Employee Experience

Why is emotional intelligence in the workplace important?

6 Mins read

Emotional intelligence (EI) in the workplace is crucial for leaders and project managers, especially in the expanding realm of remote work due to COVID-19. Success in achieving project goals and managing cross-functional remote teams is impossible without emotional intelligence.

According to Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence,” IQ and technical skills are important but serve as minimum requirements for executive positions. A leader with high EI excels in communication, problem-solving, and management because they possess the necessary skills and a profound understanding of themselves, their team, and the impact of their words and actions on success.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to our capacity to identify, comprehend, and control our own emotions while being aware of how they impact the emotions of others.

In the early 1990s, leading psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer introduced the concept of emotional intelligence. It gained significant traction in the realm of business leadership when science journalist and author Daniel Goleman published his book, “Emotional Intelligence,” in 1995, making it a prominent topic in mainstream discussions and leadership training.

In the workplace, emotional intelligence is particularly important for professionals in leadership and managerial roles. It involves the ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Furthermore, it entails differentiating between various emotions and adapting one’s own emotional responses to achieve desired outcomes. In essence, emotional intelligence encompasses a range of valuable skills and qualities that foster effective leadership in a work environment.

Why is emotional intelligence important for the managers?

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in assisting managers in various ways. One significant aspect is its contribution to conflict management within the workplace. Managers with high emotional intelligence possess the skills necessary to guide individuals through tense situations, skillfully address disagreements, and facilitate the development of solutions that are acceptable to all parties involved. By actively seeking to understand different perspectives, these leaders strive to find common ground amidst disagreements. Additionally, by attentively observing and acknowledging others’ responses, managers can create an environment where individuals feel heard, fostering a greater willingness to engage in compromise.

Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace?

Emotional intelligence holds significant importance within the workplace for several reasons. It starts with individual introspection and self-awareness, encompassing the recognition and understanding of one’s own emotions. This self-awareness forms the foundation for cultivating essential elements such as self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Ottawa University’s online Master of Arts in Leadership degree equips individuals with the necessary tools to assess and analyze their emotional intelligence levels. Moreover, the program provides strategies for enhancing emotional intelligence at various stages of professional growth and development. By prioritizing and improving emotional intelligence, individuals can enhance their interpersonal relationships, communication abilities, decision-making skills, and overall effectiveness within the workplace.

5 Essential Emotional Intelligence Skills for Managers

Daniel Goleman’s book emphasizes five fundamental components of emotional intelligence that enhance leadership effectiveness in the workplace. These key skills are crucial for managers seeking to improve their emotional intelligence and can be further broken down into smaller skillsets for optimal results. For instance, to develop self-awareness, managers must actively listen and encourage giving and receiving feedback within their team or organization.

Self-awareness

Effective managers continuously strive for honesty and self-awareness regarding their strengths and weaknesses. Without the ability to reflect objectively, there is a risk of blaming others and failing to understand one’s own contribution to outcomes. Self-awareness enables recognition and comprehension of personal moods, emotions, and their impact on others.

Self-regulation

Understanding our emotions and their influence on others is a vital starting point for effective leadership. The next step is to manage these emotions and control the reactions they provoke. Strong leaders and managers should be able to handle pressure without succumbing to emotional outbursts or negative responses that can impair decision-making, demoralize teams, and exacerbate challenging situations. Emotionally intelligent leaders maintain composure and channel their energy toward positive outcomes.

Empathy

In conjunction with self-regulation, empathy enables leaders and managers to comprehend the emotions of team members and other stakeholders. Empathy involves understanding and sharing others’ feelings, putting oneself in their shoes. By attentively observing the moods and actions of team members, leaders can identify potential issues before they escalate. Lack of empathy can lead to unintended mistreatment of employees, unrealistic demands on teams, and the development of a toxic work environment.

emotional intelligence in the workplace 1

Social Skills

Proficient social skills have a significant impact on various aspects of leadership and management, with effective communication being the cornerstone of EI in the workplace. Social skills enable managers to navigate challenging situations, enhance interpersonal relationships, foster collaboration, and improve team performance. They also contribute to conflict resolution, the cultivation of a positive company culture, and the development of successful project plans.

Motivation

True leaders are motivated by intrinsic values beyond external rewards such as bonuses or titles. They consistently communicate their vision and values to their teams and employees. Leaders with emotional intelligence comprehend their own internal motivations and align them with the motivations of their team members and the organization. Intrinsic motivation, in addition to emotional intelligence, provides a competitive advantage in any business context. The ability to harness and effectively communicate this motivation to leaders, project managers, and employees is of paramount importance.

By developing these emotional intelligence skills, managers can enhance their leadership capabilities, promote positive work environments, and achieve greater success in their professional endeavors.

Improving emotional intelligence in the workplace

Enhancing emotional intelligence (EI) and integrating it into your business operations can be achieved through several strategies. Consider the following approaches:

Gain awareness of your emotions

Start by focusing on the foundational pillar of EI: understanding and being aware of your emotions. Reflect on the emotions you currently experience regarding your work and colleagues. Recognize how these emotions influence those around you.

Avoid allowing negative emotions to impact your interactions with colleagues or hinder your work performance. Increasing awareness of these factors is essential for improving EI. A helpful technique is to name the emotions you feel as they arise, which aids in recognizing and tracking their effects on your behavior.

Once you begin identifying and monitoring emotions, you can assess your weaknesses. Identify instances where negative emotions (such as anger, frustration, apprehension, fear, being overwhelmed, jealousy, or inadequacy) cloud your judgment and hinder your optimal performance.

Send feedback

Self-analysis of emotions can be challenging, as we often have blind spots and struggle to recognize certain aspects of ourselves that are more apparent to others.

To overcome this and ensure unbiased insights, seek a second opinion. Request feedback from your boss, colleagues, friends, or family—individuals who know you well and can offer valuable information about your responses to various situations based on your mood or emotional state.

You may uncover uncomfortable truths that you may initially resist or dislike. However, learning to accept criticism without becoming defensive is a vital aspect of developing emotional intelligence, providing an opportunity for personal growth.

Respond instead of reacting

During workplace disagreements or conflicts, many individuals tend to react impulsively or vent their frustrations. Emotionally intelligent individuals learn to remain calm in stressful situations. Rather than reacting impulsively, they take a moment to understand their emotions and respond in a composed manner that facilitates resolution instead of exacerbating the situation. The emotional intelligence of team leaders also plays a crucial role in defining conflict management styles.

Practice active listening

Active listening and attentiveness to nonverbal cues are integral to developing emotional intelligence. Merely waiting for your turn to speak without truly understanding your colleague’s perspective can lead to issues in the workplace. Active listening helps prevent misunderstandings, demonstrates respect for the speaker, and increases the likelihood of responding appropriately. It also serves as a starting point for employees to enhance their communication skills.

Cultivate ongoing practice

Unfortunately, emotional intelligence is not a simple concept, nor is it a singular skill. It encompasses an array of abilities that require continuous practice. Thus, to truly develop your emotional intelligence and equip yourself with the skills to manage your emotions effectively, ongoing training is necessary. EI demands a high level of self-analysis, often requiring actions that differ from instinctive responses. Becoming proficient in emotional intelligence takes time and effort, so do not be discouraged if you do not witness immediate results. Persevere and continue to practice, allowing yourself to learn and grow with each new day.

Book suggestions to help you improve emotional intelligence at the workplace

Lastly, we want to suggest these three books about EI that will teach you everything you need to know about EI and its application in the workplace:

  • The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership by Peter Salovey, John Mayer and David Caruso
  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman, 2005

Conclusion

In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a critical factor in achieving success in the workplace, particularly for leaders and managers. It goes beyond IQ and technical skills, as it enables individuals to effectively communicate, solve problems, and manage teams. Recognizing and understanding our own emotions while being aware of their impact on others is essential for fostering positive relationships and driving organizational success.

Further Reading

Supporting employee’s sleep health: Workplace napping
The Company Culture at Amazon
Rejected Candidates: Nurturing the Candidate Experience through Communication

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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