Recently, emotional intelligence has become a bit of a buzz word in human resources departments across the globe but researchers are saying that it is time emotional intelligence be taken seriously. Embracing the nuances of human emotion in the workplace can have pragmatic benefits, such as better collaboration among employees and a happier workplace, according to Rex Huppke. His argument is that we are human beings every day, not just when we leave the office.


So, what exactly is emotional intelligence, and how can it help us at work?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage your emotions. The skills involved in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
  • Self-awareness: knowing your weaknesses, strengths, drivers, values, and your impact on other people – forces for good intuition, essentially.  In practice, this would look like confidence and a thirst for constructive criticism. If you are a manager, you might know that tight deadlines bring out the worst in yourself. A self-aware and emotionally intelligent manager would plan their time properly and get the work done well in advance of any deadlines.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to control and redirect disruptive impulses and moods. Think of trustworthiness, integrity, and comfort with change. It is not letting your emotions affect you and instead marshaling your positive emotions and applying that energy to your passions. For example, if a team botches a presentation, the leader ought to resist the urge to scream. Instead, they could consider possible reasons for failure, explain the consequences to their team members and explore solutions together.
  • Motivation: Feeling compelled to extend effort and enjoying achievement for its own sake. A passion for the work you do, optimism, and energy to improve are the key hallmarks of an emotionally intelligent and motivated person.
  • Empathy: Understanding other people’s emotional makeup. It’s considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions. Some trademarks of empathy include expertise in hiring and retaining top talent, as well as the ability to develop other people and sensitivity to cross-cultural differences. 
  • Social skills: Building a relationship with others to move them in desired directions. Think of influencing here.

It is important to bear in mind that some people may express all of these things differently. For example, a neurodivergent person may not perceive or express social cues in the way a neuro-typical person would. Take such things into account when navigating these topics, especially when discussing emotional intelligence in the workplace.

The Effects of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

While emotions are often left at the door when you begin work, this has devastating effects not only on businesses but also in individual employees (all the way from assistant to CEO). Businesses are changing, however, and are beginning to offer extensive and personalized work schedules and new services (for example, some healthcare plans include mental health coverage) to ensure people at work are looked after. This includes hiring psychologists for human resources teams, getting to understand your workforce as best as possible, and offering useful training has direct results on employee/employer relationships.

On an individual level, every day we make emotionally charged decisions. We feel plan A is better than plan B and we sometimes make choices based on our emotions or gut feelings. When we understand the origin and source of these emotions, especially when working in a team, we are more at attuned to each other. With globalization, emotional intelligence is more significant than ever when teams are cross-cultural and global, increasing the complexity of interactions of emotions and how they are expressed. Essentially, emotional intelligence in the workplace comes down to understanding, expressing, and managing good relationships and solving problems under pressure.


Gary Yukl, a prominent researcher in leadership agrees and goes on to say “Self-awareness makes it easier to understand one’s own needs and likely reactions if certain events occurred, thereby facilitating evaluation of alternative solutions.”


For emotional intelligence to be effective, it has to start with yourself. You can’t distill or enhance other people’s well-being, improvement and sense of self without first understanding how you operate on an emotional level.  What distinguishes leaders is usually their level of emotional intelligence and it is those skills which help to develop a more effective workplace.

How Do You Become More Emotionally Intelligent?

As we all have a different level of emotional intelligence, we need to take more time to self-assess and work the ways we manage our feelings. As with anything, it takes practice, but even small steps can make a big difference. Much as you would regularly exercise your muscles, you need to practice working on your competencies so that they improve.

Some methods of improving your level of emotional intelligence are:
  • Identifying your feelings: Make a point of pausing to notice your emotions. Name the exact feeling you are experiencing, and decide how to move forward with it.
  • Examine your decisions: As we said, emotions drive the choices we make. After making a decision, even a quick on, stop to examine the ways in which your feelings influenced you. Next time, see if you can instead control your feelings through making a choice.
  • Ask for feedback: Ask those around you how they perceive your level of emotional intelligence. In the workplace, make room in a review for this topic.
  • Research: There are fascinating studies and a vast range of information on emotional intelligence in the workplace and in your everyday life. Seek it out and find new ways to approach your feelings.

Speaking about emotional intelligence in the workplace is not a fad; this is a key piece of the puzzle for any organization going forward. This will help you to both retain and attract staff with a positive working environment.

For more management insights, please browse our advice section.

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