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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

As workplaces have evolved into the 21st Century, organisations are increasingly embracing various psychological concepts in an attempt to develop the potential and self-awareness of their workforce. While some have fallen by the wayside, one such idea that has managed to gain serious traction is that of emotional intelligence, a term coined in a 1964 scientific paper by Michael Beldoch (and later popularised by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book of the same name). But while you may be familiar with the term, what exactly is emotional intelligence? Why is it so heralded within HR circles? And what are its benefits to the average employee? If you’ve ever wondered what exactly all the fuss is about – and, indeed, why everybody is telling you to include it in your CV – then we have all the answers you need. So, if you want to clarify your emotional quotient from your intelligent – and the ways it can affect your career – then read on: this is the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. What Is Emotional Intelligence? To give a dictionary definition, emotional intelligence – or emotional quotient (EQ), as it is also known – is both the ‘capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions’, as well as to ‘handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’. In other words, it is the ability to be aware of your own and other people’s emotions. Of course, this is easier said than done. While some people are naturally inclined to be more in touch with the inner workings of themselves and others, others have to work at it. Another complication is that it’s more difficult to quantify than its psychological cousin, intelligence quotient (IQ). Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important? Nevertheless, its impact at work is undoubtable; as you will see, it is relevant in almost every aspect of our day-to-day role, often in ways that we haven’t previously considered. Here’s how:

1. Workplace Success Is Built on Human Interaction Although most workforces are made up of a diverse blend of various skills and competencies, how they work together to achieve their mission goal is ultimately the result of one thing above all else: their ability, as human beings, to work together. This usually manifests within important soft skills such as teamwork and communication (although many such skills can be linked to emotional intelligence). Teamwork, for example, is about relating to and understanding others, as well as knowing how to cultivate and maintain key relationships; it also encompasses the ability to self-manage and self-motivate in order to effectively contribute to the wider picture. Emotional intelligence is the essence of all these skills and qualities and, as a result, its bearing on even the minutest of workplace interactions cannot be overstated.

2. It’s a Fundamental Aspect of Leadership As a leader, you will likely be responsible for any number of financial or material resources. Your most precious commodity, though, will undoubtedly be your people, and how you manage them can make or break both your success and theirs. At its heart, people management is essentially the ability to display and implement strong emotional awareness on a regular basis. Understanding what makes people tick, and how to use that to benefit the team, is a key part of EQ. Empathy, in particular, is an important leadership quality that, when leveraged properly, can ensure the loyalty of a team. Through understanding how people think and feel, it is easier to make better decisions, and you will be a more rounded and respected leader as a result. It isn’t just about how you get the best out of others, either. By knowing your limits – and your potential – it can be easier to regulate and manage your own workload, ensuring that you keep stress to a controllable level and remain an effective boss. 3. It’s Noticeable by its Absence As mentioned above, a harmonious, functioning team owes a lot to EQ; therefore, when there is a lack of it (especially among those with influence), it shows. All the ugly aspects of a toxic workplace, such as sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination, are as a direct result of poor emotional intelligence. A failure – not, it should be said, just of senior management figures, but of everyone – to understand and empathise with colleagues or employees on a basic human level is a sure sign that an organisation will not be productive, efficient and, subsequently, successful. In such cases, a toxic culture is created and becomes hugely difficult to eradicate. Even when talking in lesser extremes, an inability of people to work together can still cause issues. It is, therefore, no surprise that in recent years, many organisations have sought to tackle this problem at source by developing and promoting a clear company culture. Which brings us to the next point…

4. It’s an Effective Recruitment Tool For HR managers, EQ is a vital quality; after all, while qualifications, certifications and assessment scores can give a definitive answer on whether a candidate is qualified for a role, figuring out if they are suitable is an altogether different prospect. This is why during the interview process, applicants should be carefully assessed to see how they might align with the company’s culture. Indeed, the line of questioning within many job interviews now aims to do just this, with employers aware that a candidate who can demonstrate emotional intelligence in their answers is more likely to be an effective employee. This gives the recruiting process a sense of direction and goes a long way to ensuring that companies – large or small – are hiring the right people. 5. It’s Essential for Career Success If you hadn’t already realised, emotional intelligence is pervasive in nearly every aspect of our working (and, indeed, personal) life. It is the basis for forming relationships with coworkers, understanding motivations and weaknesses and keeping ourselves in our best possible working condition. In short, without it, we’re not going to get very far in our careers. Whether that success comes in the shape of earning a promotion, building a successful business or simply landing a dream job, it doesn’t matter: the ability to comprehend human nature is always going to be essential to arriving at your goal. While there is indeed a multitude of ingredients in the proverbial stew of success, emotional intelligence is one of the most important. You can study countless degrees, have dozens of years’ worth of experience and be as good at your job as it is humanly possible to be; yet if you don’t understand people, you will never be truly successful in any aspect of your life. So, continue to focus on developing your social and emotional awareness, and always be conscious of how key it is to both yourself and the working environment around you. After all, it’s your career that will ultimately benefit, as well as the careers of those around you.


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