Navigating Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence As A Soft Skill

Soft skills have proven to be as – and sometimes more – important than technical skills in the workplace. One of many soft skills senior leaders seek out when they are hiring new employees is emotional intelligence. It makes sense; there have been many studies and cases of organizations benefitting from an emotionally intelligent workplace. This was found not only in employee happiness but also in an organization’s bottom line.


History of Emotional Intelligence

The term “Emotional Intelligence” was first used by Wayne Payne in 1985 in his doctoral thesis on developing and teaching others emotional intelligence. In 1990, researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer researched measurements of emotional intelligence, and defined the term as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.

This led to psychologist Daniel Goleman writing the book “Emotional Intelligence” in 1990. The book discussed what Goleman believed to be the four main characteristics of emotional intelligence; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills. He argued that emotional intelligence was even more important than cognitive intelligence for achieving business success.

Since then, Emotional Intelligence has been coined into a crucial soft skill in the workplace, being named one of 2020’s top 10 soft skills for the future of work. While the concept of emotional intelligence is fairly new overall, it has proven to be critical to successful employees. It is becoming more common for employers to take into consideration emotional intelligence just as much as hard or technical skills.


Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Having emotionally intelligent employees has many benefits to an organization as a whole. Emotional intelligence can make for better collaboration and teamwork in the workplace, along with stronger communication throughout the organization. By being an active listener and clearly communicating ideas, employees can work together effectively.

Emotionally intelligent employees tend to be more optimistic and have a positive outlook on the work they do. This increases motivation and in return boosts productivity. Furthermore, by having self-aware employees, there is an understanding of strengths and weaknesses. By having the ability to identify these, efforts can be made to improve these skills. Emotional intelligence in the office also significantly reduces the amount of conflict that takes place in the workplace. While not all conflict can be avoided, when it arises in an emotionally intelligent workplace, employees can use their strong conflict management skills to deescalate the situation effectively. All these factors make for a more productive organization.

An emotionally intelligent team makes for a positive workplace culture. People are more likely to enjoy being at the office and feel good about the work they are doing when there is a mutual respect throughout the team. With employees who are empathic and active listeners, there is better communication and opportunities to form connections. Finding opportunities to make employees happier will increase retention and motivate them to continue to work to the best of their ability.

Emotional intelligence influencing employee retention can have significant financial benefits for an organization. For example, A Fortune 500 Company based in the United States used personality tests to select job candidates for years with minimal results in reducing their high turnover. After turning to an emotional intelligence-based test and training program, retention increased by 67 percent in the first year, adding $32 million to its bottom line in reduced turnover costs and increased sales revenues. Employee retention is much more than keeping employees happy, it can also have a major impact on the financial success of an organization.

Having the ability to make changes and adjust to unexpected issues that may arise allows an organization to keep up despite challenges. Emotionally intelligent employees have the ability to be flexible and adapt to unexpected changes, even when it may feel stressful. An adaptable employees’ positive attitude can influence others to also embrace change.

Emotionally intelligent employees may also be more likely to present new ideas that can benefit the organization. Having the ability to lean into change rather than fearing it opens many possibilities. By having strong self-management skills, employees can be more resilient to these types of changes, and pivot to new ways of problem-solving.


Components of Emotional Intelligence

As Goleman states in his book, emotional intelligence can be broken down into 4 main characteristics; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills. With these in mind, employees can work on developing and improving their emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness – Self-Awareness is a major component of emotional intelligence. By being conscious of our emotions, we can better identify our needs and clearly communicate them. Self-awareness can also mean having a strong sense trusted intuition. By being aware of your own emotions, you can better understand and respect other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Self-ManagementSelf-Management involves taking responsibility for your own emotions and finding healthy ways to cope with negative feelings. This means having control over your emotions and being able to gracefully adapt to unexpected changes in a calm and rational way. Feelings can and should be acknowledged, but people with good self-management skills can appropriately handle them. While different people may have different tactics for self-management, everyone can benefit from the ability to recognize and react to strong emotions in a productive way.

Social Awareness – An individual with social awareness has a strong understanding of how to handle different social situations, and have effective interactions with other people. Social awareness can also mean being conscious of social issues in the world and being empathetic to how they impact other people. This allows people from different backgrounds to connect emotionally.

Social Skills – Having good social skills means being able to effectively handle other people’s emotions and having the ability to create mutually beneficial relationships using good communication skills. Individuals with good social skills can productively handle conflict and have the ability to persuade and positively influence behavior in others. Good leaders must have strong social skills to build rapport with their team. They see change as an opportunity and can act as a role model for a team.


How to Implement Emotional Intelligence into your Workplace

Emotional intelligence can influence many aspects of life, both personally and professionally. There are various ways to improve emotional intelligence. Self-reflection on interactions with others can help employees find ways to improve their emotional intelligence. Employees can also ask for constructive feedback from their supervisors or colleagues. It is helpful to keep a clear mind when practicing emotional intelligence. Doing mindfulness or breathing exercises can help keep employees in the present and aware of their emotions.

Soft skills training is an excellent way to get employees thinking about how to improve their emotional intelligence skills. A good place to start is with our Emotional Intelligence Workshop, which covers how to successfully identify emotions to become more self-aware and have stronger self-management skills. With the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions, employees can perform in an efficient and emotionally sustainable way. Learn more about our Emotional Intelligence Workshop and sign up for a free course today!

Posted by Zachary Myers on

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