How to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace

Did you know that emotional intelligence (EI) was ranked 6th in the World Economic Forum’s list of top 10 skills employees must possess to thrive in a workplace? But it hasn’t always been as important. 
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Until recent decades, emotions and intelligence were viewed in opposition. Only in the 1990s did psychologists coin the term ‘emotional intelligence’ and soon afterwards the theory spread into businesses, education and popular culture. 
 
In the present day, it’s most strongly associated with the workplace. Numerous studies have shown that people with high EI go further in their lives, as they benefit from some of the following: 
 
● Being better at motivating themselves
● More positive and happier outlook on life
● Better physical health, as well as mental
 
Four key components of emotional intelligence in the workplace
 
1. Self-awareness: You must ‘know yourself’ to have a good EI. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, values and the effect that behaviours have on other people will improve your EI. 
 
For example, the majority of successful managers will have built a team around a goal, understanding where their strengths lie but then utilising other people’s skills where necessary, so that they are only focusing their time on areas where they are most productive. 
 
2. Self-management: Everyone suffers from bouts of anger, but if this happens frequently then it may be worth considering finding ways to improve your self-management. People with good self-control re-direct disruptive impulses, not letting negative emotions cripple them. 
 
For example, if a team failed an advertising pitch, it would be easy for an impulsive leader to shout and blame his or her subordinates. But, the reflective leader who scores well for EI will resist these urges and consider firstly where the pitch failed. 
 
3. Motivation: Individuals with good EI usually have strong motivation skills. Having passion, optimism and energy are key characteristics required. 
 
4. Empathy: This is arguably one of the most important aspects of EI in the workplace. In principle, it’s understanding other people’s emotional makeup. Being able to be empathetic is really important in making key decisions. Empathy is particularly complex because of the number of different personalities and cultures. 
 
For example, imagine your co-worker hasn’t hit their deadline. Your first reaction may be to shout at them, but it would be better to ask, what is it that has made you late for this deadline? 
 
You’ll then get a clearer understanding of why the deadline has been missed. It may have been missed because your co-worker has been stressed and losing sleep from a family bereavement or that you hadn’t checked an email that was in your junk mail, which delayed the project.  
Teaching emotional intelligence in the workplace
How can you teach emotional intelligence to people? Sometimes it can seem like a lost cause, but there are methods whereby even the least self-aware and empathetic people can improve their EI. 
 
However, the person must be willing to change themselves, otherwise, the teaching will be wasted. You could start by asking, what is important in that person's life? Compel them with a vision of a future that includes power and positive relationships. 
 
The key to good EI is to be a coach and not a manager. By listening to someone and guiding them, they’ll respect you more and want to change for themselves. 
 
Using questions to find out what's really important for that person, you can start to understand their perspective which will give you more choice and insight into how to lead and manage them more effectively.   Of course great communication skills are almost an underpinning skill of all leaders and managers and it is useful to recognise your own levels of skill in this area.   
 
How do you improve self-awareness in the workplace?
● Monitor daily: Keep a record of your emotions throughout the day. By monitoring your feelings, you’ll be able to understand what may have caused you to react negatively. Emotions are fleeting and shouldn’t be pivotal to decision making. 
● Look at your past behaviours: Identify situations where your negative emotions have had an effect on your relationships at work. Was your knee-jerk reaction really worth it? Consider the triggers for your negative emotions and how you could avoid reacting badly and instead respond in a more productive way. 
● Get feedback: Review your own strengths and weaknesses, but also ask for feedback, either in a performance review or a more informal setting. 
 
How do you improve self-management in the workplace?
● Delay emotional decision making: It’s always better to wait a couple of hours or days on emotionally charged situations. By delaying your decision, you are more likely to approach things from a more rational viewpoint. 
● Maintain integrity: Everyone can think of someone who may be considered an office gossip. But office politics is unprofessional and is often directed by people who aren’t in control of their emotions. Stay clear of people who are known to spread rumours. 
● Manage stress: Are you finding some way to escape from the stresses of everyday life? We should be finding a good balance between working, resting and playing so exercising, meditation and talking to friends and family should be part of your daily or weekly routine. 
How do you improve motivation in the workplace?
● Find your job fulfilment: You’ll find it hard to perform to your best if you aren’t motivated. Focus on what inspires you and then speak to your boss about facilitating this more in your role. 
● Practice optimism: It may seem unnatural at first if you are typically a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person. But, by monitoring your mood and practicing being optimistic you’ll start to reframe your mindset and find more motivation in work. 
● Set inspiring goals: It sounds so obvious, but do you take goal setting seriously? If you don’t feel structured with your work, aren’t setting milestones or rewarding yourself for good performance, then this could be the reason for your poor motivation. 
 
How do you improve empathy in the workplace?
● Don’t judge people: People’s opinions come from their knowledge and experience, so rather than judging them for being right or wrong, be open-minded and listen. You’re much more likely to learn from people by being empathetic, rather than jumping to conclusions or letting your emotions get to you. In its simplest form, treat people how you’d like to be treated. 
● Validate other people: Acknowledge good behaviours or performance when it’s deserved. This will act to improve that person’s motivation. 
● Examine your attitude: Do you look for the best outcome for your business or yourself? If you’re a manager within a company, then you should be identifying the best solutions for the business you work in, which means considering opinions from everyone in your team and not just acting on your own ideas. 
● Practice active listening: It can be very easy to listen without fully comprehending what someone has said. Instead, practice active listening where you reflect carefully on what a person is saying. 
 
How can you find out more about my own Emotional Intelligence?
You don’t necessarily have to work out your employees EI all by yourself because there are many tried and tested websites for testing it and there are advantages to hiring a Business coach like Jackie Casey who can talk you through how different aspects of your EI can work together or can hinder the way that you approach things. 
 
Conclusion
Emotional intelligence is certainly an wide field, but there is enough evidence now to suggest that you could bolster your career by understanding and improving it. 
 
Start by identifying which areas of Emotional Intelligence or the way that you manage others that you would like to improve, accepting that it could take time to make changes. Then, try some of the tips above in this article. 
 
If you’re looking for further reading on leadership and emotional intelligence, we’d recommend reading Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence- Why it can matter more than IQ. Emotional Intelligence-Why it can matter more than IQ Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence
 
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