In this lesson, we will explore emotional intelligence. We will discuss what emotional intelligence is and how it can be developed and improved individually and within the workplace.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

We have long heard the acronym ‘IQ’ and we all have an idea that it means an intelligence quotient or a score we can arrive at by taking a test of our intelligence. But the intelligence measured by that test is only a part of the picture. We also need to become familiar with the acronym ‘EQ,’ or emotional quotient, also called ‘EI,’ or emotional intelligence.

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Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand emotions, both one’s own and other people’s. This is particularly important in the work environment because we can use EI to help make decisions.

Do you know someone at work who always seems to know the exact right thing to say to calm down a potentially explosive situation? Have you ever had a supervisor who let you know you needed to improve in such a way that you actually felt better about receiving the criticism? Chances are those people have a high EQ. They have the ability to tap into their own emotions and empathize with others and then use that ability to make things happen, to manage people so skillfully that in the end it improves business. Wouldn’t you like to be one of those people? What exactly is it that they have?

Five Skills

Chances are a person with high EI started out with some basic skills that they can use to their advantage. Ask yourself if you have these skills:

  1. Self-Awareness: understanding your own motivations and how your emotions affect you.
  2. Self-Regulation: ability to control how your emotions affect you.
  3. Motivation: willingness to put the time into doing a job well.
  4. Empathy: understanding the emotional needs and motivations of people around you.
  5. Social Skills: ability to talk easily to a variety of people; ability to put other people at ease.

These are great skills, but did you know that you can actually work to improve your EQ, therefore making you more successful in the workplace? Let’s take a look at ways to develop and improve your emotional intelligence.

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

You can improve your emotional intelligence by working on those five skills. You can also do some of the following:

  • Consider honestly how you interact with others. Do you jump to conclusions? Can you put yourself in their shoes and understand how they are seeing a situation?
  • Consider how you handle yourself at work. Do you need constant reinforcement? Do you make sure everyone knows what you’ve accomplished?
  • Consider the five skills. Honestly evaluate yourself. On a scale of 1 to 5 what score would you give yourself in each of those areas?
  • Consider your ability to take responsibility. Do you take ownership of your own actions? Do you hide from your mistakes, even a mistake like hurting another person’s feelings?
  • Consider how your actions affect your coworkers. Do you put yourself in their shoes before you make a decision that affects them? Do you wonder how they will feel if you take credit for something they did?

As you work through some of these strategies for improving your emotional intelligence, you might want to take a quick test just to see where you are.

Promoting Emotional Intelligence

There are four stages to develop and improve emotional intelligence within the workplace.

The first is set up for success. Before EI can be a moving factor in the workplace, there needs to be some preparation. An assessment of the organization and the individuals in the organization should be done to make sure that the organization is ready to embrace a change and to discern how much change needs to occur. The more of a change in organizational culture is needed, the more preparation needs to happen.

The second is making the change. Once the appropriate assessments have been conducted and everyone is on board for the change, you are ready to put some changes into place. It is important to create a positive environment for employees and their EI trainers. One way to accomplish that is to make sure the goals of the process are very clear. You can even break down the goals into smaller steps. Make sure employees have the opportunity to practice the new skills and get plenty of feedback on what they are doing right and what they can still improve on. There should be lots of support as these changes are made, as not everyone will be able to pick up EI easily. You might want to provide models to indicate appropriate EI-friendly responses.

The third is maintaining the change. Once training has happened and employees have had ample opportunity to practice and receive feedback, make EI the culture of the organization. Encourage your employees to continue using the EI skills and to continue to develop and improve its use. Some strategies that you can use to assist employees in developing and improving their use of EI include instituting an employee of the month program, where those who exhibit a high level of EI receive a special benefit, or providing monthly or periodic retraining opportunities. Keeping the idea of EI as an organizational goal in your employees’ daily routine can make them more aware and help reach the organization’s goals.

The fourth is evaluate. As with all changes in an organization, check to see if it is working. Go back to the assessments you did at the beginning of the process and see if there has been an improvement. If so, keep up the good work. If not, you may need to reassess the readiness of the organization to make this change. Maybe you need to make smaller steps over a longer period of time. Don’t give up. Improving the EI of your employees will make your organization more responsive to employee and customer needs and improve revenue streams in the long run.

Lesson Summary

Emotional intelligence (EI) in the workplace is using one’s understanding of how emotions impact the work environment to help make better decisions. EI is also known as emotional quotient (EQ). A person with a high EQ has five basic skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. They use these skills to help them understand how their emotions play a part in how they interact at work and to understand how other people’s emotions can affect their work environment.

Individuals can develop and improve their emotional intelligence by reflecting on their interactions with other people and how they handle themselves in the work environment. Individuals who take responsibility for their actions understand that their actions impact their coworkers. Organizations can promote emotional intelligence in the workplace by creating a culture where EQ is practiced. They can start the process by evaluating the organization and its employees to see what the level of EQ already is, then implement training and goal setting to add EI to the skills expected of the employees.