What is EQ? A Guide to Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

November 26, 2018
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If you work in a business environment, then it’s almost certain that you’ve heard of emotional intelligence. Having emotional intelligence is essential for our progression in the working world, and has overtaken many other factors for success.

Research has found that people with average IQs tend to outperform those with high IQs, which contradicts previous beliefs that IQ is the main source of success. Now, emotional intelligence is seen as the critical factor that separates the highest performers from the rest. Emotional intelligence in the workplace is, therefore, something we all need to be aware of.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient or EQ, is an individual’s ability to understand their own emotions and feelings. It affects how we manage behaviour, approach social complexities, and make decisions to achieve positive results.

Psychologists state that emotional intelligence has five main components:

  1. Self-awareness – our ability to understand ourselves, to recognise and comprehend our behaviours and emotions, and how these can affect others.
  2. Self-regulation – our ability to control impulses and moods and consider the consequences of our actions before we do them.
  3. Internal motivation – being driven to work hard, perform, act, and pursue goals for personal reasons, rather than for a reward.
  4. Empathy – the ability to recognise and understand others’ emotions, motivations, and situations. This helps us to build and lead teams successfully.
  5. Social skills – the ability to build and manage relationships, network, lead, manage conflict, and work with others.

Therefore, emotional intelligence helps us look after our physical and mental health and strengthens our ability to lead. It helps us to manage effective relationships and protect ourselves when it comes to conflict. It also allows us to understand the thoughts and feelings of others and consider the consequences of how we act. This makes emotional intelligence in the workplace intrinsic to our future success.

Male and female colleagues discussing their work


Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Your EQ can massively affect your work life and career. Workplaces are relational environments: they contain different personalities, skills, and strengths that all must work together. This means that empathising with others, and understanding their motivations and decisions, is essential for workplace harmony and success.

Some benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace are:

1. Higher Levels of Motivation

Those who have a higher EQ have a better ability to organise themselves and their workload, self-regulate their tasks and time, and higher levels of motivation to accomplish things. This reduces the tendency to procrastinate which leads to higher levels of work output.

In turn, this generates greater feelings of accomplishment and improved self-confidence, and inspires them to focus on achieving long-term goals.

2. Improved Communication

People with high emotional intelligence can express themselves clearly and create effective networks between themselves and everyone else. They are open to asking others for help and know how to communicate their plans clearly.

Those with high EQ also make transparent leaders as they know how to communicate to the rest of the organisation. They can control themselves, their thoughts, and emotions and lead others in a positive direction.

3. Better Acceptance of Feedback

A key attribute of those with high emotional intelligence is self-regulation, which makes them very accepting of feedback. Rather than taking criticism personally, they use it as a platform from which to grow. It also prevents sudden outbursts of emotion and creates clearer lines of communication and feedback across your whole organisation.

4. Greater Staff Stability

Staff members with a higher EQ are more positive about their work and their situation. They try to see the positive side of everything and aren’t deterred by adversity or a challenge. As a result, they’re more likely to feel positive at work and, if something bothers them, they think of the best way to approach it and fix it. In turn, this keeps staff retention rates high and turnover rates low.

5. Improved Mental Wellbeing

There’s a strong correlation between a higher EQ and a happier, more positive outlook on life. Furthermore, those with a higher EQ are also better at empathising with others’ points of view, which helps to prevent and resolve conflict at work. This makes your workplace a much nicer work environment and is something all organisations should strive to achieve.

Woman doing her work in a coffee shop


How to Develop your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence isn’t static over your lifetime. Although it takes work, you can develop your EQ and see your workplace, work life, and personal life improve as a result.

To begin improving your EQ, you can:

  • Observe yourself. People with a high EQ are usually self-aware. They understand their emotions and they don’t let them rule their actions. Pay attention to what your emotions are telling you and use them wisely.
  • Be proactive, not reactive. Self-regulate your emotions to control them and stop them from hijacking your reactions. Think before you act and walk away from a situation that makes you angry.
  • Accept the help of others. Don’t take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. Ask for the views of others and use them to help you improve.
  • Set milestones and rewards. Set yourself a milestone and reward yourself when you achieve it. This can get you into the habit of appreciating the time it takes to accomplish things.
  • Don’t judge other people. Empathise with other people and try to understand the reasoning behind their reactions. Similarly, don’t put anyone on a pedestal. We all make mistakes, so never think as yourself as better or worse than anyone else.
  • Improve resilience and bounce back. Life isn’t perfect and there are times when things go completely opposite to how we planned. However, you should approach each situation with optimism rather than pessimism, and believe that everything happens for a reason. Ask yourself questions like ‘what can I learn from this experience?’ to turn every negative experience into a positive journey of growth.

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