Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Navigating Success Through Understanding and Empathy

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Navigating Success Through Understanding and Empathy

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Navigating Success Through Understanding and Empathy banner

In the workforce, it’s common for bosses to focus on tangible metrics and deliverables, but it’s not as common to hear about emotional intelligence in the workplace. However, it’s a critical value that leads to success or failure in any industry. Good emotional intelligence in the workplace can directly translate into more success, better retention, a feeling of success, and a desire to want to work harder.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand, recognize, and manage emotions. This refers to your own emotions, but also other people’s emotions. For instance, knowing that you’re happy or seeing that someone is angry are both examples of basic emotional intelligence.

An early example of EI is understanding that what you said just made somebody sad. With EI, you can extrapolate further to understand why your actions made someone sad or understand how your emotions and motivations power the things you say and do.

Daniel Goleman’s Take on Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman is a popular psychologist who published a book in 1995 titled “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” This was just one of a few early examples of people openly talking about EI and how it relates to humans.

In Goleman’s work, he took a deep dive into human intelligence and expanded it beyond logical reasoning and cognitive capabilities. He included emotional and social competencies, which reframed how popular culture viewed intelligence.

Within his paper, he introduced five recurring ideas:

  • Self-awarenessThis is the ability to understand your own emotions, strengths, values, drivers, and weaknesses. When you’re highly self-aware, you’re honest with your abilities and feelings. With emotional intelligence in the workplace, self-awareness might mean telling a coworker that they hurt your feelings.
  • Self-regulationSelf-regulation is the ability to control and redirect your emotions and impulses, especially disruptive ones. Strong self-regulation allows you to reject impulses and deal with change well. In the workplace, self-regulation would prevent you from yelling at a coworker after they messed up.
  • Internal motivationGoleman describes internal motivation as a passion to pursue goals with persistence, regardless of external rewards. When you’re internally motivated, you will accomplish things for the simple reason that you want to and you’re compelled to. Good internal motivation in the workplace could mean working overtime to go above and beyond on a project because you want to deliver your best work.
  • EmpathyEmpathy is a more common phrase in today’s world, and it revolves around understanding the feelings of other people. It’s often understood as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they must be feeling. Good empathy in the workplace can translate to managing relationships well, understanding where people are coming from, and relating to your coworker’s failures and successes.
  • Social skillsIn general, social skills are the ability to manage relationships and build networks. A lot of social skills lean on the ability to build rapport and find common ground with other people. Good social skills in the workplace can help you lead a change, build a cohesive team, and inspire others to do more work.

Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

In the workplace, work ethic and drive are often focused on. But what about emotional intelligence in the workplace? As you might suspect, emotional intelligence goes a long way, and it can dramatically change your course within any given company.

Improving Job Performance

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is essential because it can seriously improve your job performance. This is especially true for companies where collaboration is important and you’re regularly working with other people.

For one, knowing that you’re getting close to burning out will be a good indicator that you should slow down and take time for yourself before it’s too late. This small change can increase your overall performance at work and help the longevity of your career.

Also consider how you work with your coworkers. With EI, you’ll know how people are feeling and what their motivations are, so you can understand how they need to be treated. By correctly interpreting and understanding the emotions of others, you can make everyone on your team feel comfortable.

Job Satisfaction

An emotionally intelligent worker is more likely to be satisfied with their job. An emotionally intelligent workplace makes for a more supportive culture, which will undoubtedly make all the workers feel more satisfied, boost morale, and help with overall employee retention.

Looking through a personal lens, consider your internal motivation. By understanding what types of jobs will be internally motivating to you, you can seek a career that truly satisfies you. Part of emotional intelligence is understanding that not every job environment is right for you, emotionally. Spotting a toxic workplace or a team that doesn’t value your skills might highlight the need to change jobs or careers altogether.

Identifying and Developing Emotional Intelligence

How can you identify emotional intelligence in the first place? Knowing what EI entails is a critical first step, but it also leads to further development in areas of EI where you need help.

To better identify and develop your own emotional intelligence, you’ll need to go through self-work. Mindfulness practice is a good starting point — remember to center yourself, check in with your emotions, and try to give names to the feelings that you’re experiencing.

For others, going through active listening exercises is a great way to practice empathy and understanding in the workplace.

Finally, think about feedback loops. This is when you take a moment to recognize, understand, and manage your and other people’s emotions. It involves questions like ‘What am I feeling?’, ‘Why am I feeling this way?’, and ‘When did I start feeling like this?’.

Signs of High and Low Emotional Intelligence at Work

With enough experience, you’ll be able to spot high and low emotional intelligence in yourself and others at work. For beginners, it’s a lot easier to spot high and low emotional intelligence in others since it can be difficult to take a step back and consider your own feelings in the moment.

In others, a clear sign of low emotional intelligence is frequent misunderstandings and emotional outbursts. People with low emotional intelligence (EI) often struggle to collaborate because they’re less aware of their own emotions and those of their colleagues. 

Highly emotionally intelligent coworkers will work very well in teams and have strong conflict-resolution skills. They might turn seemingly tense confrontations into learning experiences. When you work with someone who has a strong EI, you will likely feel very comfortable and understood.

Spotting these same traits in yourself will come in time, so don’t feel upset if you can’t understand your own emotions in the workplace, yet. Start by spotting examples of low and high emotional intelligence in your coworkers. This will give you a framework for what it looks like so you can better spot it in yourself in the future.

Impact of Lack of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Having a lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace can really stunt your career. When the whole team has low EI, you can find yourself in a toxic workplace culture, where work and progress are the only things that matter. Low EI teams and managers will not consider the feelings of individuals in their decisions, and it will lead to burnout and dissatisfaction with your job.

Another problem with no emotional intelligence in the workplace is it can feel very secluding. You might not feel like part of a team, which can lead to high turnover rates. When you feel accepted and seen, you’re more likely to stay in the group.

Implementing Emotional Intelligence Strategies in the Workplace

People don’t realize this, but the Human Resources (HR) department of most companies is where a lot of emotional intelligence strategies come from. Oftentimes, HR representatives inherently have strong emotional intelligence as a means of doing their job better.

If you want your company to start employing better emotional intelligence, then it can start within the HR department.

Human Resources

The HR department is not just there to handle big issues between coworkers that arise. Your HR team can integrate EI into various parts of the employee lifecycle, starting from the first recruiting phase all the way to that employee’s retirement.

Within recruitment, EI-focused interview questions will help set the stage. Asking the employee what their preference is for handling projects, how they deal with conflict in the workplace, and an example of a disagreement they had with a coworker will help you understand if the candidate meets your company’s EI standards.

For existing employees, surveys can be used to gauge satisfaction with management from an emotional perspective.

Interviews and Employee Development

For better emotional intelligence in the workplace, consider regular tips and newsletters for your staff. These tips can revolve around how to focus on EI, why emotional intelligence in the workplace is so crucial, and how to make suggestions to improve EI.

Employee development is the method of helping your employees grow into new roles and better workers. For companies that want strong emotional intelligence at work, an employee development plan should include ways to improve EI as well.

Measuring Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Measuring emotional intelligence is often more difficult than measuring IQ or understanding of a subject. Since a lot of emotions are subjective and difficult to measure, creative tests like the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) or Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) must be used.

In these tests, subjects are asked to answer a series of questions or hypothetical scenarios. Their answers will give you a better understanding of their level of emotional intelligence.

Is There a Reliable Way to Measure Emotional Intelligence?

It is important to acknowledge that accurately assessing emotional intelligence cannot be reliably achieved through a limited number of tests. This is because what we deem to be emotionally intelligent can vary from person to person and is entirely subjective. The real indication of someone’s level of EI comes from their everyday actions and actions. With enough experience, you can tell who has good or bad emotional intelligence, but it’s hard to quantify these levels through repeatable and reliable tests.

Learn More About Emotional Intelligence With JWU’s Online Psychology Degree

Having good emotional intelligence in the workplace is a great way to succeed in your job and feel better at the end of the day. Harboring an environment of strong EI within a workplace can also help with employee retention and the overall success of your team.

If you’re interested in a career that learns about and promotes emotional intelligence in the workplace, an online Psychology degree from JWU is a great place to start. In our program, you’ll learn more about emotional intelligence and how to spot it, plus more tips for utilizing it to help any team in the workplace.

For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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