What is the best method of management to keep your top-performing employees around? Dr. Daniel Goleman is a renowned thought leader and guru on emotional intelligence and leadership. He is an accomplished author and was named one of AMA’s Top 30 Leaders in Business of 2014. Dr. Goleman sat down with AMA to discuss how to keep your employees on board and engaged.
AMA: As a manager, if someone on your team makes a big blunder – something that might cost you a sale or damages a client relationship – how should you respond?
DG: How you respond is very important to both your ability to manage and your relationship with your employee. The wrong way is to come down hard by reprimanding or punishing the person. Instead, try a more productive response. Use the mistake as a learning opportunity. This doesn’t mean you should accept or condone the mistake. You can say what was wrong and why it matters for the business, and add how that might have been handled differently.
AMA: Why is this response the best option?
DG: If you can have this conversation without losing it yourself, it can have multiple positive consequences. It will boost an employee’s loyalty to you enormously. Other employees who see you react with understanding will become more loyal to you as well. He or she might learn something about how to do it better next time around. It’s even better if you can deliver your reaction with a supportive tone, not a judgmental one. A feeling of positivity toward your boss is often a bigger factor in loyalty than the size of a paycheck.
AMA: How easy or difficult is it for managers to accept that being more understanding is more beneficial than getting angry at employees’ mistakes?
DG: It may not come easily. After all, there’s a certain self-satisfaction that comes from venting your anger, plus you can hope that a reprimand will teach that employee not to repeat the mistake. Anger also sends a message that everyone should stay alert and focused. However, that is not what the data tells us. Research on how employees feel about bosses who are often angry reveals that they see that manager as less effective.
Being able to suspend your negative attitudes and show how to better handle the situation creates a more positive atmosphere, where employees feel safe to take smart, calculated risks. Employees who fear reprimands are less likely to think creatively. Negativity kills creative thinking and the innovations that can keep a company competitive.
AMA: Frustration naturally moves us to react with anger. How can we change that knee-jerk reaction?
DG: There are three things you can do. First, pause before you react. Take a moment or a longer pause to cool down when you notice you’re getting angry. This opens the window you need to calm down before you respond. A calmer state of mind helps you make more clear-headed decisions, so you can be more reasonable. Better self-awareness gives you more emotional self-control.
Second, take the bigger view beyond this particular moment. Remember that everyone has the potential to improve. If you simply dismiss a person as faulty because they screwed up once or twice, you remove the chance for them to learn and grow.
Finally, try to empathize with your employee. View the situation from their perspective. You might see reasons he or she acted as they did – things you would not notice if you just had your knee-jerk reaction. Empathizing allows you to see the situation from a different angle, which gives your own alternative more depth and comprehensiveness.
Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, a Times bestseller for a year and a half—with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages—has also been a bestseller in many countries. He has written books on other topics as well, including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis.