Applied EQ #39 – Social Awareness & Seeing Others Clearly (Part 4)

For the last 280 posts (or so it seems) we have been discussing the emotional intelligence domain of social awareness and the need for project managers to see others clearly.  Before we leave this topic, I want to return to an idea we discussed some time ago, that is, emotional profiles for project stakeholders.  I first discussed this in a post from January of 2006, see profiles of individuals lacking self management.

Hmmm, let’s see, emotional profiling…isn’t that just like racial profiling?  And isn’t this a complete contradiction to what I said earlier about taking shortcuts to pigeon hole the people we work with?  Well, perhaps it is a contradiction and a bit of a shortcut.

As project managers, we need to be able to clearly see others and that includes areas like self management where they might be lacking.  See if you can identify your team members or stakeholders in the following 8 profiles (up from 6 in the original post thanks to feedback from my brother Ted). 

Anxious Andy – Andy is always afraid.  He is afraid of a lot of things, but most of all he is afraid of being fired and that causes him a lot of stress.  Unfortunately for him and his team, his fear may actually cause him to act in ways that cause the very thing that he fears the most.  Andy may even quit a job to pre-empt getting fired.  He plays a cautious game, not taking many risks or making any controversial decisions.  He doesn’t stand up for himself or his team when he should and finds himself not speaking up when others do things that are out of line.  He is scared to tell the truth or to hold people accountable (since he is scared that others will hold him accountable). He avoids conflict and hurriedly tries to smooth things over when conflict does occur.  He doesn’t like changes or surprises.  He is very sensitive to the emotions of those around him, in particular anger.

Sadsack Sally – Sally sounds a lot like Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh’s friend.  She is aware of her sadness and will wonder aloud if you really want to hear about her problems because she doesn’t want to burden you.  People feel uncomfortable by the sadness and either tip toe around her or fall over themselves to prop her up and tell her things are not so bad.  Rarely is anyone honest with her, consequently, she tends to be insulated from the truth.  She seems to relish changes and surprises though she fully expects them to not work out for her.  Sally operates fine under stress.  She is aware of the emotions of others, in particular sadness. 

Happy Harry – Harry is always happy and excited.  He smiles broadly and pumps your hand furiously when he sees you and makes you think you are the most important person in the world.  He insists that everyone focus on the positive and ignores or dismisses bad news.  People feel that Harry is not in touch with what is going on with the project and that he cannot be trusted.  Inside, Harry might feel less confident and a little like a phony.  Under stress, the facade may break down.  Harry is usually oblivious to the emotions around him.  Harry likes changes and surprises.

Irrational Ira – Ira is the king of wild mood swings.  He is happy one moment, then crying, and then angrily lashing out at someone in the next moment.  No matter how cheery Ira may seem in any one moment, he is a ticking time bomb.  It is anyone’s guess when he will explode.  People avoid Ira.  Ira is not aware of his emotional state and is not able to exercise emotional self-control.  He definitely does not like changes or surprises and becomes even more irrational under stress.  Ira is typically oblivious of the emotions of others.

Tight-lipped Tom – Everything is “fine”, Tom says tersely through clenched teeth, "let’s move on".  Though he is quiet, his body is tense and screaming ANGER.  Tom is considered “difficult”; no one wants to approach or confront him.  When dealing with Tom, you find yourself wanting to move things along and get the discussion over with.  Tom is not aware of his anger or how he impacts others.  Tom is a ticking time bomb and not able to exercise emotional control.  He is triggered by perceived slights or injustices and reads malice into the actions of others.  Underneath his anger is fear and deep, deep sadness.  He is usually oblivious to the emotions of others, with the exception of anger.  When he encounters anger, he will ramp it up and match that anger with his own. 

Deadpan Dan – Dan is the person who seems to be OK with how things are going but in reality he is holding back his feelings.  He strives to be as unemotional as possible.  His default emotion is anger though neither he nor you would be aware of it by looking at him.  When you give Dan positive feedback, he might turn red and thank you without really giving his reaction.  Dan is scary to deal with because you don’t know his position or where you stand with him.  He is not trustworthy.  You might leave a meeting with Dan thinking that you had agreement only to hear something negative later.  Dan is unable to say what he feels, in the moment or otherwise.  Dan is nonplussed by changes, surprises, stress and the emotions of others.

All Business Bob – All Business Bob has no feelings; that is, he is unaware of his emotional state.  He is all about productivity and the task at hand and he has little time for emotions or relationships, thank you very much.  He is not able to express his emotions and is not aware of the feelings of those around him. He is about productivity and results.  He finds changes and surprises disruptive to productivity but otherwise is OK with them.  He feels stress when there is idle chit-chat or when he doesn’t have tasks to attend to.

So what is the value of these emotional profiles?  The value is using them to predict the emotions, thoughts, and actions of others.  Once we understand which profile fits for our stakeholders, we can better understand them.  As we will discuss in the area of relationship management, we will use that understanding to better communicate with them and influence their emotions and behaviors.

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