While successful organizations need to focus on ensuring that their employees have the skills, experience and education required to deliver high quality products and services, more employers are acknowledging an often overlooked yet critically important element of organizational success: the ability of managers and employees to recognize their own and others’ emotions and the impact emotions can have on the workplace.
The ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions, discern different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage or adjust emotions is known as emotional intelligence (EI). The concept of emotional intelligence was introduced by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990, and popularized through a series of books by Daniel Goleman, beginning with Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Goleman’s thesis was that our emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged. He characterized emotional intelligence as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.
Every workplace is comprised of people with different strengths, personalities and emotions, which can greatly affect the way they work. HR consultant Mariah DeLeon says studies show that workers with a higher emotional quotient (EQ), which is a measurement of emotional intelligence, are more productive, more adaptable to an ever evolving work environment and better able to work in teams.
Steven Stein, PhD, author of The EQ Leader, has gathered survey data on two million people worldwide to assess what makes an effective leader. His research demonstrates that emotionally intelligent leaders are more successful at influencing the long-term health of their organizations. Because they are aware of their own and others’ emotions, high EQ leaders can focus emotional energy on the behaviors needed to get work done. Stein points out that leaders with emotional intelligence “know how to communicate effectively and create an environment where team members are valued and validated, which leads to better workplace morale and better productivity.”
In order to guide employers in their hiring and development of emotionally intelligent leaders and employees, Daniel Goleman has outlined five categories of emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Self-aware people understand their strengths and weaknesses and how their actions affect others. They are usually better able to handle and learn from constructive feedback.
- Self-regulation: High EQ individuals can express their emotions appropriately and exercise restraint and control when needed.
- Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated and driven by an inner ambition. They tend to be resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment.
- Empathy: Empathic people show compassion and an understanding of human nature, are able to connect on an emotional level and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.
- People skills: Emotionally intelligent people are able to build rapport and trust with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and are able to gain the respect of others around them.
Some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, but EQ can be developed with training, coaching, mentoring and the opportunity to practice in a supportive environment. Organizations with higher EQ leadership have an advantage because examples of how to express emotional intelligence can be role modelled to managers and employees as a desirable quality in the workplace. As the characteristics of emotional intelligence are developed and reinforced, organizations can expect to experience improved morale, higher productivity and an increase in employee motivation and loyalty.