Emotional Intelligence - A Workplace Necessity

Photo of eggs with different emotions


It’s 4:40 p.m. on a Friday and you’re sitting in a planning meeting with the heads of five other departments. Your company has a big event in a couple weeks, and everyone is feeling the heat and hoping to close some open loops. This is a high-level meeting to address everyone’s big questions. Decisions need to be made! There are only twenty minutes to go before people are heading to the parking lot. Traffic is already backing up on the highway, three teams haven’t had the chance to talk yet, and Steve from Marketing is treating the meeting like his personal standup routine. He’s waxing poetic about topics not even on the agenda and is completely oblivious to the throat clearing, chair shifting, and wide-eyed glances between colleagues. If looks could kill, Steve would be dodging lighting strikes from all over the room. He may be a marketing expert, but when it comes to emotional intelligence, he’s got a long way to go. 

Social skills, soft skills, and people skills. Emotional Intelligence (EI), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). There’s no shortage of interchangeable terms for this vital concept, and all of them refer to a person’s ability to perceive, understand, and manage their emotions and relationships. No matter what you call it, emotional intelligence is crucial to success in every stage of life. In schools across the country, including the preschool my daughter attends, teachers are adopting evidence-based curriculum for social and emotional learning based on research by organizations like the Center for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, to help children develop these crucial life skills. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs Survey, EI will be one of the most desired skills in business by 2025.

No matter your current relationship to EI, learning about the different forms it can take and how you can improve your emotional intelligence can help you in any field.

A Life-long Skill to Hone

The concept of EI as a workplace asset can be traced to research articles in the early nineties. This essential skillset continues to gain traction, because researchers, educators, and business leaders recognize the impact of emotional intelligence throughout a person’s personal and professional lifespan.

Emotional intelligence is a skill in everyone’s toolkit, but not everyone has mastered the ability to wield it effectively.

People with high emotional intelligence look within and beyond themselves, and are primed to the emotions, reactions, and communication styles of other people. They are sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues, the more subtle aspects of communication, and understand that their words, actions, and behaviors impact other people. Emotionally intelligent people manage all of the above and more, all while doing the regular functions of their jobs. So it makes sense that companies like Indeed, which supports employers and job seekers alike, regularly highlight the value of emotional intelligence and how to bring more of it to the office. But, in truth, EI is a multifaceted concept that goes beyond emotions and relationships. This is because of the different forms it can take.

A Four-Part Model of Emotional Intelligence

The following model by emotional intelligence pioneer, Daniel Goleman, breaks down the four flavors of emotional intelligence. All are important, but many individuals tend to thrive in some aspects of EI more than others.

A Four-Part Model of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self Awareness

Self-aware individuals are in tune with their emotions, behavior, values, and motivations. This isn’t to say that they don’t have blind spots. They’re human, like the rest of us. But people with high self-awareness tend to understand how their behavior (both positive and negative!) impacts others. Self-aware individuals care about how they show up in relationships. They will seek to repair harm, or reach a respectful impasse, if they sense they have wronged someone or something feels off. Like people with high self-management skills, they tend to have high leadership potential because they are self-motivated and value personal development.

  1. Social Awareness

Socially aware individuals are sensitive to the emotions, behavior, and motivations of others. They are often great communicators and will pick up on subtleties like nonverbal facial or body language cues. Mood changes, too. These individuals may also be great perspective-takers, teammates, and leaders because they understand group dynamics and give credit where it’s due.   

  1. Self Management

People with strong self-management skills are generally able to check their emotions or urges when they feel themselves getting triggered. And if they do sense a disruption to their steady emotional state, they know when to press pause and take a break. They likely have a solid list of coping skills at their disposal. Strong self-managers can adapt to change gracefully and are not paralyzed by setbacks or challenges they may encounter.

  1. Relationship Management

People with strong relationship management skills are great with other people regardless of their communication style or leadership level. Relationship builders express ideas clearly, seek clarity when they do not understand, and make an effort to consider other points of view. They find a point of connection and help others feel heard, valued, and at ease.

Two Quick Ways to Level Up: Greetings and Turn Taking 

Simply greeting the teachers, classmates, neighbors, or colleagues you interact with on a regular basis is a surefire way to boost your social awareness and relationship management emotional intelligence areas. Waving, smiling, or saying, “Good morning!” will do as a start.

When we greet other people, we’re acknowledging their presence and building a bridge for future collaboration.  When you walk into the office without your first cup of joe, you might not want to greet other people, but this simple action is the first step to creating a supportive and productive environment.

Learning how to take turns in conversations, games, or collaborative work sessions is another easy hack that improves all four areas of emotional intelligence. Toddlers practice these skills when they learn to use words like, “It’s my turn now,” to advocate for themselves instead of using negative actions like hitting a classmate. Imagine if Steve, our Marketing friend, had respected the agenda for the planning meeting. The meeting would have stayed on track, and other stakeholders would have been included in a timely manner. Steve would also have known when it was or wasn’t his turn to speak! Having emotional intelligence is respecting other people by recognizing that our words and behavior have impact. Taking turns shows that respect.

Our schools, teams, and communities thrive when emotionally intelligent people are a part of them. How do you exercise emotional intelligence? Which aspects do you think you could improve? Let us know on our Facebook page. And subscribe to our newsletter for more exciting articles and information.

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