In today’s business world, technical or strategic prowess aren’t the sole determinants of success. Increasingly, emotional intelligence (EI) plays a pivotal role in achieving organizational goals and cultivating supportive work environments. Robust EI encompasses several social and emotional skills, and the demand for this valuable leadership trait is forecasted to grow by 26% in theU.S. and 22% in Europe by 2030.

An emphasis on EI in your organization can enhance its overall environment and productivity, but actively developing it can be difficult, primarily because the factors that influence it are typically intangible.

To give you a better understanding of the concept, we’ll dive into EI’s intricacies and tackle:

  • Its core skills and benefits
  • The drawbacks stemming from a lack of EI
  • Different ways you can nurture and practice EI in your company

What is emotional intelligence?

EI refers to one’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions and others’ effectively. The term was first popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1994 book Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ. This concept covers skills that enable fair decision-making, the building of positive relationships, and the improvement of workplace well-being.

EI considers how you:

  • Incite and resolve conflicts
  • Deal with hardships
  • Manage your moods, as well as others’
  • Handle criticism

Core emotional intelligence skills

Similar to other proficiencies, EI encompassess key skills you can develop through proper training and experience:

  • Self-awareness: This entails understanding your emotional strengths and weaknesses or triggers. It enables you to recognize how specific emotions affect your thoughts and behaviors.
  • Self-management or regulation: This refers to how well you control your impulses and reactions to different circumstances, particularly difficult ones.
  • Social awareness and empathy: This is how effectively you gauge and acknowledge others’ needs, feelings, and perspectives. It emphasizes responding compassionately and comfortably to emotional cues and social situations.
  • Relationship management: This stresses effective communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution, all of which are necessary for building and maintaining fruitful relationships.

A lack of emotional intelligence drags down your organization

Insufficient EI within your company can give rise to various challenges. The symptoms can vary as well, making them somewhat difficult to identify. To help you out, we’ve listed the most obvious signs.

Poor leadership

Leaders who are insensitive, inflexible, or selfish typically don’t respond to their subordinates’ difficult circumstances compassionately or perceptively.

Let’s say an individual went through a distressing event like a car accident and came to work late. Superiors who lack EI may not bother to ask what happened or instead may berate the person for their tardiness. That can cause the worker to disengage, then harbor resentment that, over the long term, leads to underperformance.

An emotionally intelligent leader would offer a solution that allows the individual to step back and recuperate, even if it means them swapping shifts with a colleague. Such an approach allows the afflicted employee to return in a more productive state with a strengthened sense of trust and gratitude.

Breakdowns in communication and collaboration

Neglecting others’ perspectives can result in miscommunication and misunderstandings, particularly in situations that require collaboration. For instance, marketing being unclear with graphic designers about campaign objectives could result in misaligned messaging and media, causing both teams to clash.

More workplace conflicts

As mentioned, a glaring deficiency in EI can impede communication and collaboration. This can further complicate already complex situations and give rise to workplace tension and hostility.

For example, people can easily toss aside constructive conflict resolution when the involved parties approach disputes only for their gain — imagine one team fighting for a specific approach and result while their counterpart pushes to go in another direction.

Rather than end in win-win compromises, these instances will likely produce stalemates that hold projects back or interfere with other peoples’ pipelines.

Reduced productivity

Dismal leadership and communication, along with upticks in workplace conflicts can slash productivity. Additionally, the ensuing toxic circumstances obstruct others’ day-to-day tasks and chip away at their morale.

Emotionally unintelligent individuals may also struggle to manage their stress and negative emotions, causing them to fall into counterproductive habits. For instance, in an effort to avoid their hostile work environment, an employee could resort to absenteeism, which significantly reduces the amount of work they accomplish and forces their teammates to pick up the slack.

Damaged employer branding

A toxic workplace resulting from a lack of EI can easily harm your employer branding and, in turn, make it challenging to recruit top talent.

Rather than approach your organization directly, job seekers are three times more likely to ask your existing or former employees for feedback; because they are or have been in the trenches, job seekers trust them as reliable sources of information on what it’s like to work for you.

Meanwhile, those who’ve felt the negative effects of mediocre leadership, communication, and conflict resolution will probably have cynical viewpoints to share.

Higher turnover

That resulting toxic workplace will inevitably push employees to jump ship. A poor organizational culture is one of the most prominent contributors to turnover, being 10.4 times more influential than compensation in predicting your business’s attrition rate within its industry.

Business and workplace benefits of emotional intelligence

High levels of EI positively affect how your leaders and employees treat business and workplace situations, especially their interactions with others. That can result in multiple advantages that support long-term efficiency and productivity.

Stronger communication, leadership, and decision-making

The ability to discern people’s needs, feelings, and viewpoints lets you identify appropriate communication styles for various situations. As a result, you can avert workplace misunderstandings and conflicts and facilitate harmonious collaboration.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are also better able to support employee welfare, as they carefully consider individual circumstances before taking any action to motivate or manage their staff.

DDI, a global leadership development firm, went so far as to rank empathy as the number-one leadership skill. The company stated those who possess it perform better in communication, coaching, and decision-making compared to those without it.

Effective conflict resolution and prevention

Every individual has a unique personality, values, and approach to work. So, when these distinct leaders and employees gather together in a professional setting, friction is unavoidable. The need for workplace conflict resolution will thus regularly pop up, and EI plays a pivotal role in this.

For example, those who grasp their colleagues’ emotions and perspectives and then communicate properly can respond to tense situations calmly and minimize negative reactions. This encourages the constructive handling of disputes and effective problem-solving within your organization, so employees are more likely to reach productive compromises with one another.

Improved trust, collaboration, and teamwork

EI improves every level of communication and allows teams to work together cohesively because it involves knowing how much time and energy each member can commit, as well as their ability to produce quality output. Being able to prevent and resolve conflicts also helps you and your workers maintain healthy working relationships.

A vital component of this is how emotionally intelligent people can discern the right approaches to difficult workplace scenarios. These instances offer your teams opportunities to overcome challenges together while building chemistry and trust.

Increased productivity and engagement

Issues with leadership, collaboration, and conflict resolution can negatively impact your employees’ routines and workflows, which then creates bottlenecks. EI enhances those critical aspects, especially communication, and so can prevent organizational disruptions and improve overall productivity.

When workplace friction is minimized, you’re able to nurture a positive culture and enhance employee engagement instead. In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that companies that prioritize developing emotionally intelligent employees boast higher levels of productivity and engagement compared to those that disregard it.

Enhanced adaptability and resilience

A work environment built on mutual understanding, respect, and unselfishness allows your workforce to perform to the best of their abilities, despite organizational developments brought about by industrial, technological, or cultural disruptions.

Personnel managers back this up as well, with 44% asserting that EI is critical to leading teams through times of change.

Healthier stress management practices

Cultivating EI within your organization lets you and your employees build healthier habits for coping with challenging circumstances, mainly because the process requires being aware of:

  • The types of emotions certain situations trigger
  • How such emotions influence your thoughts and actions
  • How you can manage any resulting negative ideas and behaviors

These behaviors are important to develop more constructive approaches to stress. For instance, imagine you and your colleagues butt heads over how to handle a project. Rather than lash out when things don’t go your way, EI enables you to take a step back, compose your thoughts, and return with a positive, professional response.

Higher employee motivation

Organizations with high EI understand that validation is a human need and so nurture welcoming cultures that create a sense of belonging. These companies also make workers feel valued and appreciated by recognizing their contributions and achievements.

An emotionally intelligent workplace minimizes toxicity as well, and the resulting positive conditions motivate employees more as they operate in a supportive environment that encourages productivity and engagement.

Greater employee retention

Leaders play a critical role in employee satisfaction, which is a highly influential factor in a company’s churn rate. Those who fail to manage or meet the needs of their people can strongly hinder engagement and productivity within your organization.

On the other hand, superiors with well-developed EI are aware of what keeps their workforce healthy and committed, which explains why 42% of CEOs see the value of empathy in employee retention.

12 Ways to improve emotional intelligence within your organization

At this point, you should have at least a general idea of your company’s EI score. Whether you have healthy practices already in place or need to launch EI initiatives, you can always improve your efforts to build and maintain an emotionally intelligent organization. To help you out, here are some suggestions to cultivate these abilities in both your personnel and your business structure.

1) Provide emotional intelligence training

As we mentioned earlier, EI can be taught and honed just like other, more concrete competencies. To make it an integral part of your company, offer various learning and development opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, or coaching sessions.

Make sure they focus on critical aspects like empathy, communication, self-awareness, and conflict resolution. Although it’ll require resources, it’s worth the investment, with companies seeing a sevenfold ROI after 12 months of adopting EI training.

2) Offer stress management resources

EI requires learning stress management, specifically to remain calm under pressure and support one’s mental health. To ensure your workforce takes productive approaches to regulating stress, offer access to tools that nurture beneficial practices such as:

  • Mindfulness: This helps people focus on the present moment and avoid worrying about what may or may not happen. It keeps them level-headed during trying circumstances so they can react more thoughtfully.
  • Meditation: This involves the use of various mental techniques to train attention and awareness, as well as attain a consistently clearer, stabler mental and emotional state.
  • Journaling: The act of writing down notable experiences (both positive and negative) allows you and your employees to note your thought processes, behaviors, and reactions while they occurred. This creates opportunities for self-reflection and lets you determine whether you could have approached the situation better.

If your organization lacks the resources to provide classes, tools like Headspace and Oak can help you and your employees get started.

3) Run team activities

A great way to cultivate EI as a group is to host activities that require collaboration between employees. Besides work projects, allot specific days throughout the year for your staff to participate in games and sports. This exposes them to fun situations beyond the work setting and enables them to get to know each other better, which builds trust and camaraderie.

Teamwork and emotional intelligence are well-documented phenomena in competitive sports, as they open opportunities to fail, learn, and grow without affecting one’s career or work output. Even simple hangouts outside working hours let team members relax and become friends rather than mere colleagues.

4) Put yourself in other people’s shoes

Most people have complex but valid reasons behind their actions. That’s why it’s important to develop empathy so you and your personnel understand the motivations behind one anothers’ decisions. By putting yourself in others’ shoes, you promote more emotionally intelligent decision-making and prevent conflicts within teams.

Let’s say someone turns in a project late without warning, causing delays in your team’s pipeline. Before berating the individual, ask why it happened and consider their rationale. Because the conflict stemmed from a lack of communication — an early heads-up could have prepared everyone for the overdue output — it would be best to discuss it as a group to ensure it doesn’t repeat.

5) Practice active listening and feedback

Many individuals switch to autopilot as they listen, especially when the speaker goes on for a while. They then fall into the trap of forming quick judgments or responses without hearing the whole story or while the other person’s still talking.

Active listening and feedback are two crucial EI skills, but they’re among the most difficult to acquire. Plenty of online courses delve into them, but the most important aspect is to learn to pay attention and only answer once the speaker has finished.

Giving constructive feedback also aids EI development: For example, if you notice someone struggling, you can help them figure out why they find a task challenging and offer a compliment once they succeed. Doing so helps build positive work relationships.

6) Hold yourself accountable

Employees tend to follow their leaders’ examples, and the best way for you to set a positive tone is to hold yourself accountable. For instance, when certain projects or workplace circumstances go awry and you’re at fault, openly take responsibility.

Accountability in leadership shows that every individual in the organization is answerable for their shortcomings and must take steps to improve.

Whether it’s taking on roles that help others succeed or developing and maintaining healthy workplace relationships, how leaders approach EI within their company will face close scrutiny from their employees.

7) Encourage open communication and be transparent

Communication and transparency are vital components of EI, as they help keep everyone in the loop, which maintains morale, productivity, and relationships.

For instance, technological or industrial shifts may render some roles obsolete and require their redefinition. These kinds of disruptions can be extremely stressful, as employees will be uncertain about their futures. Since you may encounter resistance, change management efforts often become necessary as well.

To alleviate employee concerns, maximize various internal communication strategies and inform them of the transitions occurring in your organization, your goals, and how everything will take place. It’s most important to reassure workers their jobs aren’t in danger.

8) Swiftly resolve conflicts

We’ve touched on conflict resolution multiple times, as workplace disputes can affect more than just the involved parties. When left unresolved, besides possible operational bottlenecks, resentment and tension between co-workers can linger and give rise to workplace toxicity.

To avoid that nightmare, address conflicts quickly before they reach a critical point. Deal with them constructively so that those involved reach an agreeable compromise and learn from their experiences.

9) Promote work-life balance

Employees have lives outside the office, and a healthy equilibrium allows them to return to work satisfied and productive. To prevent employee burnout and promote their well-being, open avenues to help them manage their workloads and maintain an ideal work-life balance.

You can support their welfare and minimize workplace toxicity by limiting overtime hours, avoiding micromanagement, and providing an adequate amount of autonomy and independence. Also consider offering wellness programs and access to mental health resources.

10) Seek feedback

Open communication and transparency are two-way streets; your employees have to listen to you, but you must do the same for them.

Establish mechanisms that allow you to solicit honest feedback from peers and employees so you can identify growth areas as a collective. Show them that leadership is keen to listen to their input and they can share it without fear of reprisal.

Additionally, create channels for workers to share constructive criticisms and self-reflect. For instance, after a conflict is resolved, employees can meet, contemplate, and openly discuss a better approach to similar situations in the future.

11) Recognize and reward positive behaviors

By understanding how one’s emotions can influence their thoughts and actions, leaders and employees can identify behaviors that are worth rewarding. Acknowledging and incentivizing emotionally intelligent conduct, meanwhile, can reinforce its importance in your organization.

The rewards don’t have to be extravagant; they can range from simple thank-yous and compliments to small tangible incentives like a paid lunch or gift card. The goal is to encourage constructive approaches to various workplace situations, particularly difficult ones.

Displays of appreciation can go a long way toward enticing employees to stay with your company, as they help boost their morale and make them feel valued. In fact, 54% of workers said they’ve quit their jobs because they felt the opposite.

12) Regularly evaluate your efforts

Building an emotionally intelligent organization is a long-term endeavor. Feedback encourages self-reflection and helps you and your employees evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of heavily relying on it, however, try to capture a clearer picture of your company’s emotional intelligence by utilizing various assessment tools.

For example, Profiles Asia Pacific’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0®) provides an overall score, which they further break down into five distinct aspects to measure how one’s EI affects others and the workplace. The information can then be used to tailor initiatives for:

  • Team building
  • Leadership development and selection
  • Executive coaching
  • Organizational development

Wrapping up — Emotional intelligence promotes workforce well-being and drives organizational success

A healthy culture nurtures engaged and productive workers, and emotional intelligence is a critical factor in achieving it. Integrating it into your organization is a long-term undertaking though that requires consistent effort and monitoring.

By investing in the development of an emotionally intelligent workforce, you can unlock more resilient and harmonious workplace dynamics that drive long-term results. In that regard, EI is a strategic imperative that will propel your business toward a productive future.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick