Smarts of the Heart: Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace


“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work...I.Q. is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” - Warren Bennis

Have you ever heard the saying: “IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted”? Emotional Intelligence, sometimes referred to as EQ or EI, is one of the most important intangible qualities in the workplace. You can’t necessarily quantify it - so you may ask yourself, what’s the point? The point is - people should want to be around you. The workplace today fosters collaboration and teamwork, and in order to be successful, book smarts alone aren’t going to cut it.  

You are probably going to work with someone in your lifetime who (for lack of a better word) bugs you.  Remember all those times in elementary school your teacher made you do a group project with people who were not your friends? You’re welcome. They were helping nurture your EQ. By understanding how you react to those people or the emotions they stir up in you, you can better manage your interactions with them. Dare I say - by understanding more people, you start to enjoy more people?

Emotional Intelligence is quite the bulky subject, so we are going to look at it from a very basic lens. I highly suggest reading some great books about it in your spare time to help you develop your EQ.   

Emotional Intelligence has four different domains and underneath those domains are multiple competencies.  The four domains are:

  1. Self-Awareness

  2. Self-Management

  3. Social-Awareness

  4. Relationship Management

Self-Awareness: The ability to understand your own emotions and how they affect your day + performance.

As an adult, when you’re happy, you not only know why you’re happy, but you can communicate it.  This goes for all the emotions we experience in a day: anger, sadness, joy, frustration, shock, etc.  This is the opposite of those toddler-teenage years. Your emotions are all out-of-whack and there is no logical explanation as to why you are experiencing any of them. Thank goodness those days are behind us! Being self-aware is the foundation for emotional intelligence.  When you understand how your emotions can impact your day, you are better able to figure how you can address it. Being self-aware also means understanding how others view you and if you need to do something to change that perspective.

Self-Management: Controlling your emotions so they don’t control you.

This is where things start to get tricky -- not allowing what you’re feeling to impact what you’re doing. In cliché terms, self-management is somewhere in between sweeping it under the rug and airing your dirty laundry -- being proactive rather than reactive.

Within the domain of “self management,” we have four competencies:

  1. Emotional Self-Control: Can you prevent a breakdown or outburst from happening? Are you able to look at facts over feelings?

  2. Adaptability: How well do you handle change? 

  3. Achievement Orientation: Are you committed to achieving both the organization’s goals and your own personal goals? 

  4. Positive Outlook: Are you optimistic about achieving your goals?

Social-Awareness: The ability to understand + RESPOND to the needs of others.

Ah yes, how to relate to people. Seriously - that’s it! Are you a relatable human and do people want to be around you? Can you “read the room”? One of the most important aspects of social-awareness is listening and making sure you are really hearing what people are saying. In this category, we find two different competencies:

  • Empathy: Can you relate and understand other people’s emotions? Are you sensitive to others’ emotions when interacting with them?

  • Organizational Awareness: Do you understand the “office politics” and how they affect people? 

*Be careful though -- high social awareness can also be misconstrued as manipulation. If you have a high ability in this domain, use it for good instead of evil.

Relationship Management: Managing interactions by having an awareness of both YOUR + OTHERS’ emotions.  

Do you get along well with others? The leader who makes decisions based on what he/she wants probably doesn’t have the buy in of the group.  Relationship management allows you to recognize when and where change is needed, why it’s needed, and communicate that change in an effective manner.

Change can be a scary thing in the workplace! Effective communication of the need and means for change that takes into account the emotions of the room encourages those listening to hop on board and “buy in” to the conversation.

Employers value people with high emotional intelligence because they stay calm under pressure, manage and solve conflict in an effective manner, treat their fellow employees with respect and understanding, and lead by example.  

You have most likely been in an interview where you were asked some scenario questions. These types of questions are rarely about the job’s day-to-day tasks; rather, the hiring manager is probably evaluating your EQ. The next time the below types of questions pop up in an interview, note that your EQ is being measured!

  • What is something that people do that bothers you?

  • Describe a stressful situation you encountered and how you handled the pressure.

  • How do you take negative feedback?

  • If you were in charge of the hiring process, what type of candidates would you hire?

  • How do you handle conflict with a supervisor?

  • How and when do you ask for help?

Okay, so that was a lot. Kudos to reading down to the bottom. That means you’re committed, and I like that! If you get nothing else from this post (and that’s fine, I get it, you’re probably pretty tired from managing your emotions all day), remember this: Emotional Intelligence is a non-negotiable in the workplace.