At the CIPD conference and exhibition in Harrogate this year, two experts in business psychology - Professor Michael West, head of organisational psychology at Aston University, and consultant Alison Hardingham - emphasise the importance of old-fashioned concepts such as fairness, a sense of belonging, stability and continuity. According to them, "emotional intelligence" is the key to handling of the most complicated and difficult element of many jobs: people. West and Hardingham are co-delivering a seminar on why managers find it so hard to manage people.
"Managing people is difficult and a challenge," says Hardingham, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists. "People don't change, but you can change the way you react to them." She will invite managers to "bring" their most difficult member of staff to the seminar to tutor them in developing their "management muscles".
Prof West says humans are the most complex part of the business equation, capable of emotional behaviour that tends to evoke the same from their managers. "People are complicated, with feelings of anger and anxiety and fear, and they evoke those feelings in managers too. You have to understand some fairly basic features of human behaviour if you're going to manage them better."
A need to belong, a need to have contact with their leaders, a need for relationships that are not characterised by anger or worry, a sense of stability and continuity and a feeling that there is mutual concern should be at the forefront of managers' minds when they deal with their staff, Prof West says.
"I keep reminding people that 2,000 years ago we had organisations based on trust and a sense of community, and that's what we need in a modern organisation as well. Another big part of managing people is the issue of forgiveness - being able to let off your righteous anger. Part of good leadership is encouraging people to forgive each other, and they have to remove the barriers to forgiveness, which means looking at issues of justice."