How to Harness Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
The ability to create and utilize emotional intelligence in the workplace is often overlooked in a business, however this skill is necessary for success and not only benefits employees, but the business and the bottom line as a whole.
Business is business, right? There’s nothing personal in it, and who cares if you get hurt? It’s a tough place, and a healthy, competitive environment pits people against one another in terms of pure competency. That’s what a meritocracy is all about, isn’t it?
While some might think so, anyone who has spent any amount of time in the workplace knows that there’s far more to being a good worker, leader, entrepreneur, or employee than simply doing your job, and doing it better than the other guy/gal. All business is ultimately a matter of:
- Understanding interpersonal relationships
- Negotiating agreements
- Coming up with agreeable terms
- Shaking hands on potentially life-changing (or very mundane) decisions
For workers and leaders alike, understanding one another and being good at communicating in an effective and productive way is critical. The ability to do so isn’t simply a matter of raw intellect, but of emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace?
Emotional intelligence in the workplace, often known as EQ (emotional quotient) due to its comparison with IQ (a controversial measure of intelligence), is not measure of how emotional someone is, but how they work with their own emotions and the emotions of others.
Emotional intelligence describes a high level of self-awareness, as well as an awareness of others. It describes empathy, self-control, and level-headed decision making. Someone who can be described as high-EQ is aware of how they feel, how others around them feel, and how individual decisions and various factors influence these feelings – and why they’re relevant.
Emotional intelligence in the workplace can be neatly divided into several aspects. These are:
- People skills
The Connection Between EQ and Mental Health
Another hallmark of emotional intelligence is that it requires a healthy state of mind. In other words, it’s much harder to remain emotionally intelligent in the face of overwhelming stress, both internal and external. For example, it is harder to remain self-aware and impartial when negative thoughts are constantly applying pressure on your own self-esteem. It becomes harder to motivate oneself when depressed or anxious, whether as a result of overwhelming workloads or due to an underlying issue, such as a mental disorder.
This means emotional intelligence cannot be expected of workers who are not receiving enough support to be emotionally and mentally healthy. Equity is critical here – workers who struggle more with negative thoughts and have a harder time with maintaining a high level of emotional intelligence need greater support, whether through altered schedules or therapy. Mental illness can mean that a worker will require a greater number of resources to function well, but when given the proper support, they can be some of your most loyal, efficient, effective, and creative people.
What a Lack of Emotional Intelligence Can Do to the Workplace
We cannot ignore the role that feelings play in life, whether in our personal lives or in business. A high-stress, toxic environment with poor management will lead to burnout, high turnover rates, and poor performance.
Plenty of hot-headed business decisions and failures were the results of making a poor decision made due to being slighted by a rival or making a gut call rather than being calculated. When we aren’t in control of our emotions, or when we let our emotions and our ego run wild, we run the risk of piloting the ship straight into a craggy coastline.
That isn’t to say that the world’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs are devoid of ego, or possess a perfect understanding of the human mind, let alone their own. However, knowing what makes people tick is a prerequisite for running a great business. You can’t sell to your customers without knowing what they want, especially what they don’t know they want.
You can’t keep workers happy and productive if you ignore their needs or mistreat them constantly. Without emotional intelligence in the workplace, it becomes infested with toxicity and betrayal. Without EQ, there’s a lack of trust between the employer and the employee, and a level of strife that renders all work tainted.
How to Harness EQ in a Company
EQ is relevant for workers and leaders alike. We cannot simply pretend that the personal and the professional are entirely separate. While we should strive to dictate and preserve boundaries, a mark of a high EQ would be to embrace and resolve issues that affect our performance and thinking, rather than ignoring them for the sake of keeping the personal out of the professional, or trying to ignore the toll of an excessively stressful work environment on our relationships and health.
There’s a value in this beyond making the workplace feel more welcoming and understanding of everyone’s struggles. Emotional intelligence in the workplace also describes one’s understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions.
- Leaders: this means knowing what motivates your workers, and what makes them tick.
- Salespeople: it means knowing how to sell, and how to convince a customer to pay for a product or service.
- Marketing people: it means understanding how to advertise something so successfully that people who might not have bought it otherwise, now feel compelled to do so.
Emotional intelligence allows you to appeal to something deeper and more ingrained than rationale. It’s the power behind rhetoric, propaganda, and good marketing. Beyond making the office a better place to work, good emotional intelligence is critical for running a great business and selling more products.
1. Encourage Honest Conversations
Trust is the foundation of interpersonal relationships. At work, it’s important to encourage honest conversations about matters of emotional and mental health, to promote a productive and healthy workplace. Workers should feel free to come forward with concerns and issues, from high workloads to issues with stress and problems at home that are bleeding into work.
While managers cannot be expected to fulfill every worker’s wishes, compromises can go a long way. An employer-employee relationship built upon trust and the understanding that good, quality work is compensated for through good pay and a flexible work environment that encourages good mental health can be very productive.
Outside of usual office setups, such as in coworking offices, it can be helpful to encourage coworkers to be social with one another, and setup special events throughout the year to prioritize getting to know one another and cooperate in teambuilding activities.
2. Set Boundaries
Listening to your emotions can potentially have a negative impact at work. Professionalism has its place, and there’s no room for being hurtful or antagonizing at the workplace. Such behavior, even if it’s cathartic, is not indicative of emotional intelligence. It’s also important to set personal boundaries to preserve a barrier between work and home, such as being unreachable at certain hours, or on certain days.
Boundaries help us tell others where we draw the line, and while boundaries are hard lines, they vary greatly between individuals. Understanding and respecting other people’s boundaries and clearly defining your own are critical components of emotional intelligence in the workplace.
Emotional intelligence is not only necessary or beneficial for employees, but for those in charge as well. This skill helps a business to run smoothly, while creating trust, improving morale, and creating a closer workplace environment. Taking the time to improve emotional intelligence throughout your office can go a long way.