Experience and knowledge are rapidly losing their relevance to success in the workplace. Harvard economist David Deming studied workplace tasks from 1980 to the present day and found that those that emphasize social skills grew by a whopping 24%, while tasks requiring technical know-how and intelligence experienced little growth. Deming also found that salaries increased the most for jobs that place extra emphasis on social skills.
With the increasing emphasis on social skills, those who lack them stand out like a zebra in a field of horses. We all know the types: the person who won’t stop talking when you’re trying to meet a deadline, the one who blatantly takes credit for your ideas or the one who callously leaves you to pull an all-nighter to fix their mistake. The list goes on.
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There are a lot of otherwise intelligent people out there who can’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. Sadly, their lack of self-awareness and social skills are massive detriments to their careers.
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Social skills and self-awareness are matters of emotional intelligence (EQ), and TalentSmart’s research with over a million people has shown that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of job performance. Those who lack emotional intelligence are at a significant disadvantage.
“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” -- John Wooden
There are certain types of people whose lack of emotional intelligence harms their careers more than others. By studying them, you can avoid becoming one of them, and, if your reading experience is anything like my writing experience, you’ll see bits of yourself in some of these profiles. Use that knowledge to build your self-awareness, make adjustments and grow as a person.
1. The coward. Fear is an extremely powerful motivator. This is why presidential candidates tell people that their opponent will “destroy the economy” and advertisements warn that “smoking kills.” In the workplace, people overcome by fear resort to irrational and damaging behavior. Cowardly colleagues are quick to blame others and to cover up important mistakes and they fail to stand up for what is right.
2. The Dementor. In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Dementors are evil creatures that suck people’s souls out of their bodies, leaving them merely as shells of humans. Whenever a Dementor enters the room, it goes dark and cold and people begin to recall their worst memories. Rowling said that she developed the concept for Dementors based on highly negative people -- the kind of people who have the ability to walk into a room and instantly suck the life out of it. Dementors suck the life out of the room by imposing their negativity and pessimism upon everyone they encounter. Their viewpoints are always glass half empty, and they can inject fear and concern into even the most benign situations.
3. The arrogant. Arrogant people are a waste of your time because they see everything you do as a personal challenge. Arrogance is false confidence, and it always masks major insecurities. A University of Akron study found that arrogance is correlated with a slew of problems in the workplace. Arrogant people tend to be lower performers and more disagreeable and to have more cognitive problems than the average person.
4. The group-thinker. Group-thinkers choose the path of least resistance and are famous for propagating the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. If you find yourself getting brainwashed with what everyone else believes, be careful; the status quo never leads to greatness.
5. The short-changed. The short-changed are quick to blame their lack of accomplishment on a lack of opportunity. While a lucky break may put a little wind in a successful person’s sails, they got where they are through hard work. What the short-changed don’t realize is that their attitude is what’s short-changing them, not their circumstances.
6. The temperamental. Some people have absolutely no control over their emotions. They will lash out at you and project their feelings onto you, all the while thinking that you’re the one causing their malaise. Temperamental people perform poorly because their emotions cloud their judgment and their lack of self-control destroys their relationships. Be wary of temperamental people; when push comes to shove they will use you as their emotional toilet.
7. The victim. Victims are tough to identify because you initially empathize with their problems. But, as time passes, you begin to realize that their “time of need” is all the time. Victims actively push away any personal responsibility by making every speed bump they encounter into an uncrossable mountain. They don’t see tough times as opportunities to learn and grow from; instead, they see them as an out.
8. The gullible. You can’t help but feel sorry for the gullible type. They’re the ones who find themselves babysitting the boss’s kids the morning after pulling a late night of work ... on a Sunday! For whatever reason, gullible people (often newbies) go with the flow until the gentle river becomes a tumultuous ocean. It’s okay to negotiate your salary, it’s okay to say no and it’s okay to question the way things are done. You’ll earn a lot more respect if you stand up for yourself when the time is right.
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9. The apologizer. For every person out there who owes an apology, there’s another who apologizes too often. People who lack confidence are always apologizing for their ideas and actions. They fear failure and believe that apologizing will act as a safety net. Instead, unnecessary apologies cheapen their ideas and make them less likely to stick. It’s important that your tone of voice and body language reflect the importance of your ideas. Stating an idea or opinion as a question is just as bad as apologizing. If you really believe something is worth sharing, then own it and share it with confidence.
Bringing It All Together
None of these behaviors are a career death sentence because they can be eradicated through improved emotional intelligence. All it takes is a little self-awareness and a strong desire to change.
(A version of this article appeared on TalentSmart.)