Emotional intelligence & the workplace
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What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is about understanding the feelings & emotions of your own and of others, and how to manage those feelings in certain situations. As a dictionary definition, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, and involves recognising various aspects of your feelings and emotions and taking the time to work on the 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence. The 5 characteristics of emotional intelligence are;

  • self-awareness
  • self-regulation 
  • motivation 
  • empathy 
  • social skills

How does emotional intelligence apply to the workplace?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is the ability of employers and employees to recognise their emotions and those of others, determine different feelings, and adjust their emotions and reactions to achieve their goals. There are many needs for emotional intelligence within the workplace including; giving and receiving feedback, dealing with challenging work relationships, accepting, and adapting to workplace change, setbacks and failure, and success and achievements. 

Within a workplace, there are often a variety of personalities, values, and identities to consider, which means that a workplace may often be exposed to both positive and negative behaviours. Positive behaviour and emotions can have a positive effect of motivating employees, promoting communication and teamwork, great staff and workplace morale, and engaging others to practice emotional intelligence, whereas negative behaviour and emotions can have a negative effect of disengaging employees, lack or decrease in communication and teamwork, bad staff and workplace morale, poor productivity and can deter staff from practicing emotional intelligence. 

For emotional intelligence to be developed and maintained within a workplace, it is important that managers provide and promote opportunities for staff to express their thoughts and feelings. A few workplace opportunities where it is appropriate for staff to express thoughts and feelings include;

  • individual meetings with managers or supervisors.
  • whole team discussions, but only when the topic is brought up e.g. “how has everyone been feeling this week?” – if thoughts and feelings are to be expressed during this opportunity, it is to be done respectfully and considerately, and can be elaborated on with manager and/or supervisors in private if necessary.
  • in a journal – the simplest way for staff to express their thoughts and feelings, whether it is a physical journal, or an online/digital journal (it can also allow staff to make sense of their thoughts and feeling before bringing them up in a more public setting!).

Asides from providing employees with opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings, there are also a range of strategies that can be used to promote and develop emotional intelligence within a workplace. These strategies may include;

  • utilising an assertive, not aggressive, style of communicating
  • being mindful of vocabulary
  • responding instead of reacting to conflict 
  • utilising active listening skills
  • being motivated
  • maintaining a positive attitude
  • practicing self-awareness
  • taking criticism well and discussing if needed
  • empathising with others
  • utilising leadership skills
  • being approachable and sociable
  • learning to manage your negative emotions and feelings

There are many benefits of applying emotional intelligence to the workplace, which can also translate to benefits outside of the workplace. Benefits of emotional intelligence within the workplace include;

  • staff understanding, empathising with, and interacting appropriately with colleagues
  • staff having the ability to adjust to meet deadlines
  • staff taking criticism well and improving based on feedback 
  • staff being open to change and improving the workplace
  • reduces workplace stress
  • improved communication skills of staff
  • enhanced social skills of staff
  • creates a positive environment
  • increases staff’s frustration tolerance 
  • increases staff’s sense of accountability
  • fosters better leadership

In Summary:

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, and is important because it allows for individuals to recognise and respond appropriately to the thoughts and feelings of their own, and of others.
Personal behaviour and emotions can have both a negative and a positive effect on others within the workplace, but there are strategies for staff to implement that will help promote and develop emotional intelligence. It is also important that members of the workplace are given appropriate opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings. If emotional intelligence is executed well within a workplace, significant benefits will become apparent. Ultimately, when emotional intelligence is applied to the workplace, it can positively impact and influence the work environment, culture, and team morale.