Emotional intelligence in the workplace

At One TEAM Partners, one of the five core values we strive to practice in our everyday lives is “investing in relationships.” Whether it is within the team or with a client or supplier, we know there’s value in taking time to develop meaningful relationships with the people we work with.

A key part of building meaningful relationships is being mindful of people’s emotions. This is where emotional intelligence in the workplace comes in.

What is emotional intelligence?

In 1990, researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey coined the term “emotional intelligence” to describe the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions while also being able to recognize the emotions of the people around you. 

In 1996, Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman then brought more attention to the term through his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ.” Goleman claims that while IQ and technical savviness are very relevant, these are the baseline requirements for any type of executive and/or leadership position. The most effective leaders have a higher degree of emotional intelligence, especially in the workplace.

Core components of emotional intelligence

There are four key components of emotional intelligence that allow us to connect with and learn other people’s emotional states:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

Self-awareness is the ability to reflect on yourself, to see not only your strengths and weaknesses but also to acknowledge your emotions. Before you can bring and lead a group of people together, you must first be able to evaluate and assess yourself. 

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions across different situations. In extreme situations, both positive and negative, people tend to let emotions dictate how they react. Effective leaders calmly keep their emotions in check and can maintain a positive and realistic outlook through challenges. 

Empathy is a key part of social awareness. It’s the ability to recognize dynamics between people in groups and empathize with them. This enables connection, which leads to better communication and effective collaboration.

Relationship management is the ability to influence people (for example, to get support/buy-in to a new initiative) and generate collaboration. 

What emotional intelligence is NOT

While it may be easy to confound emotional intelligence with agreeableness, it is important to note that emotional intelligence is not synonymous with personality traits.

Emotional intelligence is not always about being positive, nor is it about doing whatever it takes to make people happy. It is about being able to understand and navigate emotions, both in oneself and in others, and reason out those emotions to invoke and enhance thoughts and actions.

Why emotional intelligence in the workplace is important?

Having a high emotional intelligence at work is important because it enables you to pull the best from yourself and the people around you and build strong relationships. To quote Core Strengths (of which we are an official partner and certified facilitator)…

“High-performing teams are built or broken by one thing. Relationships.”

A lack of emotional intelligence can create environments where people don’t feel safe to be themselves in your presence for fear of being misunderstood.

Emotional intelligence in the workplace: a case study

In 2012, Google conducted a study called “Project Aristotle” to examine the key variables and characteristics that make up the “ideal team.” What they found is that things such as personality type and unique skill sets do not make a significant difference between successful and unsuccessful teams. The teams that ranked the highest in “effectiveness” and “cohesiveness” consisted of people who had open and comfortable discourse. This is where the idea of “psychological safety” enters. 

Google defined psychological safety as “an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk-taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive” (Rework). In other words, they found that the key to having a successful team is to have members that feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts, vocalize their ideas, and take risks without having the fear of being ridiculed or reprimanded. 

Having a high level of emotional intelligence is crucial to cultivating an environment with psychological safety. In order to create a space where people can be comfortable sharing and vocalizing their thoughts, all members must first be cognizant of everyone’s emotions and feelings.

One TEAM, emotional intelligence, and YOU

High emotional intelligence isn’t something that everyone is born with; sure, some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not practicable. 

With the view to building high-performing teams, we at One TEAM love working with leaders to develop and strengthen their emotional intelligence. If you’d like to learn more about how, with the help of Core Strengths’ interactive tool, we could boost your ability to effectively interact with the people around you, reach out to set up a quick chat.


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