Emotional intelligence at work can be highly beneficial to an organisation’s performance. It has been stated that you can improve your emotional intelligence by being:
- aware of your emotions and those of others
- able to manage your emotions and those of others
- able to use those emotions to make decisions and get things done (Foroux 2017)
Why does it matter in business?
Multiple implementation strategies have been used to deploy EQ, particularly in developing leadership and culture, and for selection and retention. The emotional intelligence competencies are measurable and learnable; they can be improved through training and coaching.
The most effective implementation strategies seek to integrate EQ into the organizational culture. EQ application research documented in this case includes:
• Increased sales performance through recruiting and training more emotionally intelligent salespeople.
• Improved customer service through recruiting higher EQ customer service representatives.
• Superior leadership performance by developing and recruiting for executive EQ.
• Better team performance, with higher productivity and profit growth.
As “emotional intelligence” becomes part of mainstream vocabulary (at this point there are 60 million hits on Google, and 664,000 results on Google’s book search), leaders are increasingly considering how this concept brings value.
In a recent study, when asked, “What are the top issues you face at work?” leaders said that 76% are on the people/relational side, and only 24% on the finance/technical side.2 In another of primarily man- agers and senior managers, of 775 respondents, a massive 89% identified EQ as “highly important” or “essential” to meeting their organizations ‘top challenges.
How the development of emotional intelligence at work can increase performance
We are about to introduce a case study that demonstrates how the development of emotional intelligence at work can increase performance, productivity and leadership development.
In the following interview, Katy talks about her experiences of the application of emotional intelligence at work.
What role did emotional intelligence play in your workplace?
“In my previous experience working within the automotive industry, there were numerous examples of managers who demonstrated good emotional intelligence. These managers nurtured their team, understood the challenges of the business and more importantly the impact they may have on staff. They worked with their team to stabilize and support situations. I witnessed these teams grow and succeed both professionally and personally as individuals and groups.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case. Managers with poor emotional intelligence tended to have been technically capable in their role, but when it came to their teams, made poor choices because they let their emotions rule decisions. These teams were disorganized and disjointed, often fighting against each other. They had no example to follow and when it came to supporting each other they would very often display “fight or flight” mentalities.”
Can you tell me an episode when you thought emotional intelligence was helpful in your organisation?
“There have been a number of examples I can think of where members of staff acted in ways which are seen to be out of character or maybe made mistakes which seemed obvious in a process. Without the ability to use emotional intelligence to understand the individual’s situation the response to these scenarios could have been very different.
For example, in a particular situation I was party to, a member of staff was given a process document to read and follow by her manager. Her manager had displayed poor emotional intelligence and the member of staff, alongside her peers, struggled to communicate with the manager. Over the weeks, the member of staff was reported to have made the same error repeatedly, not a significant error but one which was noted by the quality assessment team.
This was reported back to the manager who advised the member of staff that if she did not correct the mistake, disciplinary action would be taken. The member of staff tried to explain she did not understand what she was doing wrong. She was referred back to the process document and two weeks later the member of staff was called into a meeting to advise her that her mistakes had not been rectified and she was being placed on a performance improvement plan.
Upset and frustrated, the member of staff consulted me, confused as to why she was not being trained and coached in the way she deserved to be. She did not understand the process document and questioned the document against the way her peers worked. We worked through the document and established that the document had not been updated. Her peers had also not adapted the process to enhance the service offering to customers since it was introduced, 3 months earlier.
Using communication, empathy and time we were able to establish there was no inadequacy in the staff member’s performance but simply a miscommunication in process and lack of confidence in the member of staff to highlight this to her manager. Collectively, the process document was updated and a conversation took place between the manager and member of staff to explain why there were multiple failings from a QA perspective.
In this instance, had the manager been approachable and respectful of the staff member’s concerns, the member of staff would not have been placed on an improvement plan. She would not have felt the need to approach another manager and would have been able to update documents in a proactive manner after a simple conversation with her manager. This would have meant more effective ways of working and creating a better working environment for future trainees.”
Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace
One of the authors, Reuven Bar-On, formulated one of the mixed models of emotional intelligence, the authors examine how emotional intelligence interventions can be introduced and implemented within a workplace setting.
you are a new employee working for a company on an important launch. Everybody is tense having to work closely with both the marketing and manufacturing departments. When you approach Nick, the Marketing Manager, with some questions about the project he is very snappy with you. However, he presents you with a to do list and talks you through it in a step by step and logical way. All of your questions are answered. Next, you cautiously approach the Production Manager, Sarah, with some queries expecting her to snap at you too. She answers your questions calmly and even pairs you up with one of her most trusted team members.
Team member John reveals to you that while Sarah is better at using her emotions to support her team, it’s Nick’s logic based fast decision making that is getting the project back on track quickly. Two different managers, two different approaches to the same situation. For many of us we would like to work with warm, empathetic and emotionally intelligent leaders but is that always enough?
As a qualified psychologist and psychometric practitioner, I can say that there is never really a clear answer to those kinds of questions but that’s what makes business psychology both challenging and rewarding.
Our understanding of emotional intelligence is continually evolving, and psychological research is helping to shape our understanding about exactly how we should be applying this to workplace settings. This course in emotional intelligence from Coventry University will challenge you to think about whether emotions have a place in the world of business and whether emotional intelligence can lead to greater organisational success and improved personal performance.
You will be introduced to different theoretical perspectives of emotional intelligence and have the opportunity to tackle significant questions such as is emotional intelligence innate or can it be learned? Is emotion or logic the best guide to the way to behave at work? And how can be even measure whether someone is emotionally intelligent or not?
We will also delve into situations where EI can be misused and the consequences that this can have on people in organisations. As you progress through the course you should reflect on the examples of Nick and Sarah. Who would you prefer to work for, and why? What do you think their strengths and blind spots are? And who do you think will get the project completed successfully and why?
Resource: Steptoe-Warren, G. (2013) Occupational Psychology: An Applied Approach. Harlow: Pearson