A Disastrous Employee

A Disastrous Employee

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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.

Conflict in officeBut his relational abilities, or “soft skills,” were disastrous. In spite of his professional accomplishments, 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.

Soft Skills Diagram

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 of AMADORI, a supplier of McDonald’s in Europe, assesses links between EI, individual performance, and organizational performance. EI was found to be the major predictor of management performance, organizational engagement, employee turnover, and bottom-line profitability.
  • Want an MBA From Yale? You’re Going to Need Emotional Intelligence 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 Emotional Intelligence reports that China’s new national leader, 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.’”
  • Click here to see additional articles on 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 children to succeed in the workplace is to deliberately develop the relational wisdom that God has laid out for us throughout Scripture.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions:

  • Look up each of the passages cited above and ask yourself how developing that quality would improve your performance in an employment or group setting (such as an overseas mission team).
  • Select two of those qualities and ask God to give you opportunities to practice them in the days ahead.
  • Identify someone you work with, whether in an office or your church, who has exceptional relational skills; ask that person to mentor you in improving your relational skills.

Click here to see additional articles on the growing attention that business, educational, military, athletic, and political leaders are giving to emotional intelligence.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like. If you wish to adapt the questions to better suit your group, please include a parenthetical note (Questions adapted with permission of RW360) and send a copy to mail@rw360.org.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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5 Responses to "A Disastrous Employee"
  1. Most of the time it is hard for employers to deal with a highly useless employee. The article has perfectly written about how to deal with such people and how to utilize their soft skills.

  2. Submitting to the authority of others and making sure I keep a good outlook are emotional strengths that help me in all areas of life. However, empathy is hard for me. My first reaction is often to be on the defensive or to blame myself. Drawing out what is in someone’s heart (Prov. 20:5) is a “soft skill” that I would love to have as my initial reaction to others instead of defensiveness.

  3. “But at work he dominated conversations, listened poorly, and was oblivious to how his pride and defensiveness offended others, stifled creativity, and damaged morale”. This portion was powerful to me. There’s a few areas here I need to work on.

  4. I was raised with a handicap sibling and find it easy to employ soft skills. My parents and sibling taught me well to observe others. But projects or the group goal must still be accomplished so I have had to push through sharping my hard skills and also appreciating those around me that contribute their hard skills into my life. The technical skills can be improved as we continue to learn through education and those around us who are strong in them .

  5. Hard skills can be taught, soft skills are what makes a person, if they care and go out of their way to be a part of the team.

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