In which I offer my third Christmas wish …

In the run up to the Big Day I thought I’d present my top five Christmas wishes. In reverse order here’s number 3.

Wish #3: I wish emotional intelligence becomes a valued trait in the workplace.

Few people set out with the intention of harming their workmates be they their staff, their peers or their superiors. However I have ceased to be surprised by the inadvertent mayhem we chose to inflict on people around us in the workplace.

The bulk of my year has been dominated by redundancy. Anticipating it, being told it, managing its impact on my staff and coping with its effects on me and my family. But it’s easy to fall into thinking that everyone around you really understands what a bloody awful process this is.

They don’t. They say they do. But they don’t. Really, they don’t.

If they did they wouldn’t have chosen to write to me in such cold and impersonal ways. And about such trivia. For years you may have heard next to nothing from your HR function or senior management. Then suddenly you start to get a stream of emails, letters and intranet announcements. But don’t look for warm words about your contribution over the years or anything but a perfunctory regret about ‘having to let you go.’

Nope, you’ll begin to wonder what sort of extra-terrestrial body-snatchers have suddenly taken over the job of designing the content of communications with you and your colleagues.

But it’s not just the direct communication that you’ll find sadly lacking in emotional intelligence. You’ll find yourself increasingly irritated by ill-directed round robin communications about vital issues facing your organisation. You’ll be irritated because these issues post-date your unwelcome exit from the building. Frankly, you’ll begin to lose interest in the strategic management team’s vision of the challenges ahead. If they had been that good at strategic horizon scanning a couple of years back you might not be on your way now.

Of course your strategic leadership wants to put the best possible gloss on things if only to cheer up the survivors of the first culls. But peoples’ senses are pretty well-tuned. We can all smell the blood in the pond where we operate. So it’s both daft and self-defeating to pretend that organisational trauma can be alleviated by an up-beat note from the top.

Another manifestation of the ‘business as usual’ theory of management is the need management feels to keep your programme full to the brim with ‘exciting and fresh opportunities.’ Unless these are tailored towards helping you find a berth somewhere else you’ll rapidly find your interest waning.

Management will feel it’s providing you with therapeutic activity to take your mind off things. What you’ll feel is that having been mugged by management they still want to be your friend. Of course it doesn’t work like that.

Of course all the while you’re feeling wretched you’ll have the treat of the political classes queueing up to take cheap shots at public servants generally and maybe your bit of the public sector specifically. You know they can not help themselves but this won’t make you’ll feel any better. In other circumstances the levels of self-congratulatory ignorance they and their media-cheerleaders display might make you worried about their fitness for office. These days you’re more inclined to shrug and wonder why you ever thought it might be different.

Launching a demoralised and undermined cohort of public sector workers into the labour market must be part of some well-founded plan for the economy as a whole. Mustn’t it? I mean this couldn’t be an accident could it?

Greater emotional intelligence from workplace leaders and politicians would be a lovely gift to all of us redundant and other public servants in 2011. We’ve all had more than enough of management and political gunslingers shooting from their hips. Sadly, I don’t think any of us will be holding our breath though.


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
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11 Responses to In which I offer my third Christmas wish …

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention In which I offer my third Christmas wish … | A redundant public servant's blog --

  2. Doug Shaw says:

    Brilliantly written! I agree that few, if any people set out to intentionally harm workmates. And of course before it can become a valued trait, emotional intelligence must first be considered, and practiced. I don’t suppose it comes easy to a lot of folk but surely we should strive to do so much better?

    Your excellent post reminds me of how it felt working in the large corporate that I chose to leave in 2009 after 12 years. Yes I had the choice to go, not the perfunctory regret note which you describe, but it was the complete absence and understanding of emotional intelligence which rotted the relationship beyond repair. And the cost of this emotional intelligence? I believe the cost is negligible, and the benefit huge. It’s about so much more than a lovely gift, and yet it’s as easy to give as the most modest present.

    This is a cracking number 3 – I look forward to 2 and 1. Keep it going.

    Cheers – Doug

  3. Mean Mr Mustard says:

    This reminds me that the section I worked on had the lowest ‘staff engagement’ scores anywhere in our stonkingly large Govt Dept. Which, in turn, had about the lowest scores across the CS.

    When the boss decided to put a positive gloss on things, claiming to be about average – his wider area was – I broke cover with two weeks still left at the office, and freely admitted to being one of his disaffected malcontents, and offered some objective analysis of what the specific problems were.

    Sure enough, it got a Good Stiff Ignoring. So, just another two pages of A4 email print in an inch thick souvenir file I keep, entitled “Why I left Dept X”. Just in case I ever start to have any slight regrets, like too much melancholy induced by Christmas sherry.

    My former Dept has taken several more spirals down in its sickening flat spin, and so I’m glad I banged out of my back seat in time for my coloured parachute to deploy. Sadly, the doomed pilot was too busy fighting the controls to take any advice from, or worry about his crew.

    • Dear Mean Mr Mustard,

      I used to know a manager who always said, ‘you have two ears but only one mouth. That’s the good Lord’s way of saying you should listen twice as much as you speak.’ Sadly they never followed their own advice and stopped uttering the phrase altogether when an exiting member of staff pointed out that the motto did not hold good when the individual invoking it had two faces.

      Best wishes


  4. Penny says:

    Well put. This did make me wonder again why people are chained to their desks and made to work out their full redundancy period. I’d guess that cash in lieu of notice and a rousing farewell party would be preferable to many in this position.

    • localgov says:

      That’s a really good point. I’ve just been lucky enough to secure a new job internally in another team (pending a few potential hiccups) but have been told to stay where I am for now. There are not enough seats with my new team for the next three months whilst people work out their notice, so for three months that place is going to be filled by people who don’t want to be there, who want to be there but didn’t secure a job or who secured a job and now feel guilty about ousting their colleagues.

      Best to let them all go on gardening leave and allow them to spend that time job searching rather than have them doing what they currently do but with no heart.

      • Dear localgov,

        It’s a horrible situation for all involved. I have talked to folks who have the survivors’ guilt you describe.

        Getting new teams built from out the wreckage would be difficult enough without the extra tarrif of on-going spending reductions and further reorganisations of public services.

        I’m glad that you have a berth though.


    • Dear Penny,

      The current climate in the public sector makes organisations wary of being seen to pay people for nothing – the pay in lieu option – and would prefer to have the cover of seeming to have people at work even if they are not working.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  5. Offtheconveyor says:

    Well, EI isn’t being practiced here. I nearly choked when I read this. In response to a question in the House yesterday about how many Christmas parties and drinks receptions were being planned by CLG, the minister said:

    “Ministers plan to hold one small reception for senior DCLG staff to thank them for their hard work this year. Their work includes the abolition of bureaucratic Comprehensive Area Assessment and other local red tape.”

    I am really pleased that the people who put me out of work are being actively rewarded – not. They should be ashamed.


    • Dear OTC,

      Sometimes words fail me … not often … but really what can you possibly say?

      I have gone back to the day of the CSR announcement when the government benches whooped in delight at the cuts that would inevitably lead to job losses for hundreds of thousands of perfectly blameless people.

      I have spotted my MP in amongst them. Needless to say I will – if given the opportunity – raise that behaviour with them if they should come asking for my vote.

      Chin up


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