The Unfortunate Consequences of Emotional Ignorance

By Guest Blogger, Dr. Lee Meadows

Somewhere within the mix of the static and fluid side of the organizational fence is the on-going debate as to the role that ‘emotions’ play in the relational balance of things. While there has been an evolving awareness as toward Emotional Intelligence as an, essential, skill set for modern day leaders, managers and anyone else who has access to a YouTube channel and too much time on their hands. The compelling arguments for Emotional Intelligence are far reaching and align with the needs of the growing diversity of employees who revolve in and out of cubicles faster than locusts on steroids. The process assumes a certain enlightenment about the need to be intelligent in our emotional states and a willingness to act as one who can see the long term benefit. So, as we move toward embracing an emotional intelligence approach to leading others, the unstated agreement is that there is an abandonment of the practices and consequences of Emotional Ignorance.

It is clear that there is an appeal to be oblivious to the emotional state of others around you. The void allows the perpetrator to move through most situations in which observations, commentary and one’s general demeanor are wrapped in a cloak of self-indulgence and disconnecting from the needs of others. The Emotionally Ignorant leader can blaze a path that completes short term outcomes, but is generally confused when accolades and public thanks are withheld by emotionally reactive employees who take more joy in colluding against your efforts and strengthen their own resolve to further alienate themselves from the empty emotional state created by the prevailing ignorance. It is not enough to believe that the basics of one’s own nature is to be less emotional and more objective since it provides a convenient justification for doing more harm than good.

Most employees in most work places can tell when an emotionally ignorant leader is weed whacking their way through a minefield and, typically, take precautions to minimize the explosions that knock the pictures off their cube walls. What is clear to them is that the emotionally ignorant leader is Self-indulgent, somehow managing to make every act a reflection of their own insecurities around trusting others to make something happen. Consequently, they never master the skill of talking to others in ways that bring about cooperation, so much so that cajoling and threatening becomes the only legitimate way to move others toward action.

In the midst of the uproar, most employees recognize that the emotionally ignorant leader maintains a Rigor Trigger that fires one answer at many targets convinced that all are a bulls-eye. Consequently, employees become skilled at asking certain kinds of questions that cater to the one answer they know they will hear. The unexplored answer only heightens the insecurities of an, already, flawed process. This form of reverse engagement creates a false sense of accomplishment by the emotionally ignorant leader and a humorous way for employees to get through the work day.

When it is really clicking on all cylinders, employees notice that emotionally ignorant leaders operate with Imagined Facts that provide, seemingly, elevated insight on matters in which they lack experience or exposure. While the quickness of their tongue is one part of the ignorance equation, it is the forked message that gets espoused with a sense of certainty and authority that transcends all reasonableness. Consequently, employees spend a good part of their time cleaning up the misaligned communication and developing strategies to have that leader ‘talk less and sit more’. So, the path to greater productivity, collaboration and an engaged workplace is thwarted by the antics of an emotionally ignorant leader and many employees scratching their heads wondering, “How did this person get selected in the first place?”

Dr. Meadows is a professor at Walsh College, teaching online and on-ground management and MBA courses. In addition, Dr. Meadows is a keynote speaker, training and development consultant, and motivational speaker for corpo­rate and community groups and professional associations.

In 2006, Dr. Meadows published “Take the Lull by the Horns: Closing the Leadership Gap”. He is also the author of numerous articles on leadership, management, diversity, career paths and projections and education.