Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. MBTI accredited user.
Tony was frustrated.
He'd been working with Mark on a project throughout the year. He'd now reached a stage where he felt thwarted by Mark's inability or unwillingness to talk about where he was up to and what he was doing on the project.
They had been given the joint task of getting the desired outcomes by November and yet whenever he went to talk to Tony about his progress Tony said little. Tony gave few words and even less in the way of information.
No matter how much Tony bombarded Mark with questions he came away with his frustration levels just as high, if not higher.
Low emotional intelligence can lead to high frustration levels
Tony had always had problems with frustration when he felt others were not doing things his way.
His emotional intelligence skills had never incorporated effective strategies to stop frustration from arising quickly, and this project had seen the negative consequences of this.
"He's so secretive" Tony was heard telling the rest of the team when they asked him how the project was going. "Mark is so difficult to work with."
What can the manager do to manage staff emotions?
Tony was now exasperated by Mark's behaviour and was at the stage of complaining to his supervising manager.
"Mark deliberately withholds information from me. No matter how often I go to talk to him, I never seem to find out what he's doing. He just tells me it's all under control and he's meeting his targets. How am I supposed to know what's happening?" He exploded as his frustration overwhelmed him.
Emotional intelligence has a role in project management
Projects involving two or more people are always about people and people have emotions.
Projects require technical competence and emotional intelligence in order for people to work together in an effective manner. The project had become an emotional problem and one requiring high levels of emotional intelligence to sort out quickly.
How could his manager help Tony develop a greater acceptance of Mark's working style so that he became less agitated and frustrated? How could he help Mark give Tony more of what he needed?
The manager went to speak to Mark.
Mark said, "Tony just bombards me with questions and talks non-stop. He doesn't even give me time to think; in fact I can't even hear myself think while he is rabbiting on. It's easier to say as little as possible so I can get on with my work. He's such a bully."
What role do personality differences play in creating frustration?
Then it dawned on the manger, Mark and Tony had a clash of personality styles. He had been on a Myers Briggs 16 personality types (MBTI) course with me and had learnt about the differences between Extraverts and Introverts and how they could frustrate each other.
He had learnt how this difference, if not understood and handled well, could lead to intolerance and frustration, and even a breakdown in productive work outcomes.
"If only I'd put the whole team through the course from the start" he thought to himself, "then I wouldn't be having to sort out this mess."
How to lower frustration and increase team tolerance
He decided to help Mark and Tony understand what it means to be an Extravert and an Introvert. Fortunately he had kept the handouts from the course and was able to give these to the two men to read.
He held a meeting with the two of them and went through all of the aspects.
At one point Tony blurted out to Mark, "So you aren't being deliberately difficult and withholding information from me then?"
"No" said Mark, "Why would you think that? You just need to give me time to think things through and let me get back to you."
At the end of a couple of sessions like this Tony finally said to his manager "Why didn't you tell me all this at the beginning?"
"I guess I didn't realise how frustrating people find each others' differences, and how much knowing about personality differences helps people work together. I do now though."
Emotional intelligence boosted by knowledge of type
Finally, they agreed the whole team would benefit from learning about each others' types and so they organised a team MBTI workshop.
Of course, if they'd had an understanding about their type differences from the start of the project, the project may have run far more smoothly. Developing an understanding of type can produce far greater tolerance between people so that they can work together in a more productive way.
Frustration is an important emotion in the workplace. Frustration can arise often in teams and unless the team members all have high levels of emotional intelligence and can self-calm frustration quickly, it can brood and fester until it becomes a disruptive emotion.
This is especially so when frustration arises in those with low-level people skills or low levels of emotional intelligence, and the two are, of course, closely connected.
Tolerance is one of the commonest results of such an MBTI workshop and tolerance breeds lower levels of frustration.
Are you doing enough to help your team understand each other and how they work best, so that they work together in the most productive way possible?
EQ at work: Get to know your types and increase team tolerance
We have only begun the very first steps in understanding personality types and emotional intelligence. There is so much more that you and your team can learn so that you develop greater understanding of diversity and type at work, and what it's like to be an Introvert and an Extravert. The Emotional Intelligence Institute has a number of options to help you:
- There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. Of particular value is the team building workshop, "Getting on: MBTI Team building".
- There is superior 1-1 coaching: "MBTI types and communication coaching", and you can find out your MBTI type and develop the skills you need.