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Podcast Review: Merve Emre + Adam Grant on Emotional Intelligence As Corporate Control



What’s your take on emotions at work? In an excellent episode of Adam Grants’ podcast, Taken For Granted, Grant interviews Merve Emre, cultural critic and Associate Professor of English at Oxford University. Together, they examine whether or not emotional intelligence is a form of corporate control.


Are you on the edge of your seat? We were too.


Our curiosity began with a reflection on our offerings – are we giving individuals or corporations the tools to thrive? At Westwood International, we believe that to lead well, you need to be well. But where does that journey of improving one’s overall well-being end, and where does it begin for an organization to improve and create systems for their employees to thrive? Given that Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who studies structures and how people play into them, it only makes sense that his podcast, Taken For Granted, would be a great place to dive in. So let’s revisit the concept of emotional intelligence together, shall we?


From the start of the pandemic to the present day, we’ve been experiencing astronomical levels of stress, fear, exhaustion, and burnout, alongside a massive decrease in job security. In those moments, Merve Emre points out that many corporations chose to offer “...mindfulness training over Zoom or classes, [or] 10 tips on how to manage your stress,” when what people really need/needed from their organizations was “...to provide more benefits to workers and to provide more job security.”


Emre continues to add that, “...a ​​lot of these ideas, like emotional intelligence, personality testing, mindfulness, resilience, the power of positive thinking, are very powerful ideologies that allow corporations to get away with increasing job insecurity [while] demanding more of their workers.” She takes it home with “...it's both a bandaid, but it's also a finger to poke in the wound at the same time.”


So, what are you supposed to do?


What’s the best way to support your team in these times? How do you offer the skills to be more resilient? How do you become a better leader for yourself and your team without continuing the cycle of stress, exhaustion, and burnout? Together, both Grant and Emre believe “...that one of the things we need to do with leaders moving forward is just to ban psychological solutions to organizational problems” (Adam Grant) and “...that the amount of money that is spent on implementing those psychological solutions could be repurposed in much more worker-friendly ways” (Merve Emre).


The best way to make a plan is by asking your team what they need to thrive, to be more efficient and productive, and most importantly, what they need to feel supported. We recommend doing this by scheduling one-on-one check-ins, using the phrase, “I’m curious…” to help strengthen connection and communication, and taking the PERMAH Wellbeing survey as a team, to have a clearer understanding of what parts of your life need more attention, and track your process along the way.


Still curious? Listen to the podcast on Spotify or read along on Ted podcasts to learn more about the difference between emotional intelligence and emotional labor, and conversations around whether or not emotional intelligence teaches you how to manage your regulate your own emotions.


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