagine a CEO of a small firm of technical developers facing possible bankruptcy giving a speech to reinvigorate the competitive spirits of all workers. Would absolute regulation of emotions of fear of losing her job and seeing the company go down, even after years of hard work, be a sagacious approach?
Not likely; an honest emotional speech that is unregulated—not synthesized or measured—is more likely to reinvigorate organizational members.
Or, consider a political aspirant giving a speech about, say, deforestation and ecological damage; is a measured & analytical approach about facts & figures likely to yield results? Or is a raw sermon on the suffering of species devastated by such actions likely to move more people?
Regulation of emotions, introspection, & comprehension of one's feelings is, of course, likely to yield superior results and protect against possibilities of career derailment; however, there are times when we must let our emotions take center stage tactically, without any analytical debasement. Such an approach is more likely to come across as authentic & connect us with the humanity of those that may be on the fence about an issue (especially: difficult ones).
Such boldness may be 'just the thing' needed to move indecisive participants that may take our side.
Using raw emotionality for achieving objectives that cannot be achieved under EI—what to do when emotional intelligence doesn't work.
Broadly, the approach presented in this work somewhat resembles the contingency theories of strategic analysis, leadership, management, and OBHRM.
Before we move forward, we must understand an intuitive strategic concept proposed by Antoine-Henri, Baron Jomini, a French-Swiss officer who also served in the Russian service; Jomini, a military historian and strategic analyst, in his works, delineates the use of what can simply be described as actions of strength at decisive points.
This Jominian principle is adopted in this work to help professionals & others understand strategic alternatives to a form of 'always-on EI,' helping develop an understanding of options beyond the prescriptions of Emotional intelligence and its derivative approaches.
How can actions of strength at decisive points aid in situations where Emotional intelligence/quotient does not provide any practical solution (such as the two examples discussed earlier in this work)?
If one has exhausted all EI-based tactics to resolve a problematic condition, to no avail, a reflection on the tactics that may be useful becomes necessary. If a regulated, introspecting & empathizing approach is not yielding solutions, possibly due to sociopathic or toxic behavior, etc., then one must think of options beyond EI.
What is meant by actions of strength at decisive points?
To understand this point, we must go back to the first hypothetical scenario of unjustified blame and toxic behavior discussed in this work: Team/section members take advantage of a co-worker with a quiet personality, also singling her out & scapegoating her, while the manager sides with the majority.
What would 'actions of strength at decisive points (ASDP)' mean in this example? ASDP in this scenario would be action(s) that establish the culpability of other toxic members of the team and utilize emotional zeal to 'establish and relay' the culpability of the guilty at a point of tactical significance.
Such action, with a heightened emotional appeal, is more likely to stimulate/trigger schemas, heuristics & mirror neurons of those holding power/authority, helping Sammy influence and persuade them regarding the prolonged partiality & unfairness faced by her. Such actions are more likely to justify and clarify the actions of Sammy, establishing exculpatory data, and are more likely to enable those in authority to understand the sequence of events in Sammy's actions and the actions of the team. Such an approach is described ASDP in this work.
A further elaboration of this point is required:
There are three main factors required under the ASDP: (1) establishing the EI/related regulated approaches aren't yielding results/resolving the situation, (2) establishing (through supporting elements) that the person is facing an adverse set of circumstances, (3) relaying such information with emotionality at points of highest impact.
Put simply, first, Sammy would have to establish that other members in her team indeed are scapegoating her and unfairly burdening her with their tasks and duties.
"But how can this be achieved, and what methods can be used in such a situation?"
One key characteristic of toxic behavior is that it has some level of predictability. Under the circumstances, as depicted in the example of Sammy and her team, toxic behavior may be anticipated as per past patterns; for example, others may sign off early, leaving her to finish the tasks they should have completed, or if a project is behind schedule, etc., the subject victim may be blamed, i.e., the likelihood of scapegoating increases as problems increase.
Therefore, we can see that reoccurring episodes of toxic conduct are likely to have some level of predictability. In the second example of Geeda (sexual harassment), such actions may be more likely to occur when most office members are out for lunch break or when she is in a particular area, such as the copying room, etc. Under ASDP, those facing unacceptable conduct must decipher the patterns of such behavior for the second step:
Identifying the predictability of the pattern should enable the gathering of crucial evidence.
For example, after Sammy Identifies the predictability of the pattern, she should collect evidence that the team members are indeed scapegoating her, shirking their duties and burdening her with the tasks they are paid to do. She may collect the project plan, which clearly delineates who is tasked with certain tasks or who has accepted, say, a part of the tasks in the product backlog (under agile approaches such as scrum).
She must then collect evidence that team members that are given certain duties/tasks, or those that accept tasks from the product backlog, usually dump their share of work on her, especially near the ending time of their shift. She may record audio of them dumping tasks on her, record videos of duties that are forwarded to her, etc., to establish that others on the team are indeed burdening her in an unfair manner.
She may then collect further evidence that she's been completing her duties to the fullest, and if a project is going awry, she may collect evidence of having completed her duties to the fullest and record her apprehension that she may be scapegoated. Geeda, similarly, utilizing the predictability of the horrendous episodes faced by her, should collect evidence as step 1.
Here, some may argue that once evidence is collected, it would be better to just present it to authority in a milder, calculated/emotionally regulated manner. However, in scenarios where EI/EQ and related approaches have failed to yield results before, such an approach isn't likely to yield results comparable to an ASDP approach (further delineated below). This is because a milder presentation of facts and evidence may be construed as a continuation of previously presented arguments, which, to begin with, did not persuade authority.
Those in authority may perceive such an approach as a continuation of past machinations in an effort to deflect blame on Sammy's part. However, evidence presented at a crucial stage with emotionality, on the other hand, is far more likely to move people.
In the second step, to implement an ASDP approach, points of highest possible impact must be identified. These are conditions where previously collected evidence/supporting details may be presented for the highest impact.
"One mustn't play their cards at an inopportune time, as doing so weakens the impact of the move."
Let's go back to 1995 for a minute:
OJ Simpson is standing trial for homicides; an overwhelming amount of evidence & witness testimony has been presented against him. Bookies, professional wagerers, and most legal commentators during this period expect OJ to be found guilty.
However, Johnnie Cochran implemented a strategic maneuver that very much was Jominian in nature. Not just that, he also conveyed supporting arguments/evidence with atypical emotionality, even bringing one juror to tears.
He needed an act of substantial strength, at a decisive point, to subordinate all other patterns of thoughts that had entrenched in the minds of the jurors through overwhelming amounts of evidence and testimony provided previously in the trial.
In the concluding part of the trial, Cochran presented his arguments with emotional appeal, and, perhaps decisively, utilized the evidence of the gloves, argued to be used for the crime, not fitting OJ:
His famous words "if it don't fit, you must acquit [SIC]" are surely still memorable for many people.
This method was very much an ASDP approach taken by the defense team, and we all know the results (OJ—unexpectedly—was acquitted [for those who are unaware of the case]).
We must contemplate, had Cochran used an EI-based, mellower/regulated approach, would the results be the same? If you're unsure, ask someone who saw the trial live and with interest.
There are times when an ASDP method would yield far superior results than an always-on EI mindset.
Let's come back to the hypothetical examples used in this work. Sammy must decipher a point of high impact for a definitive crescendo. Presenting the collected evidence in a calculated manner, in a time window of strategic importance, and to those recipients that the desired effect is amplified to the fullest.
How can this time window be identified, and how can she identify the most appropriate recipients for her message?
To understand how Sammy, or anyone else in a similar situation, can identify the best time window for the last step under ASDP, we must utilize the Newtonian concept of 'attraction,' but in a social setting.
As celestial bodies are impacted by the mass of other celestial bodies, which in turn governs their movement, so too are people under hierarchical structures; the higher up a person is in a hierarchy, the more their capacity to impact, or govern, actions of others under them—or holding a position lower to theirs in the hierarchy.
This concept can succinctly be described as a sociostructural gravity. Anyone trying to identify the best time to implement the last step of the ASDP approach must examine the Sociostructural gravity under which they, and the people they're trying to influence, operate.
Let's expound this concept before we move forward: If we are trying to examine the motion of Europa (one of Jupiter's moons) we would see that it is impacted by a number of other celestial bodies, such as Ganymede; nonetheless, the highest impact on its motion is caused by Jupiter. In this case, Jupiter is the entity holding the highest power on Europa's motion; we can use similar logic to understand settings under which we can present our emotions, in conjunction with favorable evidence, to person(s) with the highest sociostructural gravity over those we're trying to influence.
Let's go back to our examples for a bit to understand this concept better. Geeda is in a difficult situation, as explained earlier, and very much powerless when it comes to stopping the harassment she's been facing. Let's assume that she has collected some evidence of the harassment, for example, audio recordings, etc. When and how should she let out her frustration and implement the last step of the ASDP method?
She must identify those that hold the highest sociostructural gravity upon the harassers who will also, possibly, be sympathetic to her plight. For example, she may identify an influential female director of the company that visits the premise once every quarter, or a wife or other female family members of the harasser(s) who may hold influence over them (for example, mother), who at times come to the office, or are, as per a pattern, likely to be available at certain times in a locale accessible to Geeda.
She should identify this opportunity of being face to face with those holding the highest sociostructural gravity over the harasser(s), given the limitations of her access, and implement the last step of the ASDP.
(If she has already pleaded with her immediate manager(s) to no avail, going back to them with the evidence would, logically, be futile—as explained earlier)
Alternatively, let's go back to the political aspirant (let's call him Smith) trying to persuade more people against the threats of deforestation. Let's assume he collects evidence that his challenger (let's call him John), in the past, has received unordinary gifts from a logging company (let's call it Bad. Inc) with a terrible reputation and sanctions against it in the past.
Would it suit Smith to present his evidence in a mellower thoughtful way throughout the campaign, with EI-compatible arguments like:
"I want to talk about the possibilities of pecuniary benefits influencing our overall mindset; John, I'm sure due to a complex set of circumstances, has received a new car worth $200,000 in the past from Bad Inc. This 'gift,' I feel, has influenced him in taking a supportive approach towards logging, unfortunately."
Wouldn't it be better to implement ASDP: Identify the body with the most significant gravitational influence over John, which would be the constituents in this example, of course; identify an opportunity when Smith can communicate with most constituents at once, for example, a crucial debate, and deliver an emotional sermon based on the collected evidence, and the impact of irreversible habitat loss caused by deforestation?
The impact of an emotional sermon, coupled with the evidence would, of course, be an act of strength at a decisive point (the debate), delivered to the constituents (those holding the highest sociostructural gravity in the situation over John); such a maneuver should, logically, yield far superior results compared to a mellow, analytical regurgitation of facts; just as the emotional persuasion of Johnnie Cochran in the OJ trial (at a critical point, mind you) yielded results far superior to those anticipated.
A High-risk maneuver—only implement when at a tactical dead-end
Anyone interested in implementing this method should understand that this is a high-risk maneuver that should only be utilized if all other methods/approaches have been exhausted.
For example, in scenarios as described in this work, there is a requirement of using the methods described here; however, such situations can be described as 'DEFCON 1' situations—this essentially means that for circumstances where one can use other, mellower methods, such methods should be used. Yet, if it is established through past precedent that ordinary methods have practically no chance of working, ASDP should be considered.
Can one be emotional that tactically?
It would, of course, be unreasonable to expect people to produce an emotional response at will or tactically—besides, even if one can manage to do so, such action is likely to be decoded as 'operatic,' or at the very least, exaggerated; if this is so, the likelihood of connecting with others, at a visceral level, is also reduced. So, the next logical question that arises is: how can the second step of the maneuver, presented in this work, actually be implemented?
To understand this point, we should briefly discuss 'American Idol' and other such audition-based tv shows. Often, singers deliver a solid audition, after which—at times—a backstory is presented to the judges.
Anyone who may have seen American Idol would know that during this time, as the backstory of a singer who has had a challenging past is discussed, the auditioning singer can have a very natural yet overwhelming emotional response. Are those feelings, tears & tremors manufactured for the moment?
Of course not. While some may be able to do so, the majority, even the cynics should understand, just can't 'act' at that level of perfection.
Thus, while being emotional at a whim isn't possible (as we aren't like vampires in an L. J. Smith novel), one can, nonetheless, hold emotions inside for a while so when the time comes, the moment & its importance (as it sinks in) enables us to 'let it all out.' Such emotions aren't synthetic but are natural emotional heft, that once we see an outlet to unload, very naturally come to the surface; this is especially true for crucial moments when we're at a heightened level of lucidity; at such moments, when we are in front of important people and have elements supporting us, the visceral emotions effortlessly come to the surface.
Anyone who has performed in front of an audience knows this feeling. . . when you perform to the best of your ability, the audience applauds, and you feel like bursting into tears; emotions come to the surface more easily. Therefore, at moments of importance, especially when you have a position of strength—this can be an epic performance in front of an audience or, more pertinent in our case, presenting favorable evidence/elements to those with high sociostructural gravity— bottled up emotions should naturally rise to the surface.
When Johnnie Cochran emotionally argued in front of the jury in the final stage of the OJ trial, he, arguably, wasn't synthesizing such feelings to win a case; if that was so, he wouldn't connect with the jurors at the emotional level as he did. He, debatably, held to his feelings of possible police malfeasance, discrimination, and conspiracy, finally letting them out at a point of critical—make or break—importance.
(The discussion here shouldn't be misconstrued as commentary on the controversial OJ Simpson trial—it is only as an analysis of the tactics used by Johnnie Cochran)
Hence, all in all, anyone who must use the ASDP approach needn't manufacture an emotional response (doing so will most likely be a mistake as well, as people are good at deciphering genuine emotions from manufactured ones) but hold on to the feelings for a while, until a suitable opportunity arises; then, the only thing left to do is to present the case and unload the emotional heft.
Overall, isn't this work somewhat Machiavellian in nature?
Some may perceive it to be rooted in Machiavellian philosophy; however, in all actuality, this work provides a methodology to counter Machiavellian behaviors & behaviors described under 'the dark triad,' by others. Therefore, it's more like a calculated yet honest—emotionally authentic—response to the unscrupulous/unacceptable actions of others.
Hence, this work very much presents an approach that can be described as anti-Machiavellian, also being anti to behaviors described under the dark triad—it is thus an authentic tactical solution, so to speak; This work accepts/asserts the superiority of EI/EQ based approaches, while, at the same time, illustrating the limitations of such approaches, i.e., accepting that EQ/EI work most of the time, yet not all the time, and presents a method to implement in scenarios where the aforementioned fail to yield results.
Social interactions are dynamic; an infinite number of possible scenarios can unfold, depending on a very large number of external and internal variables. We must, thus, understand that no single approach can yield expected results under all possible scenarios. This work illustrates a method that can be used in situations where regulated, weighted, & unnaturally sympathetic techniques just don't work.
A framework for the ASDP approach, its theoretical origins, and an implementational methodology is also laid out. While, ideally, we should all live in a world where EI/EQ are the best approaches to use for resolving situations, this work, as done under the contingency theories of strategic analysis & leadership, explains situations/scenarios where emotional intelligence cannot yield results (tail events).
At the very least, developing an understanding of these issues can broaden the interpersonal and strategic repertoire of those interested in this topic.
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