Emotional intelligence and the work place…

Photo credit - pixabay.com

Photo credit – pixabay.com

I recently heard a story about a young job applicant who made all sorts of demands on his potential employer. He asked about the training he would receive, the quality of the work he would get and the other employee benefits he would be awarded. As a person at entry level, with limited qualifications and no experience, his demands were viewed as somewhat arrogant and misplaced. Unfortunately, this did not win him any friends in the management team, and he seemed oblivious to his effect.

Lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence
People with low self-awareness are very focused on their own needs and don’t recognise the impact their behaviour has on others. This is one of the central competencies of emotional intelligence. Although it is often underdeveloped in the young (millennials come to mind), it is not restricted by chronological age as much as personal maturity.

Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
~ George Orwell

Generational differences do not dictate competence in emotional intelligence. It may be perceived to be more prevalent in a younger group of workers, but in truth it is evident in all groups. The good news is that it can be developed and strengthened. However, the awareness of this need is central to this change happening. So how can these skills be honed?

Self awareness

  • Uncover blind spots
    This is best achieved through feedback. Honest and constructive feedback, framed in a way to encourage development can be effective. The recipient needs to be both open to “hearing” the feedback and curious to learn about themselves as others see them.
  • Practise self-reflection
    Developing a routine of reflecting on performance is a good professional habit to develop. Periodic reflection on how things have gone – in a team, on a project or in achieving goals – is good for keeping people open to new ideas and self-change.


  • Recognise and monitor feelings
    Part of self-awareness is recognising when feelings influence behaviour. The first step is to recognise the feelings, then monitor their effect. Does it mean behaviour towards others that is inappropriate or unfair?
  • Recognise triggers
    Different things can trigger reactions in people. These are often personal – related to prior experiences. Recognising these triggers can help people to avoid them or manage their impact when they are encountered.
  • Don’t take things personally
    People can get very connected to their work. Being able to maintain a more objective perspective to it is important. This helps to prevent people taking things personally ie emotionally, when they don’t go their way. Taking this perspective helps with managing (and regulating) oneself.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
~ Albert Einstein

Social awareness

  • Listen
    Listening is an important skill to develop in order to better understanding others. It opens people up to empathy – being able to understand someone else’s situation – perhaps even put themselves in their shoes. This is a key skill to developing better relations at work.
  • Ask questions
    Being curious usually means asking questions to better understand something or someone. It demonstrates an interest in others which also contributes to better working relations.
  • Observe the work environment
    Make a point of noticing what goes on around you at work. Perhaps try the helicopter view – a higher perspective on what is going on. Take a step back from the situation. See things for what they are, from a slightly removed position.

Relationship management

  • Understand the context
    Success with relationship management depends on someone’s ability to influence and inspire others. As well as understanding what you want to convey, it is important to recognise your role in the workplace. Whether that be in a meeting or in carrying out your daily routines, there will be “a way of doing things” that will be seen as appropriate. There will be times when ideas and suggestions are asked for that won’t mean providing advice about how things should be run. Demonstrating an understanding of this means knowing how to act and present views that will be heard.
  • Tailor communications
    People communicate differently. Organisational culture influences this. Emotionally intelligent people will adjust their communication style to suit difference audiences and situations. Choosing the appropriate delivery method will affect how influential a person can be.

These techniques and skills are able to be practised and developed to improve emotional intelligence and impact workplace relations. Being aware of this need and conscientious to honing competence in these areas can lead to better relationships and more productive outcomes.

Source: Hayes, Kate. 2017. “12 Ways Millennials Can Increase their Emotional Intelligence at Work” in Forbes Magazine, 16 November 2017.

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