How To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence at Work

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Emotional Intelligence at Work

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

Why does emotional intelligence in the workplace matter?

we need more people with emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workforce. Many people still believe that getting to know their colleagues on a personal level can hinder productivity.

When we’re at work, the ties of love that normally keep us motivated aren’t there. We don’t have a shared history with our coworkers either, which can make communication challenging.

With the hustle and bustle of daily life, many people become too self-focused to notice others. To avoid this pitfall, we must be aware of what other people think and feel and only act when we can take that into account.

The four elements of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, which is composed of four essential elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. How familiar are you with all of these resources?

EQ in action at workSelf-awareness: This instinctual knowledge, though formerly known as intuition, is based on emotional intelligence.

Self-management: the ability to control your emotions and behavior in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

Social awareness: You may not know when you’ve made another person uncomfortable in conversation or if someone is really feeling upset even when they’re smiling.

Relationship management: The ability to remain calm, energized and focused in the face of conflict or in upsetting situations is a crucial skill for leaders.

Remember that we all share the same emotions

Many organizations are crippled by people spending more time worrying than working. When fear rules, productive hours can be lost on attempting to keep the upper hand and competing for position rather than accomplishing work.

The truth that some people have more power than others in any organization does not need to overwhelm you with fear, as long as you remind yourself that we all share the same emotions.

  • Does your boss act tough because they’re afraid being compassionate makes them appear to be weak?
  • Is your work environment depressing because no one appreciates the hard work of your employees?
  • Is the person next to you snapping at you because they are as worried about rumored layoffs as you are?

When we remember that there is no difference in emotional level, it becomes easier to approach the boss to ask an employee about being flexible or understanding a coworker’s irritability. Emotions are our great equalizers; use them to connect you rather than divide you.

Everyone needs to feel valued and needed.

Do you think that your job would be more tolerable if the people around you valued you for who and what you are? A positive work environment isn’t just good for the employer’s bottom line- it has an even stronger effect on the employee. And when we show appreciation to others, we can get the support we need. Whether you are with a boss, an employee or coworker, giving recognition will go a long way.

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 so we can complete objectives faster.

If you’re an employee…

It is important that employees are empathetic, offer help for others to achieve a mutual goal and not be opportunistic or competitive.

Additionally: do not gossip as it creates tension at the workplace, make cliques (in groups) as this can lead to mistrust in others and lack of productivityIf you’re the boss…

Boost productivity by making it worthwhile for your employees to learn from and help each other. Add bonuses or incentives for team rather than individual achievement.

For example, you could hold TGIF lunches or morning bagel fests sometimes without you so your group can have a common ground for gossiping about the boss. Create a mentor program pairing new employees with those who have longer tenure at the company.

Use your experienced emotional skills to offset another person’s weaknesses with a different person’s strengths, and they’ll all support one another in reaching new heights.


Trust your intuitive feelings

Despite our natural instinct to trust feelings rather than facts, in the workplace people have learned not to.

One of the more intelligent investors, marketers, and product developers will note that a stock market kill relies on intuition. There might not be time to gather data in a rigorous manner; nor is there always a need for it.

A hunch is based on instantaneous emotional information that tells you what matters most to you in any situation, as well as when something just doesn’t seem right.

Even though your instincts may anger some people, it is a wise and responsible move – the riskiest thing you can do would be to ignore them.


10 ways to work smarter using emotional intelligence:

  1. Use your body to sharpen your mind.Along with adopting good health habits generally, spending about twenty minutes exercising once or twice a day adds energy, sensitivity, patience, flexibility, and creativity to your portfolio.
  2. Invite feelings, not just thoughts.Make it safe for people to tell you how they feel, and they’ll work harder and better. People tell the truth to those who withhold judgements, keep confidences, and maintain their composure. Make sure that describes your work persona.
  3. Establish emotional boundaries.Intimacy with a boss, employee, or coworker can flood the workplace with emotional memories that cause thoughtful, reasonable professionals to lose their objectivity and provoke resentment in onlooking coworkers.
  4. Make no decision based on data alone.Before you turn in that figure-filled report or cite an authority to back up your recommendations, use your intuition. Stop and ask yourself how you feel about the position you’re taking– it’s a habit that will help you feel more confident and ensure you’re acting with integrity.
  5. Be flexible.Be ready to modify long-term goals based on active awareness of how short-term objectives are going. Stubbornly charging towards goals that no longer serve the organization will get you left behind with yesterday’s news.
  6. Be generous.When a point of conflict means more to the other person than you (information you receive through awareness and empathy), surrender graciously; you’ll earn your coworker’s gratitude and support.
  7. Begin any negative comment with a positive one.You’re much more likely to get an empathetic ear if you preface criticism with appreciation, and complaints with your intention to cooperate.
  8. Speak out when you feel something is important.If a problem or a conflict is bothering you at a gut level, waiting too long to speak up will invite emotional flooding. When you take action, you change how you feel about the problem, which has a powerful impact on your well-being—even if you don’t get the response or change you’re seeking.
  9. Listen with empathy.Using your emotions will never distract you from the task at hand. Empathy gives you instant understanding of what someone is saying, so don’t try to save time by planning what you’re going to say while another person is speaking—that’s not heartfelt listening, and others know it.
  10. Take the risk of appearing imperfect.High performers ask for help when they need it and admit to being wrong when they make a mistake. Then they move on, effective and efficient.


Using emotional intelligence to be a great employee

Even those who manage other people are usually supervised by someone else, so anyone can take the advice that follows. Being a good employee is mainly a matter of doing what you were hired for while retaining your own integrity. And if you’re like most of us, it’s also a matter of getting ahead. Here are some ways to do that:

  • When there’s a problem, speak up.It would be great if we all had high-EQ bosses, but even the most empathetic boss doesn’t have time to figure out or guess your feelings. Strong, physical pangs that won’t go away will tell you when you shouldn’t stay silent.
  • Know what you want from the job.If you don’t know what you want, you can’t ask for it. What’s most important to you at this point in your life, and how do you expect this job to fulfill those needs?
  • Know how well you’re performing from day to day.The most demoralizing occupational event is to be fired without any idea it was coming. Layoffs aside, it hardly ever has to be that way. If you’re keeping your mental powers sharp and you know your job is enhancing your well-being, you’re probably performing well and doing what’s right for you. As long as you’re staying empathic enough to know that it’s also right for your boss and the organization, you should never be taken by surprise.
  • Know what your boss feels is important.This isn’t always what they say is important. Attune to everything that expresses feelings –what the boss does vs. says, where the boss’s own fears seem to lie, how the boss treats other people—to get an idea of how to fulfill the boss’s needs on the job. With empathy you’ll feel an echo of your boss’s emotions as long as you’re paying attention.


Know the values of the organization and how you feel about them

Every organization has a personality, too. Especially at a new job, keep your eyes, ears, and heart open for information about the organization’s M.O. You need to know not just what the organization’s production goals are but how it does business. Is it a three-piece-suit atmosphere or a shirtsleeves workplace? Do people chat casually and spontaneously or make appointments with each other? Are plans made openly or secretly? Is the organization’s style conservative or daring, people oriented or product oriented? How are people treated when let go? Is hiring done first from within or always from without? Are loyalty and camaraderie in evidence? Do coworkers like each other or merely tolerate each other?

Where do you fit in? Do you like what you discover? If not, what can you live with and what makes you feel physically uncomfortable? Knowing that will help you navigate a successful course for as long as you decide to stay with this organization.


Using emotional intelligence to be a great coworker

Being a good coworker is largely a matter of contributing to the workplace morale and team spirit. It might seem preferable to stick to yourself and just get your job done, but people who try that tack often discover that their own interests as well as those of the organization suffer as a result. Unfortunately, cultivating good relationships with your fellow employees can be a challenge. Not everyone will view you as a comrade, and in turn you won’t feel open and trusting around everyone you work with. Your intuition about people is crucial in such cases. Here are a few ways to use it to your advantage:

  • Don’t make assumptions about those you work with.It’s so easy to project your prejudices and biases on to your workplace. You may not have to get to know your coworkers as well as your boss or employees, but you’ll never learn anything about them if you begin by assuming stereotypes like recent college grads are always arrogant or almost-retireds are stodgy; that women can be manipulated by emotions and men by data. Let your emotions show you what’s unique about everyone.
  • Don’t expect anyone to communicate with 100 percent honesty.Some people seem incapable of plain speaking at work. They’re afraid, they’re too polite, they’re cautious, and they rarely say what they mean or mean what they say. You can wait until you’ve been burned several times to figure it out, or you can pay extra attention to what your body tells you they feel, and less to what they say. Trust your intuition about people. Be particularly alert with people who may view you as a competitor.
  • Be prepared to draw the line.There’s a limit to how close you’ll want to be with a coworker, but that doesn’t mean you won’t or shouldn’t form friendships at work. If you share the values and goals of the organization and its other employees, there’s a good chance that you’ll find friends there. Stay attuned to your own feelings, however, so you know when you want to be an acquaintance, not a close friend. Don’t let emotional blackmail or office politics pressure you into relationships you don’t want. If you feel uneasy with a relationship, trust your hunch and back off. If a work conflict comes up with someone who is now a close friend, you’ll be able to tell from the intensity of your own feelings and your empathic feelings where your priorities lie.
  • Offer help; don’t wait for people to ask. Not only will your generosity contribute to the camaraderie and morale in the office, but your sensitivity to the needs of others will gain you their future support and loyalty.
  • Don’t take it personallyRemember that everyone has an agenda, a personal life, and a unique style of interaction. You don’t have to take anyone’s behavior personally. Let coworker’s behavior bring out your empathy, not your sympathy. You can understand how they might be feeling without being consumed by emotional memory or taking responsibility for their angst.


Using emotional intelligence to be a great boss

Like it or not (and many in supervisory positions do not), if your job involves managing other people, they’ll view you as their fearless leader. That means that even if they’ve been raising their EQs too, they’ll look to you to initiate action, elicit communication, and set the style and pace of daily operations. Here’s how you can meet their expectations to get them to meet yours:

  • Anticipate people problems.Use your empathy to know your employees and how they interrelate. With it, you understand what motivates individuals, what relationships have formed, and even the separate “personality” of the organization or department. Will your department’s rising stats begin to fall now that a mentor has retired? Will a reorganization remove critical support systems? Will turning a project over to a consultant be a relief or an affront to your staff? The more you know about how your employees feel, the less often your own actions will inadvertently create havoc or resentments.
  • Be the first to speak. Even if you’ve created a safe and open atmosphere for communication, some people will always be intimidated by the boss and won’t bring up a problem before it’s imposed a hefty toll. That’s why it’s so important to be quick to talk honestly with your staff about potential problems or changes and invite comment. If you sense discontent from one or more employees, try to broach the subject in a way that relieves their insecurities—then respect their privacy if they still decline to talk.
  • Make it known that you’re always ready for employees to improve themselves.We energize our world of work by looking for strengths in others. Working people have hidden talents that can be used for the benefit of all. Nothing builds morale better than noting the value of others. Let your employees know that you’re open to their reaching as far as they can, and they’ll probably aim higher.
  • Offer only as much as you intend to give.Don’t invite comment if you don’t intend to listen wholeheartedly. Never hold out the promise of rewards if you can’t deliver. Don’t hold brainstorming sessions and tell your staff how brilliant their ideas are if you never intend to put any of them to use. People recognize lip service when they hear it and don’t work very hard for those they don’t trust.
  • Model flexibility and adaptability.If you want your employees to be creative self-starters who work up to their potential, show them that proactive problem-solving is more important than sticking to rigid plans and rules. Can you toss out a game plan that isn’t working without worrying about how it makes you look? Can you react quickly to reports of problems by your employees? Can you regroup and restrategize without acting put out?
  • Cultivate employees, don’t coddle them.Despite what some managers believe, you can listen to your employees and show concern for their feelings without babying them. Remember, empathy is different from sympathy, and you must stay attuned to your own feelings while attempting to understand theirs. With a high EQ, you’ll be able to cut off a heart-to-heart talk before it becomes unproductive and interferes with your own goals, without offending your employee. You’ll be able to praise people for a job well done without fearing that it will result in a relaxed work effort. You’ll be able to balance your employees’ need to be valued, with your need to achieve goals. Your emotional acceptance will keep you from being manipulated by someone else’s distress.