October 18, 2021

Create a Better Workplace by Understanding Emotional Intelligence

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There are two categories of skills in the workplace — hard, technical abilities and soft skills that deal with employees’ self-knowledge and interactions. Emotional intelligence falls into the latter category, and that means some leaders might underestimate it. After all, you can instruct employees to use a new piece of software, but can you teach them to understand others’ feelings?

The answer is yes, workers can learn to improve their emotional intelligence skills. Moreover, this kind of education is an opportunity to create a better workplace. From leadership and teamwork to company culture and organizational values, many aspects of work improve when employees have empathy and awareness of emotion and the impact of the emotional state — their own and others’.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Practicing emotional intelligence means having an understanding of how feelings affect everyday situations. Those emotions may be the crux to resolving matters, rather than something to be suppressed or ignored. Those who are skilled at managing emotions and being sensitive to others’ feelings are well equipped to handle both momentary interactions and long-term professional relationships.

So much of life comes down to interpersonal relationships and interactions. As job site Indeed explains, people with higher emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) are capable of dealing with others effectively. This can be beneficial both in and out of the workplace, helping these individuals reach their goals.

On the simplest level, emotional intelligence means understanding why thoughts and feelings occur. Rather than being surprised by reactions, emotionally intelligent people grasp the context and work from there. This helps them create welcoming, empathetic environments and is an especially powerful leadership trait.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?

Harnessing emotional intelligence in the workplace means turning promised advantages into real, tangible results. It is not a very complicated process, especially when managers and other authority figures are free to use empathy and EQ in the way they run meetings, teams, customer interactions and more.

Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor John Rampton explains that workplaces deploying emotional awareness can improve employees’ lives by allowing them to focus on mental health. Rather than pushing workers past their breaking points, emotionally intelligent leaders will give them the tools they need to succeed, factoring in their feelings and reactions when setting expectations and norms.

Managing emotions may go beyond responding to employee distress and involve creating frameworks that will proactively address needs. An empathy-centric leadership approach can anticipate when or why employees might feel stressed and offer ways to deal with the pressure. Rampton adds one consequence of working through a pandemic is that companies have become more sensitive to the need for mental health checks.

Leaders aren’t the only ones who can improve the workplace by showing high emotional intelligence, though. Everyday interactions that might be hurtful, such as disagreements over the direction of a project, can be reshaped when employees understand each others’ feelings and thoughts on the matter.

How Can Employees Learn Emotional Intelligence?

While training for soft skills can be intimidating compared to more straightforward learning, the methods are actually the same. Employees can learn about managing emotions through structured online courses.

By using video and interactive quiz components, modern training methods encourage information retention without the costs and logistical complexities associated with in-person instructors. Your organization can invest in course modules that will encourage emotional intelligence and awareness in the whole team, making these additional skills for workers to internalize.

Employees who have completed these courses will have been introduced to useful concepts such as how to listen actively and disagree without becoming defensive. Not only do these techniques make for a more harmonious work environment, but they can also help employees navigate their daily lives when they are off the clock. Emotional intelligence is a skill that applies equally in work and personal spaces.

Emotional intelligence is a foundation for other soft skills that can further improve company culture. Good teamwork and collaboration, for example, are built on solid emotional intelligence and awareness. When the whole team grasps the emotional dimension of their work, every colleague and customer interaction can find a more satisfying resolution.

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