Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Discover how to fuel an individual’s personal and professional success through stronger emotional intelligence (EI), regardless of occupation or industry.

By Hugo Britt | August 1, 2023


What is Emotional Intelligence (EI) and how can it help us deal with stressful situations in our work lives?

In a recent episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast, Kelly Barner interviewed executive coach, podcast host, and author Phil Johnson to discover how to fuel people’s personal and professional success through stronger emotional intelligence.

This article was inspired by their conversation.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a healthy and productive way. It also includes the ability to not let your emotions get in the way of moving forward or in the way of change. Naturally, however, humans have both biological and sociological resistance to change. When pushed outside of our comfort zones, change often triggers a fear-based response.

Emotional intelligence is what allows us to move through the anxiety that change and innovation can cause, and helps us reach our goals.

What’s more, someone with high EI is much more likely to have a successful career than a colleague with high IQ. A study done at UC Berkeley over 40 years comparing IQ with EI concluded that emotional intelligence is 400 percent more valuable in determining success than intellectual intelligence. Regardless of IQ, everyone has the potential to develop their emotional intelligence and apply it throughout their personal and professional lives.

“People with higher levels of emotional intelligence are calmer, more focused, more in the moment, and more present. They are better able to listen and communicate without judgement, resistance, or attachment to outcome."

- Phil Johnson, Emotional Intelligence Expert

Emotional Intelligence and stressful situations

How might EI be impacting the way that we respond to, feel about, or handle change? Regardless of circumstances or industry, people are facing an increasing number of challenges – change is really the only constant variable. Developing emotional intelligence is necessary in order to acknowledge the normal feelings of anxiety or fear that can be triggered by change, and then move past it in a healthy way.

In turn, people with higher levels of emotional intelligence are calmer, more focused, and more present. They’re better listeners and are able to communicate without judgement, resistance, or attachment to outcome. It’s natural for others to be drawn to those who are more emotionally intelligent, as well.  

What does a lack of EI look like? Anxiety, fear, anger, and creating toxic environments can all signify low emotional intelligence.

Why is EI especially important now?

Catalyzed by the pandemic, the shift to remote working led many employees to gain a better recognition of their own emotional energy levels and the draining effect linked to negative workplace environments. Many still are refusing to return to the office and potentially toxic workplaces, which is an issue that needs to be addressed. 

According to a recent Gallup poll, the current level of employee engagement is between 12- 23%. Numbers like this are costing the US economy alone over a trillion dollars a year. Toxic environments can also lead to something called “energy physics,” occurring when certain environments physically drain your energy and lead to lower engagement. Individuals become resistant, judgmental, and attached to outcomes due to the drama, chaos, and conflict they’re experiencing.

Transitioning out of the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing more organizations to focus on righting the ship because employees simply aren’t putting up with it any longer.

How to have a conversation about emotional intelligence

Talking with your team about EI can be something of a minefield. How might we appropriately and safely start a conversation about these dynamics in the workplace genuinely to help everyone?

Leaders can begin the process by asking their teams what they want to do – and taking the time to fully understand what it is they’d like to achieve. Becoming truly invested and effectively listening sets the tone for the conversation and creates the motivation for something – and someone – to change. Developing emotional intelligences won’t happen on it’s own, individuals will need to feel motivated to put in the work. 

Interestingly, as people become more emotionally intelligent, the become better at identifying and moving towards their passions. In other words, they gain a clearer understanding of their goals and how to get there.  

For more on this subject, listen to Phil Johnson’s full episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast here: 

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