May 26, 2023

Emotional Intelligence at work is important

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“Emotional Intelligence at work” is the current buzzword in HR. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize your own emotions and those of others, understand them, and manage them to achieve success. But why is it important?

The corporate world is competitive. In the race to get ahead, organisations constantly seek to improve their products, processes, and people. We want to get things done better, cheaper, and faster. We up-skill for promotions and higher remuneration, attend training and workshops, learn new technologies… the list goes on. Amidst the pursuit of financial and business growth and technological innovation, we sometimes forget that corporations are made out of people.

People have needs: work-life balance, social skills, mental health, and emotional well-being. Human beings are emotional creatures. And it takes an emotionally sensitive or emotionally intelligent person to recognise the myriad of emotions within themselves and in others. An emotionally intelligent individual will be able to handle himself. His social skills will help him relate to others and steer a group towards the best possible outcome for everyone. That is why emotional intelligence at work is important.

Emotional intelligence at work promotes better team work and collaboration
Emotional Intelligence at work fosters better teamwork

Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to perceive, understand and manage emotions of yourself as well as those of others. Emotions are a part of everyone’s daily life and understanding them can help you deal with situations more effectively.  People who have an increased EQ tend to be better-liked by others. They enjoy stronger relationships, achieve greater success in school or at work, make more informed decisions about what matters most to them personally, and experience less stress than those who have lower emotional intelligence.

The five components of emotional intelligence

According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who popularized the idea of emotional intelligence skills, there are five core elements:

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1. Self-awareness. 

The self-aware person is conscious of and recognises their own emotions. They know how others affect their thoughts and behaviour. They realise when they begin to get angry or frustrated, they are aware of how this may affect others. Finally, they recognise their triggers and know their strengths and weaknesses. They have the self-confidence to own their mistakes.   

2. Self-control. 

This person can control his or her impulses and manage emotions. They try to think before speaking or responding, even under stressful situations. Hence, they typically avoid emotional outbursts, manage conflict and even help to lighten tense moments. With such emotional maturity, they are better able to adapt to change.

An emotionally intelligent person can control his or her impulses and manage emotions
An emotionally intelligent person thinks before speaking

3. Drive. 

These are intrinsically motivated people. They take pride in achieving goals out of personal fulfilment. These people are driven to solve problems and prioritize tasks. That is why they act on opportunities and keep pushing on despite setbacks. Personal development is important; they seek to do better and be better in every aspect of their life.

4. Empathy. 

They can understand the feelings and motivations of other people, even when their perspectives are different from your own. As such, they try to put themselves in the shoes of others. They are typically slow to judge.  

5. Social skills. 

This person can build rapport, make friends and work well in teams. They listen actively, make eye contact and have open body language. They can pick up on the dynamics of a group. In addition to being able to communicate well verbally, they are also able to pick up nonverbal cues by paying attention to others. When needed, they can step up and take a leadership role.

Why is emotional intelligence at work important?

The traits listed above are crucial in every sphere of life, including the workplace. The World Economic Forum, no less, named leadership and social influence, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility in their “Top 10 Skills of 2025“.

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Emotional intelligence at work is a strong predictor of high performance
EQ is a strong predictor of high performance

One survey found that emotional intelligence at work is a strong predictor of high performance, with 90% of top performers having high EQ (and having a higher average income per year!) Yet another survey in 2011 found that 71% of hiring managers valued an employee’s EQ over their IQ. Three-quarters (75%) said they would be more likely to promote an employee with higher emotional intelligence. Importantly, 59% would not hire a candidate with a high IQ but low EQ. Global demand for EQ skills is predicted to increase up to six times in the next 3-5 years.

Amplified effects of leaders with Emotional Intelligence at work

A leader needs courage, the ability to influence, and the ability to tell people what they may not want to hear. A leader must be able to pull a team together to achieve shared objectives and communicate in ways that suit the audience.

According to research, 80% of employees with poor manager relationships feel disengaged and 50% of former employees left their jobs because of their manager. On the flip side, a leader of quality will inspire, engage, and motivate employees, and get them to perform better. Leaders who respect and listen to their team members create loyalty. They carve a safe space for their teams to be creative and innovate. A study by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that supervisors with high levels of emotional intelligence have happier and more creative employees who feel like they have ample opportunities to grow.

Leaders with emotional awareness are interested in the well-being of their people
Leaders with strong EQ are interested in the well-being of others

Leaders with emotional awareness, who are interested in the well-being of their people, can start a virtuous cycle in which respect and consideration are reciprocated among team members. High-performing leadership ultimately equates to better quality leaders. They produce better results for the business.

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We come back to Daniel Goleman, who says: “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.

How to improve emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is not a trait you’re born with. It’s a set of interpersonal skills that can be learned and improved upon. Everyone has the potential to strengthen their EQ, no matter what age they are or where they start on this journey.

One of the first things you can do is learn how to manage stress. Negative emotions and constant stress can impact your mental health. Make sure to get regular physical activity and sufficient sleep. Develop hobbies that have nothing to do with your work. Take deep breaths to rein in anger and pause to consider before responding. 

Strong EQ people learn to manage stress
Strong EQ people learn to manage stress

What’s next

Career success is a culmination of many factors and having high emotional intelligence by itself is not a magic bullet. Your skills, IQ, ambitions, and other factors are important. But we know it’s not the smartest or loudest people who are the most successful or most fulfilled in life. So there’s no doubt that EQ plays an important role in getting you where you want to be.  

If you’re aiming for higher emotional intelligence, consider executive coaching to help you gain more emotional awareness, unlock your potential and find job satisfaction. If you’re seeking someone with high EQ to fill a role in your organisation, look for a recruiter who deeply understands human behaviour and applies the correct emotional intelligence test.