The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Treadmill

Jan 23, 2004

emotional-intelligenceIn Treadmill, the organization has begun to lose its ‘mojo’.

The creativity, propensity for risk, openness to new ideas, an effective challenge function…all are stifled or eradicated altogether. In their place come meetings (and more meetings), Powerpoint decks, policies and procedures, checklists and large lists of people on the ‘cc’ line of every email (of which there are hundreds, thousands, a day, as people increasingly begin to operate in ‘CYA’ mode).

Management begins to emphasize volume and compliance over quality and creativity.

Dog food? Dishwater?

Employees begin to get the message that they are not meant to bring bad news to their superiors. To fit in, it becomes necessary to ‘drink your own dishwater’ – take the corporate kool-aid, eat your own dog food – choose your own metaphor…

Unsurprisingly, emotional intelligence becomes seriously distorted in this environment. People stop listening effectively to others.

Communication becomes ‘broadcast-only’ rather than a genuine feedback loop.

Written and verbal communication begins to scan like it was produced by a business b*ll-***t generator- acronyms, obscure verbiage, faddish business-speak replaces clear, simple communication.

Increasingly, employees are hired for their automaton skills (so they can pound out the hours on the Treadmill), rather than their interpersonal or EI abilities. Veterans learn that it’s simpler to complete the checklists and re-inforce management’s pre-conceptions, rather than ask hard questions and challenge the status quo.

Tin ears and institutional blindness

Gradually, the organization – which may well be espousing ‘family values’. ‘open-door policies’ and ‘honest communication’ throughout this entire process – develops an emotional ‘tin ear’, and becomes deaf to the nuances and flexibility required in dealing with employees, customers, suppliers, funders, shareholders.

If and when an organization wakens up and finds that it has drifted into Treadmill, emotional intelligence will be at a low level, institutionally.

This is in itself is one of the main reasons many organizations never recognize the fact that they are in Treadmill- they are lacking the EI capability necessary to see it.


First, the executive team, lead by the CEO / President, must recognize the fact that EI is lowand establish a clear goal of reversing the process. Without genuine, top-level endorsement and activity, there can be no effective change, and the organization will continue its slide into The Big Rut.

Secondly, led by the executive team, the organization must implement a formal program of assessment, training and coaching in emotional intelligence, right down to the level of the individual contributor.

Thirdly, the HR or OD department must implement an (at least annual) organization-wide assessment of the organizational EI ‘score’, and compare it to previous period, to ensure the organization is not slipping back into Treadmill again.

Next:EI In The Big Rut & Death Rattle.