Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

by Somya Kouma

October 02, 2019Blog

What is emotional intelligence in the workplace?
At work or in life, emotional intelligence (E.I.) refers to assigning the right label to the right emotion for both yourself and others. When you correctly identify your emotional state as well empathize with others’, you form meaningful and rich dialog with individuals in your life. Increasing amount of research now believes that a person’s emotional intelligence is more predictive of their success than cognitive intelligence. As a leadership consultant, I speak to numerous leaders every week who have excellent “technical chops” to do their job. Much of their success, however, depends on their capability to achieve results through others. As a result, many who only emphasize on the task at hand rather than nurturing and developing relationships with their teams often find themselves at a loss — not to mention in an unpopular position. Emotional Intelligence remains an enigmatic proposition at work because, unlike IQ, there is no definite metric that can attribute a score to an individual. Therefore, it remains a conundrum in leadership specifically, on how to measure a leader’s EI.

What are the five common components of emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence encompasses elements like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy for others and social skills.

Self-awareness refers to an individual being in tune with their own emotional state and not letting it impact others adversely. Self-regulating refers to balancing oneself when emotions run high; for instance, when someone has rejected your idea or you failed at something, or others have angered you. How you regulate these reactions constructively forms an aspect of emotional intelligence. How do you motivate others and yourself? Do you ask them for feedback and what is important to them? Do you personalize your leadership and communication style to the unique proclivities of the individual? Are you able to not just sympathize with a person’s state but also reach out and help them to be truly empathetic to their needs? And finally, are you able to convey the right intention to help others and support them in a way that is not offensive to them? Master reading the constant cues of the room to know your audience, tailor your communication, and feed off of the energy that others are providing you as incessant feedback. It is an enormous, amorphous concept that comes more naturally to some than others. It is vital to understand the emotional capacity of individuals — especially leaders and managers, who directly impact others.

What are some examples of emotional intelligence?
Good listening is an excellent example to demonstrate the concept of emotional intelligence. Some people believe themselves to be effective listeners when in fact, all they do while others speak is form their own response to what the person is saying. That is where one’s self-awareness intersects with their reputation. This can often be a blind spot for leaders. Another example of emotional intelligence is response to conflict. Some leaders shy away from having uncomfortable conversations because correctly labeling others’ emotions is not their forte, and might make them feel incapacitated in an argument. Leaders high in emotional intelligence adeptly engage with others for no other reason but to provide empathy in a situation and help others feel heard.

How do you use emotional intelligence?
We use it every day. We want to be engaged at work and bring our whole selves to work every day. No two days are alike, and on some days our emotions run higher than others. This is also true for everyone else. How can we accommodate people’s emotional states as effectively and in an engaging manner as we accommodate their cognitive states? This can be done by placing the right people in the right roles. Through employee reviews and personality assessments, some evidence can be gathered on who may be the correct person for people management responsibilities. Ensuring that people who manage others are sensitive to their unique needs, situations, and aspirations can make a life-changing impact on the employees of an organization. The experience of a person is entirely different when they are led by an emotionally intelligent leader who values people, rather than someone who sees people as a means to an end.

Emotional Intelligence is required not just when managing others but also when collaborating with them. Can you distinguish when buy-in is truly created versus when someone is simply agreeing with you? Can you identify when a person is truly passionate about an idea versus when they are just passive towards it? Can you tell when a person is disappointed by something you said? All these are just quotidian examples of how we use emotional intelligence at work, and in life. In parenting, young children read the situation effectively and appeal to the parent who is more likely to say yes to their demands. It can also be enhanced by asking children questions like, “you said that to your friend at school, how do you think it made him feel?” and create space for putting themselves in others’ shoes. Emotional intelligence is at play when you interact with a customer service professional, or when you go to your hairdresser — in effect, unless working in a vacuum, we are always tasked with understanding others accurately to achieve commendable results.

When do you need emotional intelligence in business?
Every step of the way. Whether you are a leader or an individual contributor, whether you are in sales or in consulting, you are required to collaborate, create, innovate, brainstorm, ideate or sell. You require a collective and to ensure that people are firing on all their cylinders, you need to ensure that their emotional needs are recognized and met and their feelings get validated at work.

Somya Kouma, M.S.
Leadership Consultant