Emotional intelligence (which is also sometimes referred to as emotional quotient, EQ or EI) has been a popular topic in recent years in discussions about career performance, with findings from various studies suggesting that EQ is an
important factor influencing personal success.
If you’re wondering what exactly emotional intelligence is, this HubSpot video provides a simple overview with a concise definition:
“The ability to have deep awareness of your own emotions – and the emotions of others – and use this information to guide your thinking and actions.”
In this article, we dig into the different facets of emotional intelligence and illustrate how to use it in the workplace.
Applying EQ at work
Citing research by psychologist Daniel Goleman, the HubSpot video breaks down EQ into five key categories, which we outline below. For each category,
we also provide a scenario to illustrate how you can use emotional intelligence to manage situations in the workplace.
1. Self-awareness: “The ability to understand your effect on others, play to your strengths, and admit your weaknesses.”
Scenario: Do you like to make decisions and take action quickly? While you may see this as your way of maximising efficiency at work, your
colleagues might view this negatively as impatience or pushiness.
Emotionally intelligent response: Slowing down the pace of work may not be a viable or appropriate response in this situation. However, by
being aware of how your behaviour is perceived by others, you could make an extra effort to work collaboratively with your colleagues to set clear
expectations regarding project timelines. This way, it won’t come as a surprise if you ask them for their part of the project – it will simply
be you following the agreed timeline rather than impatiently pushing them for their work.
2. Self-management: “Being able to control your impulses and avoid acting rashly.”
Scenario: Imagine you work at an architecture firm and a client sends you yet another change to their design requirements. While your first
impulse may be to fire back an angry “Cannot!” out of frustration, this is unlikely to be productive.
Emotionally intelligent response: Your frustration in this situation would be understandable, but that doesn’t mean you should give in to
your impulse to reply in anger. If you recognise that you are writing a response while angry, make yourself implement a cool-down period before
hitting send. Go for lunch, wait until tomorrow or ask a colleague to review your response before sending your reply. By controlling your initial
impulse and taking the time to cool down, you’ll reduce the risk of sending something damaging that you’ll later regret.
3. Motivation: “Having the innate passion to challenge yourself and remain optimistic when the going gets tough.”
Scenario: If your boss was looking for someone to take on a new project, would you volunteer, knowing that it might mean extra work or long
hours to learn new skills?
Emotionally intelligent response: Few people like to increase their workload without a clear understanding of what the payoff might be
for doing so. However, if you have the inner motivation to take on this challenge, you may find that it opens the door to new opportunities
within your organisation as you prove your competency and ability to handle new responsibilities.
4. Empathy: “Not just listening to those around you, but really trying to understand their point of view.”
Scenario: Imagine that one of your colleagues complains that your boss is always ignoring their ideas or suggestions.
Emotionally intelligent response: Rather than dismissing their concern (“Are you sure? I don’t think Boss does that.”) or glossing
over it (“It’s too bad Boss does that, but what to do?”), you could ask your colleague about examples of this and how it makes them feel.
You may not be able to do much about it – aside from voicing support for your colleague’s ideas the next time they come up in a meeting
– but at least you can show your colleague that you understand their concern.
5. Social communication: “The ability to manage relationships and productively express your emotions.”
Scenario: If one member of a team you manage is always showing up late to work, it would be understandable if you and the other members
of your team find this annoying.
Emotionally intelligent response: Rather than jumping straight to admonishing or punishing this team member, you could take the
time to pull them aside to discuss the issue one on one and find out whether there’s a legitimate reason for their tardiness. If there
is, you could work with them to come up with a reasonable solution; if not, you could indicate that this is not acceptable and clearly
explain the consequences if they continue to arrive late.
Boosting your EQ to better your career
Having good emotional intelligence involves being aware of your own emotions and those of the people around you so you can better navigate
the friction that inevitably emerges in every workplace. And with fewer emotional obstacles in your path, you’ll have more time to
focus on doing a great job at work and taking your career to the next level.