By: Kathryn Gombos on February 21st, 2020

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A Review of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Business Management & Strategy

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

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

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.


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.


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

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

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


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.


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

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”.

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

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.

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.