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A Review of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Posted on February 21, 2020
Kathryn GombosWritten by Kathryn Gombos | Email author

Co-authored by Kathryn Gombos, Senior Compensation Consultant & Hannah Esbenshade, HR Consultant, Helios HR

A Review of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

In today’s business climate, leaders are constantly thinking about two areas: new strategies to help propel growth and how to hire and retain the best people. We see leaders face these challenges daily in our roles as HR, recruiters, and leadership coaches at Helios HR. There is one widely effective skill that can be a huge differentiator and set companies apart, and you might be surprised to learn it’s a soft skill: emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

As Daniel Goleman puts it, “Emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

This can be understood and strengthened by examining four core competencies:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

While the first two competencies focus on emotions of the self, the latter two focus on emotions within a social capacity. A strong understanding of all four is required for navigating and succeeding in today’s workplace. When individuals are highly aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and of those around them, they can use that knowledge and skill to build strong relationships and teams.

Self-Awareness

Having a good understanding of your own emotions is a precursor to being able to influence the emotions and attitudes of others. Learn your strengths and how to use them to your advantage. Understand your blind spots and internal biases and learn how to change your behavior in these areas.

Self-Management

Understanding your emotions is only half the battle. Being able to regulate and control your emotions will allow you to stay flexible and adapt to an ever-evolving workplace. If you have strong self-management skills, you are less likely to react poorly. You’re able to avoid stereotyping and are more open and mindful. You understand your triggers and have built tools to navigate stressful situations when they arise.

Social Awareness

When you’re socially aware, you are tuned in to the needs and attitudes of others. Empathy allows you to connect with employees and communicate effectively, tailoring your messages to the needs of the audience.

Relationship Management

When you understand and connect with the emotions of others, your relationships flourish. You’ll have the skills and tools required to build effective teams and influence others. You’ll be trusted with managing conflicts and mentoring and coaching others. Individuals with strong relationship management skills inspire and lead others through challenging times.

In the Workplace

Leadership

Leaders with emotional intelligence are tuned in to their own emotions and understand their impact on others. When you recognize and are aware of how your words, actions, and demeanor affects others, you can be deliberate in how you want to show up and influence or drive behavior. It’s also equally as important to relate to how your team is feeling and empathize with them. Doing so will build trust in your organization’s leadership abilities to take on risk and grow.

Workforce

Having a team with high emotional intelligence can make the day-to-day a breeze. Communication and collaboration occur naturally, and instances of conflict and tension become rare. Team members have the internal tools and mental capacity to adapt to change and overcome obstacles. They’re also more likely to have strong service-orientation and have the confidence required to take the initiative on new projects.

It’s Science!  Be Intentional and Don’t Sleep on It

Understanding the neuroscience of emotional intelligence can have a profound impact on human behavior in the workplace.  Many are aware of the survival mechanism, fight-or-flight, and understand its importance in protecting humans from physical danger. Studies show our physiological reaction to stress in the workplace is similar.  The amygdala takes control and releases hormones into the bloodstream, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and as a result, many other bodily functions take a back seat during an “amygdala hijack” or “emotional hijack”.

When you have responded to a stimulus that upset or frustrated you, your brain is not operating under normal, stress-free conditions.  This can happen from sitting in a meeting where someone constantly interrupts you, from an email criticizing your decisions, or from a colleague who points the blame at you when something goes wrong. 

Studies suggest it can take four to six hours for your body to return to its normal state after an emotional hijack.  If you’ve had a heated disagreement with someone, it can take 24 hours to recover.  Consider the loss in productivity.

The good news is emotional intelligence competencies are learned behaviors and therefore, can be taught.  Having a highly emotionally intelligent workforce can give you the edge needed to stand out in today’s hyper-competitive environment. Emotional Intelligence lays the foundation for principles that build strong cultures, boost employee morale and ultimately increase profitability and the bottom line.

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