Revival Of Employees’ Resilience Through Emotional Reflexivity


By: Kalpana Sahoo

In the time since its introduction in Daniel Goleman’s book, the idea of an emotional intelligence (EI) has received undivided attention from academicians, practitioners, public speakers, media, and internet sites. Workplace has always been an amphitheater, where conflicts face-off with employees leading to difficult moods and painful emotions. This has made employees more apprehensive about their future. They tend to think about worst-case scenarios, draining their positive energy and lowering their productivity. In such cases, emotions need to take the lead to be intelligent and resilient enough to avoid any kind of toxicity or conflict. However, EI is more than understanding, controlling, monitoring and managing emotions and behavior. Instead of constipating our emotions at workplace, the need of the hour is to delve deeper into our insights, create self-awareness and facilitate our beliefs and values in making choices that would impact everyone surrounding us. But this should not be confused with the reflection of looking back and pondering. Reflection and reflexivity are two distinct terms. Reflexivity is going beyond reflection by constantly questioning one’s choices and looking at the impact on others. Simply put, reflexivity is the ongoing process of self-reflection for generating self-awareness about their emotions, dispositions and perceptions that makes a person emotionally intelligent.

Time to keep calm and be human

Organizations and surveys have surrogated emotional reflexivity with and embedded in emotional intelligence. The reason being, both are mutually inclusive. One cannot be reflexive without being emotionally intelligent, and one cannot be emotionally intelligent without being reflexive. For instance, one recent survey by Capgemini has hinted towards EI to be a ‘must-have skill’ for 74% executives and 58% of non-supervisory employees. An in-depth analysis of these studies has left a worth pondering issue of ignoring the root of EI i.e. emotional reflexivity. Without emotional reflexivity, employees cannot be more than a robot. EI can be taught to machines and robots as some of the organizations are focussed on making these machines understand human emotions. But the augment of the fourth industrial revolution with AI, machine learning, robots and chatbots, emotional reflexivity and plasticity is impossible to emulate. Thus, Emotional reflexivity and neuroplasticity are for humans and EI are for robots. 

Look deeper: Emotional reflexivity does not equate emotional intelligence

Given the impact of emotional intelligence on employees and workplace, reflexivity leads employees to connect with others by knowing oneself and others better by constantly being aware of who you are as a person. This awareness is going to influence your relation with your team members. Constant evolution of job landscape, modern workplace with complexities, one clinical psychologist says that change is inevitable and so are organizations with continuous shifts in job demands, roles and responsibilities. With such constant changes, employees need to be reflexive of their emotions; they need to be aware of their beliefs and values. In short, today’s workplace and complexities associated with constant changes calls for emotional self-awareness so that you can be aware of others. If organizations require their workforce to be emotionally intelligent to cope up with changes, it is important to look beneath the surface: emotional reflexivity. Emotional reflexivity does not equate emotional intelligence. Emotional reflexivity is deeper dealing with “why”, “how” and “who” of making a particular choice. 

Challenges and conflicts are inevitable. So how do we cope? 

Emotional Reflexivity embraces a sense of one’s self. It holds tremendous value in any organization across the sectors as it helps employees gain better knowledge of themselves and consequently build a better person-organization fit. But the real challenge is imparting and teaching emotional reflexivity to employees and measuring it as one of the required skillsets. Neurologists and organizational psychologists have suggested that by encouraging and training neuroplasticity, brain equips emotions to alter and channelize negative pathways to positive and flexible interpretation of circumstances.  Also known as psychological flexibility, Emotional Reflexivity ensures managing reactive emotions, expanding ability to focus and ability to think rationally. 

Owing to its importance, managers with the support of the leaders can assist the employees in improving self-awareness by enabling them to take mindfulness sessions. This practice will equip them to coexist peacefully with all the emotions they feel.

We recommend that more of the training activities and interventions include collective practices across the organizations. There should be more interactive sessions at individual and interactional level so that employees become more competent in gaining self-awareness. Building reflexivity and emotional intelligence can help organizations to sustain changes in nature of work, relationships and job roles. 

Having a positive self-identity becomes essential for employees who work continuously in a challenging and dynamic work environment. A way to build a more positive self-identity and get relief from stress is by continuously monitoring one’s internal dialogue, which is more commonly known as self-talk that can go a long way of reducing stress and burnout. This has to be developed with support from the top management.

Most importantly, what is missing, in our opinion, is honesty. Different individuals will display a range of emotions and behaviours owing to individual differences based on their values and dispositions and how they handle their and other’s emotions. Without honest communication with each other about what is suitable for us, how our reflexivity affects us, employees across the management level will end up building assumptions and be judgemental about us and others. More importantly, the ability to delve deeper to gain insights on ourselves will be meaningless if not done with honesty. Without being honest about our emotions of selves and others, we end up being emotionally constipated with no room left for self-awareness and empathy. 

No workplace can exist without ethical dilemmas, problems and conflicts. They are inevitable. Situations at workplace can be emotionally taxing, taking toll on our lives and it is natural to be swayed by our emotions in personal lives and at workplace involving issues like job-loss, promotions, salaries etc. we think that instead of exploiting by reflection on how could we do things, it is more important to be reflexive i.e., to be continuously proactive and be aware of who we are, and how we react, and perceive an event. But emotional reflexivity comes with a pinch of salt. It has its own cons, that is, not everybody can derive the best out of reflexivity. 

Emotional reflexivity is a double-edged sword- whichever side you look at it, it can be used both in positive as well as negative sense. It may lead to motivation to reach higher performance and meet organizational goals or may push oneself back by demotivating in the workplace. In a myriad of interactions, a person may think about his position at the workplace as a stepping stone to further success or may feel hamstrung by different factors acting together that might pull him back from the path he seeks to pursue. 

Should we continue to suffer from being judgemental with assumptions? What will we miss out on if we kept our emotions to ourselves or maybe should we let our emotions go? Self-awareness will be a torchbearer and will show us the path. 

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