Beyond Emotion: Using Ethics To Tackle Thorny Issues At Work

ethics in the workplaceThink you know everything there is to know about emotional intelligence? Think again.

Emotional intelligence -- the ability to perceive the emotions of others and control one's own -- has been a buzz phrase among human-resource professionals for more than a decade, as employers have increasingly begun to prize workers' soft skills in addition to their technical and professional acumen.

More recently, in the wake of the recent recession and subsequent layoffs and cutbacks, employers have placed even greater emphasis on employees' emotional intelligence, since workers with a high emotional quotient, or EQ, are more effective decision-makers in stressful situations and can better empathize with colleagues and clients.

A new book suggests, however, that the emotional intelligence is only part of the story. What's also needed, argues author Bruce Weinstein, is ethical intelligence.

Though the ability to discern how others are feeling is important, just as important is how to act on that knowledge, says Weinstein in his new book "Ethical Intelligence: Five Principles For Untangling Your Toughest Problems At Work And Beyond."

Say, for example, two colleagues meet for coffee and one asks the other how she's doing. She may respond by saying, "fine," but a facial expression suggests otherwise. The ability to perceive that something may be amiss is the emotional intelligence part, but whether to ignore the reaction or begin asking questions about what may be going on is a test of someone's perception of right and wrong.

As Weinstein writes in his book: "Emotional intelligence alone won't -- and can't -- tell you what you ought to do. That's because emotional intelligence is a psychological matter, but the question, 'What's the right thing to do?' is an ethical one.

What's needed to be fully human is both emotional and ethical intelligence, says Weinstein, who writes "The Ethics Guy" column for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Beyond developing strong ties with co-workers, Weinstein tells us that ethical intelligence can help employees navigate some of the thornier sides of working life, including working with a difficult boss, managing others and dealing with the modern day challenges of multitasking, being downsized and more.

To that end, Weinstein offers both a series of real-life examples, to help readers exercise their own ethical intelligence, and an ethics quiz to help readers determine their own ethics IQ. He also provides readers a succinct guide to help them tackle tough ethical issues on their own -- what he calls the five principles of ethical intelligence:

  1. Do No Harm
  2. Make Things Better
  3. Respect Others
  4. Be Fair
  5. Be Loving

As the book notes, "being ethically intelligent doesn't just mean knowing what is right; it's also having the courage to do what is right. [It ]may be the most practical form of intelligence there is -- and the most valuable.

In the current era of diminished resources, a good grasp of ethics may not be the only tool workers need to be successful on the job or in life. But it's certainly an increasingly important one.

Next:Sorry Einstein! Emotional Intelligence Trumps High IQ In The Workforce

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