Emotional Intelligence and the workplace
Having emotional intelligence or EI is increasingly seen as a valuable tool in the modern workplace. Recent research shows that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of workplace performance, with 90% of top performers exhibiting high emotional intelligence. Interestingly, there is also growing evidence that people with high emotional intelligence have better health outcomes. People who are emotionally intelligent are more likely to identify and address emotions stemming from tension, stress and conflict, and therefore have stronger immune systems making them less susceptible to serious illnesses, such as cancer.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions, as well as those of other people. It differs from a person’s cognitive or intellectual ability measured by an intelligence quotient (IQ). In the past, having a high IQ was perceived as the only predictor of career success. However today, many experts believe that emotional intelligence is another key factor. In fact, leading psychologist Daniel Goleman argues that IQ constitutes only 20% of the factors which contribute to success in life, whilst emotional intelligence, personality, education levels, prosperity and good fortune make up the remaining 80%.
Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace?
Decades of research has demonstrated that people with high emotional intelligence excel in a range of areas – they are good at building relationships and managing conflict, are calm under pressure, they listen to others and can handle constructive criticism. There is also evidence they are more innovative and have higher levels of job satisfaction. As a consequence, these people are highly prized as they contribute to an effective work environment.
Additionally, there is an emerging body of work emphasising that leaders with high emotional intelligence are more effective at engaging their employees leading to less employee turnover, greater profitability, better customer ratings and less absenteeism. Notably, social and emotional intelligence was identified by the World Economic Forum in 2020 as one of the six intelligences needed by leaders to face the challenges of today’s disrupted world.
Five components of emotional intelligence
According to the work of Daniel Goleman, there are five components of emotional intelligence. These are:
- Self awareness – This includes an ability to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, values and goals, and to recognise how these impact your thoughts and behaviour.
- Self-regulation – Being able to manage or control your emotions, including thinking before you take action is integral to emotional intelligence.
- Motivation – All of us are motivated in different ways. People who are emotionally intelligent are intrinsically motivated to achieve and keep improving. They also remain positive and resilient in the face of setbacks.
- Empathy – Being able to connect with people as human beings is a key part of being emotionally intelligent. It includes listening to people and responding to people in an authentic way.
- Social skills – This includes building rapport with people and establishing trust.
Improving emotional intelligence skills
Given the benefits that emotional intelligence can bring to individuals, workforces and organisations, it is pleasing to know there are steps we can all take to develop our emotional intelligence skills. These include:
- Assessing if your emotional intelligence skills need improving by:
- Asking for feedback from friends, family and trusted colleagues, as well as current and former managers
- Becoming more aware of your emotions and how they impact your behaviour
- Taking a quiz to establish your emotional intelligence strengths and weaknesses, such as this quiz from the Global Leadership Foundation.
- Undertaking a course to enhance your emotional intelligence – the following organisations offer courses in emotional intelligence:
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