Demonstrating Emotional Intelligence, especially in the workplace, is an advantage. And if you’ve been following our blogs on it, you’ll know that there are four stages to EI: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
The first two stages – self-awareness and self-management – relate to the self, namely being able to understand and manage our own emotions. The third and fourth stages – social awareness and relationship management – define how well we perceive other’s emotions, and use this knowledge to build productive, supportive relationships with them. It’s about knowing what makes people tick. Emotional Intelligence also improves our ability to understand and support people because we're able to step into their shoes and see things from their perspective.
“We are all emotional beings just by virtue of being human, and we can’t separate from that at work,” says Mark Craemer, an organization-development consultant, leadership coach and author of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace. From frustration and discomfort to fulfilment and joy, our work tasks, colleagues, and even life outside of work can be the catalysts for a range of feelings during working hours.
We all get moody, for various reasons, even at work. Maybe you were up late with a sick child and are exhausted. Perhaps you slept through your alarm and had to get to work in a frenzy so you wouldn’t miss your first meeting of the day. Have you ever gotten into an argument with a loved one before coming to work? Or maybe the person at the drive-thru got your lunch order wrong. Whatever “it” is, how a person deals with themselves and others - even when they are in a less-than-stellar mood - can be an indicator of their level of Emotional Intelligence.
If someone doesn’t notice the moodiness, ignores it, exacerbates the bad mood, or tells the other person to “snap out of it,” they probably have low Emotional Intelligence. If, on the other hand, someone notices that something’s not quite right, asks about what’s going on, and offers compassion and understanding towards the other person, that behavior shows higher levels of Emotional Intelligence. It’s important to note that you don’t have to take on the other person’s bad mood - being emotionally intelligent means that you’re just trying to understand their perspective.
Not all meetings are positive, productive, or go according to plan. Sometimes meetings can result in nothing getting done because everyone is talking at once or no one is offering any input at all. And sometimes meetings run late, which can be frustrating when there is another meeting immediately after, disrupting the day’s schedule. If someone contributes to the negative behaviors described above, it’s likely that they have lower Emotional Intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent behaviors in this situation might look like listening attentively and refraining from interrupting others before sharing your thoughts, or gently redirecting the meeting to keep everyone on track. Or, a person recognizes that when a meeting runs over, they usually feel irritable and stressed because they have another meeting immediately following. So, instead of expressing their exasperation that could offend colleagues or damage their own reputation, they demonstrate Emotional Intelligence by having an exit plan or excuse themselves politely and request a recap of the meeting in case they miss important details.
3. Receiving Feedback
We’ve discussed in previous blogs how feedback - when provided with good intentions - can be a gift. However, sometimes feedback is unsolicited, and we might not be expecting it. Let’s say you received some feedback about your presentation that took you by surprise. Responding with something like, "I hear you. What could I have done that would be better?”, demonstrates high Emotional Intelligence because it allows you to listen and evaluate the feedback with curiosity.
Conversely, if you responded with something like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. My presentation was fine!”, may give the message that you expect people to keep their emotions and thoughts to themselves. This can erode a relationship through a loss of trust, rather than building it up.
Organizations that understand the complex, busy lives of its team members, and as a result offer flexibility and ways to work smarter, are most likely displaying high Emotional Intelligence. A recent example I heard came from a manager who had a team of five working moms. They each had the responsibility of getting their kids to daycare or on the bus before school. The manager herself was a working mom and knew the “morning hustle” all too well. As a result, she made the decision not to schedule any meetings prior to 9 am to allow her team to get to their offices and settle in. Even though occasional exceptions had to be made, this manager was able to see things from her team’s perspective and demonstrated Emotional Intelligence through supporting their schedules.
A sign of an organization with lower Emotional Intelligence may be the refusal to consider or allow their employees flexibility. Holding tightly to the way things have always been done - especially when there is no need to do so - can decrease engagement, limit decision-making, and increase stress, all of which don’t contribute to an Emotionally Intelligent organization.
The people you work with have a personal life and a unique style of interaction. You don’t have to become consumed in emotional angst or take anyone’s behavior personally to build productive, supportive relationships with them. Demonstrating high levels of Emotional Intelligence is about using empathy to understand how they might be feeling or to see things from their perspective.
Where have you seen emotional intelligence on display in your workplace?