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How To Be Human At Work

By Dr. Michele Simms—In 1995, Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist, authored the book Emotional Intelligence developing the argument that non-cognitive skills, not only IQ, can influence a person’s ability to succeed in the workplace. This seminal work has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and is cited as one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books” by TIME Magazine.  For his work in EI, The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Accenture Institute for Strategic Change list Goleman among today’s most influential business thinkers.

In the spring of 2017, the Harvard Business Review introduced their Emotional Intelligence Series: How to be human at work. The Series is divided into four content areas that comprise emotional intelligence (EI): empathy, happiness, mindfulness, and resilience.  Presented in four individual booklets, this compilation offers practical advice, inspiration, and the social skills essential for the professional to master.  The strength of the Series is its accessibility and applicability. Easy to read with scientific explanations and real-world examples, each book in the Series explains how our emotions impact our lives and how boosting our EI helps us to be human at work.

On empathy: Why is it important? Can you really put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Empathy is exhausting; so, is it really worth it?  The authors’ provocations span insights from Facebook to the Dali Lama, informing us of what great listeners actually do to create and sustain empathic workplaces.

On happiness: How is it measured?  How do we achieve happiness as professionals?  Is the quest for happiness more hype than truth?  The authors answer these and other questions while offering suggested management techniques and guidelines for personal behaviors that support our desire for happiness.

On mindfulness: What is the science~really~ behind mindfulness? Is it possible to ‘train your brain’ for better focus?  Is there such thing as taking mindfulness at work too far? The articles are relevant reminders that while the research shows the practice of mindfulness yields better performance, increased creativity, and charismatic leadership, it is not a commodity; beware the fad.

On resilience: How do some people rebound from personal/professional set-backs, trauma and crises?  Is it possible to emerge stronger from the daily challenges in today’s complex work world?  The authors address how to strengthen your resilience, to find the gold in criticism, and qualify that the end-game of resilience is not simply to “power through” and endure but to learn how to recharge.

Each booklet contains an Index; articles are written by CEOs, professors of psychology and management, entrepreneurs, writers/editors, product managers, executive coaches, and medical doctors. Goleman is a featured author in three of the four booklets. The booklets, and the articles contained within each, can be read in any order. The reader will discover the ‘stuff’ that comprises EI not only leads to a better quality of decision-making and performance but also to a better quality of life. Articles average six pages in length…easy enough for a lunch-break read and substantive enough to make it worth your while. And, if something is worth your while, the benefits to you of doing it are greater than the value of the time or effort that it requires.


Michele Simms, Ph.D.

Professor of Management, Cameron Endowed Chair of Management & Marketing

Series citation: HBR Emotional Intelligence Series: How to be human at work (2017). Harvard Business School Publishing/HBR Press, Boston, MA

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