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Mastering Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

5 min read

We typically measure intelligence (and predict success) with IQ. The higher the IQ, the more intelligent the individual; the more intelligent the individual, the more successful they will be. However, studies show that those with a higher EQ, or emotional intelligence, regularly outperform their high-IQ counterparts. In fact, a 40-year study of PhDs at UC Berkeley found that EI was 400% more powerful than IQ when predicting who would have success in their field. So, what is EQ— and what is the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace?

Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to thoughtfully handle your feelings and emotions. Those with high EQ are also sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others. In the workplace, EQ makes for happy workers, productive teams, and unified companies. In this post, we’ll guide you in creating an emotionally intelligent workforce.

What is Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace?

EQ is something of a nebulous term but generally refers to non-cognitive skills that influence one’s ability to cope with environmental pressures. In short, emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage your emotions.

According to Daniel Goleman, whose 1995 book popularized the idea of emotional intelligence, EQ is made up of five related competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Those who possess self-awareness can acknowledge the effects of their emotions without being swayed by them. Self-regulation, meanwhile, enables people to adapt their behavior to changing situations and keep emotions in check. Internal motivation is key because it drives people to work toward their goals. Finally, empathy and social skills give the emotional intelligent insight into the feelings of others—not to mention a leg-up on everyone else.

It is important to bring emotional intelligence to all facets of our lives, but often we need emotional intelligence most where it may be most difficult to find: at work. Emotional intelligence in the workplace means listening closely to colleagues, bringing empathy to your meetings, and adopting a growth mindset. EQ is associated with higher satisfaction, stronger performance, and more cohesive teams.

Benefits of EQ at Work

Having a high EQ comes with a lot of advantages. Research shows that people with high emotional intelligence earn an average of $29,000 more annually than those who score low on EQ. In fact, each percentage-point increase in EQ adds $1300 to an individual’s annual salary. Those with a high EQ are also more likely to be satisfied with their job and less likely to suffer from burnout.

Furthermore, emotional intelligence doesn’t just benefit workers on an individual level. It also helps boost team productivity and cohesiveness. In order to reap the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace, a team can’t just have a few high-EQ members. Rather, they need to build a sense of trust, group identity, and group efficacy that will allow them to apply emotional intelligence as a team.

Finally, a business that creates a culture of emotional intelligence is primed for success. Employees will be able to trust and rely on each other, handle their feelings in a professional manner, and work together to reach success. Managers who appreciate the emotions, needs, and concerns of others will enjoy better relationships with their staff. And leaders who can recognize how their own emotions affect their behavior can better control their own impulses and handle change. For a business, success is not determined solely by technical expertise— it comes from our ability to relate to people.

Examples of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

But what does an emotionally-intelligent workforce really look like? Here are some examples of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

  • Listening to colleagues in meetings. Those with a high EQ don’t interrupt others! Instead, they provide constructive feedback and support new ideas. They also offer a compassionate ear when peers are in need of support.
  • Offering flexibility. In order to create a high-EQ environment, an organization needs to understand that people have lives outside of work. Respecting people’s schedules and their work-life balance is key to creating an emotionally intelligent workforce.
  • Creating an atmosphere free from fear. Smart leaders know that it is important to listen to comments and concerns from every level of the company. This is especially true if it is news that they weren’t hoping to hear. Staff should feel able to express themselves without criticism or rebuke.
  • Introducing stress relief activities. Your team works hard! Providing opportunities for them to de-stress shows that you value their well-being and happiness. These activities can also encourage staff to build relationships with each other, building empathy and compassion.

If these tips seem intuitive to you, that’s a good thing! That means that you are already on the right path. With deliberate practice, you can continue to build your individual EQ and the EQ of your workplace.

How to Improve EQ in the Workplace

Remember that improving EQ in the workplace means improving your own EQ first. There are concrete ways to adjust your behavior that will help you to become a more emotionally intelligent worker.

  • Take the risk of appearing imperfect. Top performers ask for help when they need it and admit when they make a mistake. This helps them to address the situation and to move on. Such an approach is not only more effective, but more efficient. Not punishing yourself (or others!) when something goes wrong helps create an emotionally intelligent workplace.
  • Stay agile. Emotionally intelligent leaders are ready to modify long-term goals depending on the success of short-term objectives. Stubbornly charging towards goals that no longer serve the organization is a waste of time and effort.
  • Be generous. This can take many forms. You can be generous with your time, offering a colleague a helping hand or a listening ear. You can be generous with your resources, by reaching out to struggling colleagues to see if you can help meet their needs. When we feel low, we rely on our peers to help pick up a little slack.
  • Practice active listening. Use empathy to fully understand what someone is saying and don’t try to respond until they have finished. Whenever you catch yourself planning what you’re going to say while another person is speaking— stop! Instead, double down your attention to what they are trying to convey.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Like any skill, emotional intelligence takes practice. Therefore, organizations must create an atmosphere where workers can practice and perfect their emotional intelligence. Individual success leads to organizational success. Businesses that invest in the emotional intelligence of their employers will reap the benefits on an organizational level.

In order to get employees on board, show them the data on emotional intelligence and explain the big-picture benefits. Then, set concrete goals for developing EQ on an individual and organizational level. Lead by example, by identifying times when your own emotions have impacted your behavior. Think through how you could have improved your response to a tough situation. Being open and vulnerable with your team will be a lesson for you too!

Building emotional intelligence in the workplace can be challenging, but it is ultimately worth the effort. To learn more about EQ, be sure to watch our webinar on emotional intelligence in hr with East Side Staffing’s Laura Mazzullo! Remember that the path to success is often indirect— be kind to yourself and those around you.

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