Emotional Bank Account — The Currency Matters!

Sally is a controller for a large privately held company.  After fourteen years of service and completion of every assignment and development activity she was offered, she was passed over for a long-desired promotion to CFO. She was considered for the position, yet ultimately an outside candidate was selected.  The CEO of the company offered her a substantial raise when he shared the news of the hire.  He wanted her to stay on yet did not offer no explanation as to why she wasn’t selected for the CFO job.

Sally shared this story with me over coffee, saying she had lost her passion for her job. She felt like the wind had been taken out of her sails. Because her reviews were stellar, she was left wondering why she had been passed over for this promotion.

After offering several statements of empathy that seemed to miss the mark with her, I finally hit the one that summed it up for her:  the substantial raise wasn’t commensurate with the hurt she felt when she wasn’t provided an explanation.  Money was not able to rebuild her spirit. The fact that money was offered as the motivation to stay completely missed the mark.

After morning coffee with Sally I headed out to walk with an old friend, Sarah, who had just returned from a long weekend with her son and husband.  They had traveling to a long-awaited appointment to meet a Beluga Whale. Sarah was responsible for navigating the family on this expedition. They got lost on the way to the appointment.  Her son and husband teased her about having no sense of direction. The teasing kept on until they arrived one hour late to their appointment. They missed the orientation for meeting the whale, so they had to return the next day for the opportunity to commune with the whale. This delay coupled with the teasing reduced her to tears.

Her husband hugged her and encouraged her son to do the same. Both son and husband offered the hug in apology.  A day later, Sarah was still stinging from some of their remarks about her lack of navigational skill.

Once again I tried several empathetic responses to no avail. I felt compelled to ask is it bothering you that the apology felt short of the hurt you felt?

She said yes!  That is it exactly!

I asked what you would have liked your family to say or do?  She had some very specific items including acknowledging how important and how hard she worked to make that day a possibility.  She was looking for a distraction to the pain she was feeling and not the teasing or a hug.

Later that day I reflecting on my conversations with Sally and Sarah, I  found myself wondering about the emotional bank account concept. I had been exposed to the concept of the emotional bank account at a Stephen Covey workshop. I remember that you must make deposits that are equal to the withdrawals we make in our relationships.  What occurred to me in both Sally and Sarah’s story is that not only did they want commensurate responses or deposits but they also wanted them in a different “currency” than they were given.  The raise or the hugs were not enough and not the right form of  deposit.

We must remember to not only to keep our deposits and withdrawals in mind in our emotional bank accounts but to also make sure we are depositing currency that the person accepts.

I’m curious:  what is your experience? Does an apology have to be equal to the offense or both equal and in the right form? When someone makes a withdrawal from your account do you have a specific “currency” in mind for replenishing the relationship?



One Response to Emotional Bank Account — The Currency Matters!

  1. Wow, Amy - lots of rich stuff here! I think we do have “currency” repayments in mind when withdrawals have been made from our emotional bank account. The secret sauce is in communicating that to others since most people aren’t very good at reading our minds. If we don’t say anything, most people aren’t perceptive enough or are in too big a hurry to notice.