Emotional intelligence in the workplace | Main Region | UB

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

a guy talking to his friend
When emotional intelligence became popular in the 1990s – thanks in large part to the arrival of best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ – workplaces took notice. In the years since, the value placed on emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient or EQ, has grown substantially in the workplace.  
As coveted as emotional intelligence might be, however, not everybody at work has a good read on their own emotional intelligence or how to manage emotions. That’s a shame in many ways because employees who develop emotional awareness and intelligence create great career opportunities for themselves.

What is emotional intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand, manage and regulate the emotions you and others experience in a positive way. 
Emotionally intelligent professionals show empathy, build strong relationships, ease conflict, improve teamwork and boost morale.  
Emotionally intelligent leaders get results by tapping into both the positive and negative emotions of others, while being acutely aware of their own. Such emotional understanding is more likely to retain staff and improve employee relationships than anything else. 
To determine how you measure up in terms of your emotional intelligence, ask yourself the following four questions:

Are you aware of the impact of your own emotions on others?

Even the warmest and most affable employees have days where the pressures of their job get to them. However, by recognising how your emotions impact others, you have a much better chance of protecting colleagues from collateral damage. 
Ask yourself if you can recognise your negative emotions as you experience them, such as stress or anxiety, then act to minimise the impact on others. For example, by taking a break, exercising or talking to a trusted colleague or friend.  
If you do not currently take steps to minimise the impact of your negative emotions on others, and instead find yourself becoming more withdrawn or belligerent, learn to regulate your emotions.

Can I identify negative emotions in others?

Emotionally intelligent people recognise negative emotions in team members, display empathy and identify the causes underlying the negative thinking.  
When you work with someone who is experiencing negative emotions, it is good practice to provide sincere support and guidance when appropriate. In doing so, you help to protect overall employee wellbeing, team morale and productivity. 
If, however, you are unable to pre-empt negative emotions, such as recognising stress in team members and offering assistance, hone your ability to identify these emotions and empathise.

Can I encourage positive emotions in myself and others?

If you understand what stimulates positive emotions in yourself, such as inspiration or motivation, you can improve your productivity and results.  
Similarly, by understanding the type of environment that colleagues respond well to, you have the emotional intelligence to positively influence workplace morale. You can direct others in a way that resonates with them on an emotional level.  
If you find it challenging to nurture positive emotions, either in yourself or others, learn to understand what stimulates such emotions.

How good am I at listening to people?

Another facet of being emotionally intelligent is good listening skills. Being able to listen to others, and make them feel heard, is key to building good relationships and an engaged team. Listening to other team members in conversations also improves your potential to motivate others, which is crucial if you harbour leadership ambitions. 
Reflect upon how often other team members come to you with ideas, issues or feedback. Ask yourself if conversations feel inclusive. If so, this suggests you come across as approachable and interested in what people have to say. 
If, on the other hand, those around you simply nod and agree during a conversation, reluctant to add their own input, it may be time to brush up on your active listening skills. 
Of course, you can formally measure your emotional abilities by undertaking emotional intelligence tests or consulting a mental health professional.

Importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace

What are the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace? Emotionally intelligent employees bring a positive energy to an organisation. Genos International, an emotional intelligence product and service provider, states that high emotional intelligence improves career success, mental health, relationship satisfaction and happiness.  
Emotional intelligence also allows you to enhance your communication and interpersonal skills. Effectively interacting with others is as much about listening with empathy to their point of view as it is communicating your own perspective. Emotional intelligence helps you control your own emotions during a conversation, understand the other person’s motivation and emotional state, build a meaningful relationship and respond appropriately. 
Emotionally intelligent workplaces also excel at teamwork and adapting to change. The flow-on effects for organisations are better productivity, engagement, morale and public reputation. For instance, in the sales and service industry alone, Genos International notes that professionals with high EI can read customers well, build better relationships, influence buyers and build trust. 

Emotional intelligence examples

To understand what high emotional intelligence looks like in the workplace, consider the following examples.

Listening at work

You have an intensely busy day ahead. You’d love to turn off your phone and tell colleagues you are unavailable. But your emotional intelligence and self awareness includes empathy. Your empathy helps you recognise that it is important that the people you work with feel welcome and heard. Instead of driving people at work away, you keep your door open and are ready to respond when others need you.

Embracing different opinions and ideas

You are a team leader in your organisation. As an emotionally intelligent person you are great at getting people to share their views and express their emotions. You do this because you value the input your employees have to offer, rather than see it as a threat. Accordingly, your employees are always eager to contribute. You respectfully challenge each other’s thinking and there’s trust amongst your team that the best arguments and ideas win out.

Lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace examples

Insensitive behaviour

Your colleague is notorious for saying insensitive things to other employees. They appear to have no regard or concern for the feelings of those they work with. They dismiss the contribution of other team members and freely provide harsh feedback with no constructive value. Their professional and personal relationships suffer. Your colleague, who has low emotional intelligence, behaves this way because they truly can’t understand the impact their behaviour has on others.

Low emotional insight

One of your team members is known for being intensely emotional at work. They struggle to articulate or recognise the emotions they are experiencing and what’s causing them. As a result, they lack self control and the ability to manage emotions. They express their frustration by using profane language and show their anger by raising their voice. If work friends try to talk to them about it, they disagree and argue. They can’t see what their colleagues can see.

How to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace

According to Daniel Goleman, the psychologist and best-selling author widely credited with popularising the term “emotional intelligence”, emotional intelligence is teachable. 
To proactively develop higher emotional intelligence, try to:  
  • Practice recognising your emotions. Make regular time to pay close attention to how you are feeling 
  • Focus on understanding your emotional triggers 
  • Pay attention to physical symptoms that might affect your emotions, such as hunger and tiredness  
  • Use positive self-talk when you experience negative emotions or challenging situations at work 
  • Dive deeper into your emotional range by keeping a journal of your emotions. 
 All these activities will help you understand your emotions better.

Improve your emotional intelligence

As we have seen, building on your emotional intelligence is a sensible professional and personal move, given the esteem employers hold emotional intelligence in. 
With high emotional intelligence, you will make better decisions, fix problems and show empathy and compassion when your workplace needs it. You will become a better conflict manager and more capable in high-pressure situations. 
Who wouldn’t want a higher level of emotional intelligence? 

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