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Demographic Trends Predict Greater need for EQ in Workplace

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE ezine.

Demographic trends and experiential evidence build a strong case for getting emotional intelligence in your business right away if you want to retain good employees.

There is a demographic trend of which HR personnel, management, and CEOs need to be aware. According to trends analyst, Cheryl Russell, by the year 2 005, the most common household in the US will be single-person households. "Never before in American history has living alone been the predominant lifestyle," says Russell, and the time is fast approaching.

According to the American Association for Single people (www.singlesrights.com/main.html), the 2000 UC Census reported that 82 million men and women in the United States are unmarried. This figure includes nearly 20 million adults who are divorced, 13.6 million who are widowed, and more than 48 million who have never married.

  • More than 48% of all households in the nation are headed by unmarried individuals.
  • About 40% of the workforce is unmarried.
  • Approximately 36% of people who voted in the last national election were unmarried.
  • About 27 million Americans live alone, while about 2 million adults live with an unmarried partner

The Census Bureau has projected that between the ages of 15 and 85, the average man and woman will experience more years being unmarried than they will being married. According to this data, a huge and growing population is choosing to be alone. If you define adults as those over 18, 44% of US adults - that's nearly half -- are singles.

At the same time, more Americans than ever are divorcing. The number of divorced men and women has more than quadrupled in the past 3 decades: 4.3 million to 18.3 million. According to one study, in all but the 55 to 64 age group, 30% or more of the population is single. Of the 18 to 24 age group, 85.9% are single. This is a very substantial change from a generation ago, and this is the group that will be coming your way!

The American Association for Single People (AASP) states its mission as follows: "Because government and corporate policies are often not fair to unmarried Americans, there is a need for an organization to be an advocate for this large and growing unmarried constituency - an advocate for equality and equity. The AASP has done extensive studies of census data and report the following trends:

Single Family households: 1960, 13.1%; 1980, 22.7%; 2000, 25.5%
Married Couples: 1960, 74.3%; 1980, 60.8%; 2000, 52.8%
Unmarried Adults 18+ 1970, 28.3%; 1980, 34.3%; 2000, 40.4%

Their projection for 2010 is that 47.2% of the adults over the age of 18 will be unmarried.

If we assume that this trend continues, and Cheryl Russell is not the only one who thinks it will, what will this mean to the workplace?

I'm going to make two points regarding these demographic trends, and then build a case for bringing emotional intelligence programs into the workplace, and I want you to follow my line of reasoning here.

First of all, there will be increasing pressure for economic, political and legal reforms to accommodate this shift to unmarried adults.

Secondly, it seems apparent that adults are going to be seeking more connection, more social contact, and more emotional expression at work - with nearly half of workers being single.

While living alone does not necessarily mean lonely, it does mean that whatever emotional needs were being met previously by marriage will not be met. It may mean wider social networks, with more expectations that these needs be met at work since most adults work at least 8 hours a day, sometimes many more hours. And those who are unmarried and live alone will, well, go home alone.

Those adults who live alone will have less emotional support and fewer outlets for emotional expression and meaningful contact outside of the workplace. We have already become aware that among the homeless population, a large number of single mothers rely upon a child for their major source of emotional support which is not adequate, and is not good for either the child or the mother.

And, meanwhile, what is the biggest problem for most employers today? Finding good workers and retaining them. In the same way that the workplace began, of necessity, to accommodate to the needs of dual-working couples, by providing flexible schedules and on-site daycare for instance, the smart company is going to begin thinking about what these demographics mean, and how to provide for what is going to be needed if they hope to attract and keep the best workers.

It seems to me that two forces are going to come together -- a continued need to secure and retain the best employees, and the growing number of single or unmarried adults in the workforce - and mandate bringing more emotional intelligence into the workplace.

And why the call for more emotional intelligence? We're already seeing an emphasis on what were formerly called "soft skills" because of the wisdom of experience. It has become evident in recent years, as downsizing, over-workload, information escalation and accelerated rate of change demand more and more teamwork and shared resources, that IQ, intellect, training, education and expertise are no longer sufficient alone.

The productive and valuable employee, the visionary leader, and the effective manager must also have those competencies which we call emotional intelligence, or EQ. They must be able to negotiate win-win situations, forge teams and work with them, share information, have, use and nurture interpersonal skills to forward projects, lead with integrity and intentionality, be able to handle constructive discontent, be adaptable and flexible in the face of chaotic change, be creative, and remain resilient.

Now let's pause for a moment to consider an example of how intellect and emotional intelligence work together optimally. If times are turbulent now, consider the late 1950s when the launch of Sputnik forced the US into the space race, already a day late and a dollar behind. Our IQ-EQ example will be William Pickering, known as "The Rocket Man". Less than 3 months after Sputnik was launched in 1957, Explorer I was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Pickering was the man behind this phenomenal feat.
He was and is, a central figure in the American space race.

Pickering had all the proper degrees - a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Physics, and he was appointed Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1954, but not solely because of his intellect. Consider who else was around at the time - von Braun and van Allen, for two examples.

As one newspaper article put it, "[Pickering's] rise to the top had to do with both how well he knew science and how well he knew scientists. His role of director was a multifaceted one: not only was his scientific and technical expertise to the fore, but his antipodean diplomacy was required to lead not only volatile and brilliant scientists, but also work with politicians and the military hierarchy during the pressure cooker political environment of the Cold War."

"As lab director, he had to bring Dr. James van Allen and Dr. von Braun, two geniuses, together for a common goal in an incredibly short time frame, while breathing down their necks was [sic] the government, the Pentagon and the patriot demands of the American people." [www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/pickering.html] Later followed Explorer II and Venus.

Former president of Caltech Thomas E. Everhart said of Pickering: "More than any other individual, Bill Pickering was responsible for America's success in exploring the planets-an endeavor that demanded vision, courage, dedication, expertise and the ability to inspire two generations of scientists and engineers...."

Pickering, then, is a fine example of someone who had both IQ and EQ; the education, expertise and intelligence combined with the ability to unite people and inspire others to work together toward a common goal, and, I would add, the ability to handle a veritable cauldron of emotion. Call it pressure, if you will.

So this is one mandate for emotional intelligence, and the one that exists regardless of extraneous conditions: We are simply more effective when we are able to manage our emotions and the emotions of others, to relate well, to inspire, coalesce teams, motivate, find creative solutions, get along, and lead. Research shows us that we need our emotions and our intellect, expertise, training and skills in order to make good decisions, remain intentional, function with integrity, generate alternatives, solve problems creatively, relate well interpersonally, manage stress, and remain resilient.

The other mandate for emotional intelligence is trend-dependent - a workforce of increasingly single and/or unmarried persons whose emotional and social needs may be pressing, and who may be seeking to meet more of these at work, or at any rate to exercise them.

Let's state it more bluntly: if you want to attract and retain the best workers, a cold, authoritarian, sterile and unfeeling workplace is not going to cut it. A human being can't live alone in the evening and at night, and then work alone all day in an emotionally inert atmosphere. Isolation - literally or figuratively - has been shown repeatedly to be as bad for our health or worse than smoking, high blood pressure, and/or obesity, sometimes combined. It affects both mental and physical health.

But the fact remains, we are simply going to need one another more at work, and need each other in the fullest sense, as working people with emotions and all of our humanity. We are our emotions.

We can begin now to instigate programs in the workplace that allow us to tap further into one of the most powerful of our intelligences, our emotional intelligence. When we experience and manage our emotions and those of others, we work better, we feel better, and we are better. When we treat one another with respect, dignity, integrity, and compassion, we work better, feel better and are better. Developing emotional intelligence gives each individual a chance to increase work effectiveness and satisfaction, deepen relationships, strengthen leadership talents, and awaken creative spirit, and it can be learned. It then becomes a force multiplier.

So, why wait? Let's start learning it now.


© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2002

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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