The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Understanding what emotional intelligence is and its importance in the workplace can be helpful in your professional life.

Woman is happy in the workplace.

Business leaders and staff members at all levels and across all industries need certain skills to succeed. Some of the necessary skills depend on the industry in which someone works and the level at which they are in their career. Others are essential in all facets of work, starting with entry-level roles and going up to executive positions.

One skill that falls into the latter category is emotional intelligence. Understanding what emotional intelligence is and its importance in the workplace can be helpful in your professional life.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to evaluate, perceive, and control emotions. Some researchers believe that it’s something people are born with, while others emphasize the ability to learn emotional intelligence and strengthen this characteristic. Understanding how to control and express your own emotions is an important life skill, but it’s equally important to identify and respond to the emotions of other people.

An individual with a high level of emotional intelligence can empathize and identify with others. Oftentimes, people are more drawn to those who can identify with their feelings and empathize with their situations. It’s hard to imagine seeking out someone as a friend who has little to no understanding of your feelings, whether you’re feeling sad, happy, or concerned.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and the author of the book titled “Emotional Intelligence,” suggests that emotional intelligence may be more important than standard intelligence as measured by IQ tests and other means.

Related: Manage Your Emotions

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

Emotional intelligence is certainly important in an individual’s personal life as they seek to establish and strengthen relationships with those around them. But it’s also important in a professional sense, as those with high emotional intelligence levels can achieve greater success. When you can maintain control over your emotions and understand the feelings of those around you, you can become a leader people can trust and look to for guidance.

Key elements of emotional intelligence at work

In Goleman’s book, he talks about the five key components of emotional intelligence in the workplace. These include:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to identify your emotional triggers and feelings, as well as how others might perceive your emotions.
  • Motivation: The desire and urge to achieve a goal or complete a task. Intrinsic or internal motivation is often seen as a positive attribute in the workplace as it indicates the ability to take on tasks without requiring motivation or pushing from another person.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to adjust and control emotions to create a positive effect among the people around you. An example would be to maintain a professional and positive demeanor, even when dealing with a frustrating situation.
  • Social skills: The tools used to interact and communicate with others, including listening and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand and identify with the feelings of another person.

3 ways to build emotional intelligence

Whether you’re striving to strengthen your own emotional intelligence or create a program that improves the emotional intelligence of your team members, you can follow these tips.

1. Consider your feelings (and the feelings of others)

If empathy doesn’t come naturally to you, this is a skill you can build within yourself. Emotional intelligence is rooted in social awareness, or the ability to notice emotions and how they impact those around you. Think about your feelings, as well as the feelings of another person, before you act in the workplace.

Some of the questions you could ask include:

  • How does my state of mind influence my ability to make decisions and form thoughts?
  • Are there issues in my personal or professional life that influence the way I react?

By asking reflective questions of yourself, you can determine how your emotions might be impacting another person and adjust accordingly.

2. Listen to listen (not to respond)

When you’re engaged in a conversation at work, you may be tempted to jump in and respond or correct the person speaking. But people with high emotional intelligence levels are willing to listen first, rather than to respond quickly. Acknowledging what the other person is saying and feeling in the moment helps them to feel heard and understood, which builds trust.

3. Identify what motivates you

Motivation is a key element of emotional intelligence, so consider what motivates you at work. Focus on the positives of your role rather than the negatives to strengthen a positive outlook.
Now that you have a better sense of what emotional intelligence is and why it matters in the workplace, you can start to implement strategies to strengthen your own and your team’s emotional intelligence.

Related: 5 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Relationships at Work

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