Men are likely to be more open with their emotions, confide in their bosses about affairs of the heart and be more accepting of workplace romances than women, according to the latest study on emotional intelligence and office relationships by employee engagement firm Perkbox.
The research, involving 1050 UK managers and employees, showed that 60% of men would feel comfortable confiding in their bosses on personal issues such as the break-up of a relationship with a partner or spouse if they felt that it would interfere with them doing their job properly. Only half of women said the same.
Age appears to influence an employee’s ability to confide in their boss; nearly 50% of those who admitted it would be difficult were aged between 35 and 54. Only 22% of 55-64 year olds and a quarter of 18-34 year olds felt the same – indicating that both Millennials and Baby Boomers are more amenable to opening up emotionally to their managers if needed.
A third of UK bosses meanwhile believed it was important for employees to inform them if they are going through emotional trouble, such as the breakdown of a relationship. However, the vast majority of managers (46%) believed that employees should keep such things to themselves – both male bosses (48%) and older managers aged 55-64 (54%) felt this especially, versus 43% of female bosses and those aged 34 and under.
Overall, only 45% of employees stated that their employer had been supportive when they confided in their boss about their emotional difficulties. The North East (31%) and Scotland (36%) had the most supportive bosses, while managers in London (21%) and the South West (16%) were least supportive of their employees.
Cubical courtships are a frisky business when things turn sour
With UK employees clocking in more hours at the office than ever before, the workplace has become a common environment for love to blossom. Overall, a third of employees have had a relationship with a colleague at some point in their career – equating to some 8.85 million of the 26.8 million employees in the UK – and 17% of these workplace couplings have resulted in marriages or civil partnerships.
However, cubical courtships ended in tears for one in seven workers who have had to leave their jobs largely because of a failed romance with a colleague, representing 5% of all employees – or four million workers. More men (20%) than women (12%) resigned because of this, while the vast majority of workers aged over 35-54 stuck it out.
Men appear to be more accepting of workplace relationships than women by nine percentage points, with 67% believing that they are not a problem as long as these do not interfere with work; 27% of men believe that love affairs between colleagues are no one else’s business other than that of the two people involved.
Overall, managers are quite accepting of office romances, with 62% having no problems with such unions provided that this did not impact on an employee’s job. In fact, older bosses aged 45 and above were noticeably more accepting of this (51%) than bosses aged 35 and under (45%).
That said, a quarter of workplaces confirmed that they had policies in place that discourage romantic relationships at work; 7% of which are reflected in employment contracts, while 18% have an unspoken rule against workplace romances.
Affairs of the heart at work require emotional intelligence
The phenomenon of “emotional intelligence” describes an ability to recognise and understand emotions and its impact on behaviour. It may dictate how effectively and respectfully a manager treats his or her employees, and how an employee may communicate with his or her colleagues – particularly within stressful situations, from managing deadline pressures to dealing with workplace conflict and personal trauma.
The study found that 70% of employees believed emotional intelligence to be very important in their job role; a greater proportion of women (75%) valued the trait than men (64%). The perceived importance of emotional intelligence appears to increase with age too, with 45% of 18-24 years understanding its value against 70% of 25-43 year olds, 72% of 35-44 year olds and 74% of 45-54 year olds.
Meanwhile, a greater proportion of employees (81%) said it was even more important for bosses to possess and exercise emotional intelligence. The most cited reasons included the belief that it “made bosses fairer and more empathetic” (54%); “it made employees feel that the company cared about their wellbeing”; and that it “improved teamwork and morale” (48%).
However, over a quarter of UK bosses (28%)viewed emotional intelligence as unimportant, with 44% maintaining that: “employees should be professional and do their job regardless of their emotions and private lives”.
Chieu Cao, Co-founder at Perkbox said: “Today’s office is a theatre in which many of our everyday human dramas unfold – love, hate, friendships and conflict are all inevitably played out in the realms of our 9-5 job. Having the emotional intelligence to navigate these challenges productively is absolutely vital in ensuring employees effectively self-regulate their emotions in the workplace and understand the impact it might have on other colleagues. It also ensures that managers remain professional and empathetic in dealing with their employees’ emotional wellbeing.”