Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace (and How to Develop EQ)

Post by Evan Meyer
June 14, 2022
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace (and How to Develop EQ)

It's no secret that emotional intelligence (EQ) is vital in the workplace. 

After all, a high EQ enables us to manage our emotions, navigate relationships effectively, and make good decisions. It’s critical for interpersonal communication, so you can see why it’s vital in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence varies from person to person. Some people are naturally gifted with empathy and know how to deal with their own and other people’s emotions. Others might need to build their emotional intelligence skills.

In other words, emotional intelligence can be developed - it's not just something you're born with, and it should be a core focus of learning and development teams.

In this blog post, we'll discuss why EQ is so important in the workplace, and we'll also provide tips on how you can start improving your own.

 

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is defined as recognizing and understanding emotions in oneself and others. According to psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, two of the leading researchers on the topic, there are four levels of emotional intelligence:

  • Perceiving emotions
  • Reasoning with emotions
  • Understanding emotions
  • Managing emotions

However, Daniel Goleman and his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, popularized the concept.

The benefits of emotional intelligence center around communication and interaction. You’re likely to communicate with coworkers, management, and customers at work. A high EQ will make these interactions positive. You’ll also find it easier to create solid and fruitful connections and network with others to facilitate effective teamwork.

If you don’t take emotional intelligence in the workplace seriously, you risk hiring people who lack EQ. This might lead to team members who avoid taking responsibility for their errors, lack interest in working with others, are quick to anger and are overly critical, and finally, are passive-aggressive when they communicate with colleagues and customers.

 

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Emotional intelligence can tell you a lot about a person. While hard skills are important for employees to do their job effectively, understanding soft skills is a game-changer when working cohesively in teams, dealing with change, and managing stress.

High EQ is necessary to succeed at work (and in life) and move up the career ladder. It’s not enough to be intelligent and competent. Leaders set the tone of their organization. They need to effectively manage a melting pot of different personalities, strengths and weaknesses, emotions, and skills.

Those with a higher EQ successfully navigate the workplace by tuning into their team’s needs and making decisions logically while still managing the differences and nuances of a given situation.

 

What are the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace?

In many vocations and workplaces, emotional intelligence is a core competency. It’s an integral part of human relations and social skills in general. Those with high EQ:

  • Make better decisions
  • Have the ability to cope with the demands of the job
  • Solve problems easily
  • Are cool under pressure
  • Are empathetic to co-workers
  • Resolve conflict without adding to it, and
  • Respond well to criticism and are open to change

It’s also been observed that emotional intelligence training boosts productivity and job performance. When done well, training boosts morale through improving workplace communication.

Lastly, self-awareness and the ability to observe and notice emotions also affect physical health on an individual level. According to stress.org, chronic stress is making employees sick. 83% of U.S workers suffer from work-related stress; but people with high EQ are much better at taking a step back and managing stress and are also more resilient.

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How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Although Daniel Goleman popularized emotional intelligence and broke it down into four elements, a fifth has recently been added. Here are the five elements of emotional intelligence that you can develop through training and experience.

 

Self-awareness

What is your worldview, and how does it affect your interactions? It’s a big question, but the answer has far-reaching consequences. How you view the world informs how you communicate with others.

It’s critical to have the ability to assess your strengths and weaknesses and to recognize your emotions and the effect they have on your performance and your team. That’s not to say you can’t experience emotions. But you might check in with yourself to try and understand why you’re feeling angry or upset. 

If you’re in a heated conversation with a colleague and you feel anger rising, even labeling the emotion brings logic to the situation–and puts you in a better position to address the problem. Perhaps you’ll listen to co-workers and try to understand their points of view to avoid conflict.

Are you aware of what you need to change? Try starting the day off with reflection. Morning reflection might provide work/life balance and help you approach the day with a healthier mindset.

As a leader, you need to build both internal and external self-awareness. You can accomplish this by seeking out honest feedback from well-meaning critics. Self-awareness helps you learn to see yourself more clearly, which provides you with a number of rewards. Remember that no matter how much progress you make, there’s always more to learn. This lifelong-student mentality is one of the things that makes the journey to self-awareness so exciting.

 

Self-regulation

We all have bad days, impulses, and negative emotions, but self-management is the ability to control your emotions, not let them control you.

Use what you learn in your self-awareness practice to execute better self-regulation. What does this look like?

You get an email at 9 pm, making you angry. Your impulse might be to respond angrily and make the situation worse. Self-management is deciding to sleep on it and react the next day thoughtfully.

Leaders with the ability to self-regulate are less likely to make rash decisions and be aggressive. Instead, they are cool-headed and react to a situation with intelligence and tact. Self-awareness and self-regulation are critical to other facets of emotional intelligence like effective communication and conflict management.

 

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

In the workplace, empathy is vital. Understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and reacting with compassion is the sign of an excellent colleague or a great leader.

96% of employees consider it essential for employers to demonstrate empathy. Yet empathy is a hard sell in the workplace. Keeping calm and collected and emotions under wraps is the height of professionalism.

A different path to tread is building a culture of belonging and connection. It starts from the top down. Empathetic leaders set the example for open communication.

To develop empathy, be aware of what’s happening around you. Read verbal and nonverbal cues from co-workers. Get to know them. A big part of empathy development is recognizing others for their contributions.

Finally, imagine how much better conflict resolution would be if both parties approached it collaboratively? Working with others to reach a mutually beneficial outcome is a sure-fire way to build a culture of empathy in the workplace.

 

Social Skills

Social skills help us communicate effectively and deepen relationships with clients and co-workers.

They can be verbal, nonverbal, written, or visual. They’re sometimes referred to as soft skills. You’ll use different social skills in and out of work. Anytime you interact with another person, you’re using your social skills.

You can see why they’re essential in the workplace! To build and maintain relationships, you should think about how you approach every interaction you have. Skills to develop include:

  • Effective communication: Share your thoughts and ideas clearly with others.
  • Conflict resolution: Get to the core of a problem and find a solution.
  • Cooperation: Work with a variety of people to reach a common goal.
  • Active listening: Listen without interrupting and only offer advice if the person talking asks for it.
  • Positivity: Have a positive attitude and a genuine interest in your colleagues while avoiding office drama.

To develop social skills, take colleagues out to lunch or schedule a virtual happy hour. Organize work events, and give words of encouragement. If you want to level up your social skills, ask for feedback about your current social skills, identify the skills you want to practice, and take part in workshops.

 

Motivation

The last element to be added to the list, intrinsic motivation, plays a role in how likely someone is to achieve their goals. Extrinsic incentives like rewards and praise play their part, but those with intrinsic motivation do things because they’re fulfilling and are passionate about what they do.

Employees and leaders powered by intrinsic motivation are committed to their work, love taking on new challenges, and inspire others to reach their full potential.

To develop intrinsic motivation, focus on what you love about your work. Double down on the aspects of your job that you enjoy and take inspiration from a job well done or satisfied clients. Be optimistic and try to maintain a positive attitude.

 

3 Examples of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

If a colleague comes to you and they’re upset, you can either:

  1. Pretend not to notice that they’re upset or criticize them, demonstrating low EQ. Or,
  2. Notice something is wrong, offer an ear to listen, and try to cheer them up, demonstrating high EQ.

If something happens at work that delays your productivity, you can either:

  1. React angrily and become snappy and moody, and blame everyone else or,
  2. Observe what happened, what went wrong, and control your reaction and emotions

If a coworker has a different opinion on moving a project forward, you can:

  1. Dismiss their idea without considering it, or
  2. Listen to their idea, try and understand their point of view, and come to a decision together based on pros and cons.

 

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Daniel Goleman and others in the emotional intelligence space produced a guide for emotional intelligence in the workplace. They break it down into four phases.

In the first phase, you should be preparing for change. You’ll assess your organization’s needs, personal strengths, and limitations and provide feedback. You’ll then gauge readiness and then encourage participation in training.

Phase two is training. You’ll foster a positive relationship between the trainer and your employees. Some employees will do better in a group setting; others need one-on-one time. Set clear goals and make them manageable. 

Provide opportunities to practice emotional intelligence. Real-life situations are great, but inbox simulations that create realistic scenarios in a safe environment are a fantastic way to develop models of desirable behavior and enable employees to adopt skillsets reflective of the challenges they could expect to face in the workplace.

Phase three is all about transferring the skills learned and how to maintain them in the workplace. Encourage employees to use their skills on the job and foster a culture that supports learning.

In phase four, evaluate the changes in your workplace and reap the benefits.

 

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important in the Workplace

Your workplace might suffer from poor communication, mismanaged emotions, and conflict without emotional intelligence. With improved emotional intelligence, your team will be more productive and want to come to work.

Emotional intelligence is part of a set of soft skills that you can measure and assess. Accurate assessments are crucial, but traditional methods are flawed. Questionnaires and traditional assessments are subject to self-reporting biases and interviews post challenges with regard to bias as well as scalability for larger teams. 

Here is where Capsim shines. CapsimInbox is a simulation tool that provides soft skill training and analysis. Measure soft skills effectively and without bias, and begin taking steps to develop soft skills and emotional intelligence in the workplace.

The CapsimInbox simulation tool engagingly mimics the natural world and provides measurable results and feedback to trainees.

See what your employees would see in 5 minutes with our self-guided demo!

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