- Peri Avari
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Updated: May 8
There are many books written and courses created on the topic of the importance of Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence is an important human skill for better interactions in all aspects of life, especially in the workplace. While academicians have long touted the effects of a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) for achievements, the stronger correlation between success and high emotional intelligence skills like self-awareness, maturity, social interactions, and intrinsic motivation is undeniable. Today, having high emotional intelligence in the workplace is necessary to operate effectively in society, and it is no longer a choice.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Key to personal and professional success, emotional intelligence is defined as 'the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.' In a place of work, this translates to some rather critical skills that can mean the difference between the success or failure of a business, a team, or a project. Let's take a look at three areas of mastery over one's emotional intelligence skills that can impact a team's performance.
Strong verbal and non-verbal communication skills between members help a team in reasoning with each other to get things done. Deliverables are clearly communicated, and the eventual ‘blame game’ is avoided, instead creating a workplace of mature individuals moving together towards a common goal.
Problem-Solving and Conflict Resolution
No area of life or work is devoid of issues and conflict. They come up in every walk of life, even as early as elementary school, where children are taught to develop control over emotional responses by using their words to resolve playground issues. Left undeveloped, the lack of emotional maturity shows up in leaders and employees in an organization which can translate to a toxic work culture where people are afraid to tackle obstacles with a view to finding a positive solution.
Making quick decisions and understanding cause and effect are essential skills at every level of leadership. The inability to manage personal emotions like fear and anxiety, and think clearly through decisions that work for the team while being aligned with company values, can cascade down the line easily.
Practical Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in Today's Workplace
Better emotional intelligence in the workplace is needed at two levels - the employees and the company as a whole. Striking a balance between taking care of an employee's emotional well-being and the company's mission becomes the first order of a business with a diverse workforce.
An organization with leaders and teams that operate with a higher level of self-awareness and the capability to handle emotional ups and downs shows up in the following ways:
Employees and management are able to regulate their emotions, handle obstacles, and always keep the bigger picture in mind. This means the workplace can avoid angry emotional outbursts between co-workers, and instead, a calm, stable set of temperaments is at play even when the going gets tough.
Colleagues and senior management show empathy and compassion in understanding an individual employee's issues since people come with their unique set of challenges. Knowing that the senior management of their company 'has their back,' employees will bring their best selves to work each day, showing efficiency and conscientiousness, both of which are critical workplace emotional intelligence skills.
Leaders have a positive influence on their teams and express themselves productively, always aware of the effect of their responses and decisions on the people and work environment.
Given the space to operate as themselves and make mistakes, employees don't hesitate to show more creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, which leads to innovative solutions for the organization. In addition, teams with more flexibility handle change easily and are competent in taking on challenging project deadlines.
Superior social skills in key customer-facing roles within an organization lead to better client interactions, which eventually strengthen the brand image and produce higher sales.
Since there is a clear link between higher emotional intelligence in the workplace and better employee and organizational performance, these positive collaborations between departments finally show up in a company's stellar results.
What Should Today’s Professionals Do to Develop Emotional Intelligence Skills?
One of the first questions that come to mind is - Can emotional intelligence skills be taught, or are they an inherent part of someone’s nature and nurture? Over the years, both have been found to be true to some extent. While companies look for skills like empathy, self-motivation, maturity, good communication, and an attitude of collaboration during the hiring process, these skills can be taught and further developed with the right kind of training tools working hand in hand with the organization’s desired work culture.
Emotional intelligence in the workplace can be fostered through formal training courses, creating teams with diverse talents working together on projects, and community work undertaken by the organization where employees come together for an external cause. Companies may benefit from having Emotional Quotient (EQ) assessments that measure emotional intelligence skills in their employees and translate the results into positive feedback with clearly laid out steps for improvement.
The reality is that modern workplaces are filled with equally intelligent, smart employees, all with the right kind of academic achievements on paper; it is the emotional intelligence skills of team members that set the exceptional ones apart from the rest.