What’s your EQ? Considering the impact of emotional intelligence at work

by Pranav Ramesh
May 17, 2022

For many of us, displaying and sharing our emotions comes naturally. We show and manage our emotions in many facets of our lives, with family, with friends, and sometimes even at work. But the pandemic, and the ensuing Great Resignation, has made everyday life more taxing on many people’s emotions and mental health. The work environment can also be a high-stress environment for employees, and more employers are recognizing the role emotional intelligence plays in employee retention and overall employee wellness.  

Emotional intelligence is an individual’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions and those of others around them. The emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is the measure of that ability. More and more research has focused on the impact EQ can have in the workplace and the trust it allows leaders to build with their teams. Business leaders can stand to gain a lot from understanding and improving EQ. Let’s look at the role emotional intelligence can play and how it can be capitalized to improve trust in the workplace and overall employee wellness.  

Why is investing in building a high EQ at work a good idea?

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of employees’ needs beyond the basic technical necessities required to do their jobs. Overall employee wellness has expanded in ways to better accommodate employee needs, including flexible work arrangements, access to counseling, and better benefits packages.  

Business leaders are also getting better at acknowledging employees’ emotions. When these emotions are acknowledged, employees are humanized and feel validated, not just as an employee, but as a person. Acknowledging emotions can be as simple as noticing a nonverbal cue, such as a frustrated expression or a frown, and asking them about it. It can be as straightforward as asking them after a meeting if they’re okay with what transpired or brief check-ins to engage them in conversation, like “You seem angry. Want to talk about what’s got you upset?” 

But why is this important to acknowledge in the workplace? Because, as research suggests, it builds trust between the employee and supervisor. If a supervisor acknowledges the emotions of an employee, they understand that the supervisor is willing to become involved in a potentially distressing situation and not just ignore what is causing an employee to be upset. They can believe that their supervisor can be trusted with their emotional well-being.  

Also, if a supervisor reaches out and checks in with an employee who is smiling and showing outwardly happy emotions, they can share in the employee’s success regarding what is making them happy! The supervisor can take the time to congratulate a job well done and again, acknowledge the work they put in to make it happen. This can reframe a supervisor’s mood as well, making emotional acknowledgment a win-win for the whole team.  

RELATED: Conquer Communication Anxiety At Work


How to foster more emotional intelligence among your employees

If research is indicating that EQ is crucial for building trust at work, how can supervisors go about accomplishing this, especially if it’s a new concept for them? Experts weigh in with several ideas that can be implemented quickly to start improving emotional intelligence in the workplace:  

  • Supervisors should start by modeling the behaviors they want to see in others on their team. Are leaders aware when they’re experiencing emotion at work? Are they in control of their emotions? Modeling behaviors we want to see increase will help spread the concept to other members of the team.  
  • Ensure that all employees on the team feel valued and are willing to share their emotional state. If a supervisor hasn’t been very present emotionally for their team, it will be a bit of a surprise to employees when they start checking in regularly. But this will be a positive change. When employees have an opportunity to speak and feel as though they’re being listened to, they feel more appreciated and connected to their team overall.  
  • Prioritize employee wellness in a meaningful way. A supervisor can help a team prepare for busy times of the year and tight timelines by offering encouragement and more frequent check-ins. They can also encourage employees to make use of company benefits, including PTO and the option of flexible work arrangements to help employees improve their work/life balance.  
  • When giving performance feedback, supervisors should also ask for feedback on their performance. Supervisors will find that asking for feedback on their performance not only can provide useful suggestions to improve processes or the way things are handled. It will also help the employee feel as though they have a voice on the team and that their opinion matters. If the feedback a supervisor hears is hard to swallow, consider why that might be.  

There have been many significant changes in the modern workplace because of the effects of incredible new technologies and a global pandemic that business leaders have had to be agile and adapt on the go. And with a strong new focus on employee wellness and retention, incorporating emotional intelligence in the workplace is a crucial component for those companies who aren’t already doing so. For a deeper dive into the impact of emotional intelligence, check out this video from Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, to see how you can use EQ to better not only your workplace but your personal life as well. 


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