Emotional Intelligence at Work

Want to improve your relationships with coworkers? Learn how to build emotional intelligence to improve the work space for everyone.

Why does emotional intelligence in the workplace matter?

We need emotional intelligence (EQ) most where we’re least likely to find it: at work. The workplace remains the last bastion of IQ worship because many people still believe that getting personal interferes with productivity.

At work, you don’t have the ties of love to motivate you to get along with others as you do at home. You don’t have the benefit of a shared history to help you understand what moves those around you. That makes it all the more important that you have a way to tune in to what those you work with need right here, right now. You already have that facility – it’s active awareness and the empathy that flows from it. Using those elements of your EQ can help achieve success and solve problems on the job. Office politics, morale problems, and lack of cooperation don’t have to ruin your work life if you can read and respond to people’s feelings.

The four elements of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is composed of four elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. How well acquainted are you with each of these resources?

Remember that we all share the same emotions

Many organizations are crippled by people dedicating more time to protecting themselves from real and imagined threats, than to working. When fear rules, productive hours are lost in attempts to keep the upper hand, dodge the boss’ wrath, or compete for position. The undeniable fact that some people have more power than others in any organization does not have to overwhelm you with fear, as long as you remember that we all share the same emotions.

-Does your manager act tough because they’re afraid being compassionate means being weak?
-Are your employees sullen because they feel just as demoralized as you would if no one showed appreciation for their work?
-Does the person in the next office snap at you because they’re just as worried about rumored layoffs as you are?

When you remember that we are all peers on an emotional level, it becomes easier to approach the boss, to ask an employee to give a little more, or to understand that a coworker’s irritability is nothing personal. Emotions are great levelers among people; use them to tie you together rather than rend you apart.

Nurture teamwork, cooperation, and empathy

Psychologists have known for years that people working together are more efficient and productive than the same number of individuals working separately. Empathy encourages us all to work cooperatively.

If you’re an employee…

Employees can prevent a toxic “every person for themselves” atmosphere from forming by extending empathetic offers to help, staying alert for opportunities to yield when an issue is more important to someone else than to themselves, and simply showing interest in one another’s work and lives. Avoid gossip and cliques. Both create tension and mistrust, lower morale, and reduce productivity.

If you’re the boss…

Make it worthwhile for your staff to rely on and assist each other. Offer bonuses or other incentives for group rather than individual achievements. For example, you could hold TGIF lunches and periodic morning bagel fests on you—sometimes without you—so your group can feel free to establish the common ground of griping about the boss. Set up a mentor program matching new employees with those with the greatest seniority. Use your incisive emotional powers to offset one person’s weaknesses with another’s strengths, and soon they’ll all be pulling one another up to new heights.