How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

While emotional intelligence isn’t measured as often in the workplace as factors like performance and productivity, it’s important that you don’t overlook it. Strong emotional intelligence is vital for communication, collaboration, and other interpersonal dynamics within a team.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

To understand how emotional intelligence is affecting your workplace, learn more about why it’s an important skill to hone and how to improve your own EI as a leader.

What is emotional intelligence?

According to a 2021 article in the Healthcare Journal, psychology researchers define emotional intelligence as “the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions, and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought.

In other words, a person with high emotional intelligence can identify, express, and manage their own emotions in stable, constructive ways. They can also recognize and intentionally respond to the emotions of those around them.

The researchers also point out that emotional intelligence correlates with less burnout and chronic stress, more social competence, and higher levels of resilience and job satisfaction among employees.

Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman built a framework to measure emotional intelligence. Here are the five components he identifies as emotional intelligence markers:

  • Self-awareness: Recognize your own emotions, moods, choices, and actions, as well as the impact they can have on others.
  • Self-regulation: Express and process emotions constructively, adapt to changes with flexibility, and manage conflict effectively.
  • Social skills: Maintain relationships based on strong communication, active listening, respectful interactions, and high trust levels.
  • Empathy: Interpret how others are feeling, then respond to their emotions in a way that helps them feel understood or validated.
  • Motivation: Cultivate the inner passion and commitment to achieve your goals, seek out learning experiences, and grow as a person.

Now, if you’d go through this framework, how would you score on each of the five markers?

Why does emotional intelligence matter at work?

Emotional intelligence helps you be a more effective leader, contributor, collaborator, and team player. This can motivate your colleagues and employees to sharpen their own emotional intelligence skills too.

But how does emotional intelligence specifically boost job performance? According to business experts from the Forbes Human Resources Council, emotional intelligence:

  • Teaches you how to modify behavior or communication styles that don’t serve you in a professional setting. Ultimately, it will help you improve your leadership.
  • Helps you make smart, thoughtful decisions in a timely manner, instead of being either too hesitant or reactive.
  • Equips you to build team cohesion. It also empowers each member to use their strengths for successful collaboration.
  • Allows you to notice workplace issues before they escalate. This way, you can implement measures in due time.
  • Connects your sense of purpose to the organizational mission. Furthermore, it shows you how to help your team do the same.

How to improve it? Start with yourself!

The best way to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace is to role model it for your employees. That means you need to hone your emotional intelligence skills first and foremost. Here are three key areas to focus on as you do that.

1. Be direct but respectful in your communication

How you communicate with team members can either strengthen or erode your relationships with them. When sharing information, directives, or feedback with your team, find a balance between directness and respect. This will cut down on ambiguity or misunderstandings, while making sure employees still feel valued.

There are seven “Cs” to emotionally intelligent communication, as entrepreneur and business coach Matthew Royse points out:

  • Keep your overall message concise.
  • Be clear about your goals or expectations.
  • Give your team the complete information.
  • Come across as positive and confident.
  • Be considerate of other persons’ views.
  • Tap into authentic conviction and charisma.
  • Check to see how the message is received.

2. Welcome honest feedback from your employees

You must be open to receiving feedback about yourself. Invite team members to bring performance, character, or leadership blind spots to your attention. Absorb their feedback without defensiveness so you can grow both as a person and professional.

If you struggle with asking or taking feedback, remember this:

  • Feedback is an opportunity to grow, not to criticize or punish yourself.
  • When you gracefully accept feedback, you role model that behavior to employees. In turn, they will be encouraged to do the same.
  • You empower your employees by asking for feedback rather than making them feel as though they can’t share criticisms.

Although it’s not always easy, bring transparency to your workplace. It will make everyone feel heard, able to share, and empowered to do their best work.

3. Lead with empathy

Awareness of self and others is critical as a leader. However, awareness isn’t where your job stops. Having empathy is critical for an emotionally intelligent leader. This means being aware of what your employees are experiencing and being empathetic to it. But how do you show empathy?

  • Listen to your employees and have engaged conversations.
  • Be open to all perspectives and challenges.
  • Leave judgments and assumptions at the door when you walk in.
  • Stay in tune with your employees’ needs.

Bottom line, practice compassion and lead with empathy.

Don’t overlook the importance of EI

Emotional intelligence is vital for interpersonal dynamics, team collaboration, and overall business success.

Emotional intelligence helps you navigate the workplace with self-awareness and create an environment rooted in empathy and connection, while at the same time, role modeling this for your team. With a strong emphasis on emotional intelligence, everyone is heard, seen and able to thrive.

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