The Importance of Emotional Intelligence at Work

There was a time when I had a colleague who – I used to joke – did all of my emotional intelligence for me. She picked up on things in the office that I had failed to notice. She forewarned me about colleagues who may be upset about something. She basically ‘got’ people.

And then she went on maternity leave and all hell broke loose.

I exaggerate slightly, but I won’t lie when I say I was less emotionally intelligent than I could have been in my position, and I needed to become less reliant on my colleague when it came to managing people.

I’m hardly a relic of a bygone age. Yet. But the workplace has changed very much in front of my eyes, and the role of emotional intelligence has grown massively. Understanding others emotions, and indeed identifying them in the first place, is a core management skill – it helps you to build rapport with others, and to handle situations more appropriately in the workplace.

And with the increase in online working, those antennae need to be constantly tuned to the fewer nuances we can ascertain.

Let’s try and define Emotional Intelligence first, then – otherwise known as EQ (emotional quotient).

This might involve:

  • Looking to reduce stress by supporting colleagues & understanding the signs of stress
  • Providing constructive feedback instead of personal criticism
  • Looking to resolve conflict between team members
  • Creating an environment in which freedom of expression is respected
  • Managing expectations

John D Mayer called it:

“a set of skills… to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan and achieve in one’s life.”

Alternatively, Daniel Goleman broke it down into five ‘components’:

  • Self Awareness (i.e. understanding your own emotions)
  • Self Management (i.e. managing your own emotions & controlling yourself)
  • Motivation (setting goals & enjoying what you’re doing)
  • Social Awareness (accurately sensing how other people feel – empathy)
  • Social skills (managing relationships that benefit everyone)

In a workplace setting, hiring employees with a high EQ, and not just a high IQ, is proven to lead to higher productivity and therefore profitability.

Those who can understand others’ emotions are highly prized, but few organisations know how to identify them in the first place. They bring a positive outlook, they contribute to reduced stress levels, and their empathy puts them in prime position for leadership roles when they arise.

They make deeper connections with their colleagues, increasing motivation generally. In other words, EQ breeds EQ.

You don’t expect everyone in your organisation to have a high EQ. In fact, many are predisposed to have low EQ, and there is nothing you can do about this. Those people may often find themselves in low-interaction roles such as web development (no offence to web developers, but they are a prime example of individuals who often tend not to interact much with other human beings in the workplace).

However, those in high-interaction roles need high levels of EQ, and a report recently discovered that 90% of top performers in the workplace scored high on EQ.

One particular organisation that trained its employees on EQ discovered that employee productivity increased by 93%, so there is an obvious and direct correlation between EQ and success.

So I’ve learned a lot from my colleague, and obviously upon her return, I was incredibly emotionally intelligent, and also very grateful that she had come back.

Our course on Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace is running throughout the year, with dates in February, June and October. Reserve yourself a place today.

Published on Jan 19, 2023 by Gareth Cartman