Top Ten Tips... Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Top Ten Tips... Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand emotion in ourselves and others. It is vital to good communication in all aspects of life and helps us deal with challenges and maintain healthy relationships.

Research suggests that emotional intelligence influences how effectively employees relate to one another, cope with stress and overcome conflict. It can also affect job performance and job satisfaction.

Here are our top ten tips for successfully reading and responding to emotions in the workplace:

1. Practice self-awareness

In order to develop our emotional awareness, we must be able to identify our own emotions. Check in with yourself regularly and pay close attention to how you’re feeling. Do you find that the way you feel influences your behaviour and your interactions with your colleagues? Does the knock-on effect of negative emotions tend to cause breakdowns in communication? Recognising when this is happening can help you take steps to counteract it.

2. Be a good listener

When we have a lot on our minds, it sometimes becomes harder to listen to people. Don’t try to save time by planning what you’re going to say while the other person is speaking. Instead, become an active listener; pay attention to what’s being said and demonstrate you are doing this by maintaining eye contact and asking follow-up questions. Also take note of non-verbal communication such as body language. Listening attentively allows us to more easily recognise the emotions of others and respond appropriately.

3. Become more empathetic

Being able to see things from someone else’s point of view is incredibly valuable to developing good emotional intelligence. It can not only help you to understand where someone else is coming from, but to better understand relationships between colleagues and dynamics between employees and their superiors. Effective people management requires nuanced understanding of the intricacies of working relationships.

4. Develop techniques to manage your emotions

What helps you work through negative emotions, such as annoyance and frustration? Physical exercise and calming activities can help relieve stress in a healthy way. Playing sport, walking in nature, painting or meditating can provide an outlet for your emotions so they don’t build up and overwhelm you, negatively impacting your working relationships. Encourage your colleagues to make time for this too.

5. Don’t make assumptions

We all have unconscious bias and the potential to make snap judgements about people based on our past experiences or pre-conceived ideas. It’s impossible to eradicate these tendencies as they are part of being human, but learning to recognise them and put them to one side is a valuable skill. If someone is frequently late you might instinctively label them disorganised or careless, but they may be going through a difficult time and struggling to cope. Rather than judging, talk to people and find out if there is anything you can do to help.

Related: Improving Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace

6. Normalise asking for help when you need it

Never before has self-care been so important. With many people still working from home due to the pandemic, feelings of isolation and anxiety are common and maintaining a good work-life balance is more challenging than ever. Ensure employees know that their wellbeing is a priority and try to develop a workplace culture of asking for support when necessary.

7. Promote teamwork

Not only is working as a team more effective than working individually, it helps foster good working relationships where everyone feels valued and understands their role. Encourage staff to distribute responsibilities among team members according to individual strength and skill. This will ensure projects are successful by allocating the right tasks to the right people, and boosts workplace morale.

8. Set boundaries

There is a fine line between showing that you care about your employees and pushing personal/professional boundaries, but it’s an important one to tread in order to maintain good working relationships. If you start to feel a colleague is pushing for greater emotional intimacy than is appropriate, it might be necessary to suggest they seek emotional support somewhere more suitable, such as with a friend or a counsellor. Be sure to do this with compassion and understanding.

9. Show appreciation

Working hard and receiving little positive feedback can be extremely demoralising, and lead to resentment and demotivation. Rewarding a job well done with a simple acknowledgement goes a long way, and help make employees feel valued, supported and seen. When we feel appreciated and cared for, we feel good about ourselves and are inspired to work harder.

10. Be open to feedback

No one is infallible and it’s important for channels of communication to run two ways, even between employees and their superiors. Cultivating emotional intelligence involves self-reflection, and taking onboard feedback is a great way to do this. Make it easy for employees to approach you with comments and suggestions; let them help you become a better leader.

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