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Emotional Intelligence and the Workplace

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Linda Barnes
September 29, 2015

Psychology Today magazine defines Emotional intelligence as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It includes three skills:

1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others.

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving.

3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

Attributes of Emotional Intelligence

According to Jessica Cambridge in her book, Emotional Intelligence: How to Quickly Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Complete Guide to Improving Your Emotional Intelligence for Life, the four attributes of emotional intelligence are:

1. Relationship Management – Being able to develop and maintain genuine relationships with others including influencing, inspiring, handling conflict, communicating clearly and working together as a team.

2. Social Awareness – Being able to understand fully the concerns, needs and emotions of others, feeling comfortable with them socially, picking up the pieces of their emotional cues and recognizing their efforts.

3. Self-Management – Being able to adapt to circumstances, honoring commitments, controlling impulsive behavior or feelings and manage your emotional well-being in a healthy way.

4. Self-awareness – Being able to recognize your emotions and how they affect your behavior and thoughts. It also helps to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and develop self-confidence.

Why is emotional intelligence important at work?

It is important to have emotional intelligence at work. It is a place where people of diverse personalities and backgrounds come together on a daily basis to accomplish tasks and conflicts can easily arise. It takes emotional intelligence to resolve conflicts and move forward to being productive again. Employees may also need to work together closely on teams to accomplish shared tasks.

In his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman presents five types of emotional intelligence to look for when hiring job applicants:

  1. Self-awareness- helps a person understand their own strengths and weaknesses and how their actions affect others. Someone who is self-aware can usually handle constructive criticism better too.
  2. Self-regulation – A person with a high EQ can reveal their emotions with restraint and control instead of arguing.
  3. Motivation – emotionally intelligent people are more self-motivated. They are more optimistic and ambitious.
  4. Empathy – The ability to empathize allows a person to provide better service and respond to others’ concerns.
  5. People Skills – They are able to build rapport and trust with other team members and they avoid power struggles and command respect.

Emotionally intelligent employees are better able to adjust to change, which is very important. The workplace continues to evolve and new technologies and innovations are a daily happening. Flexibility is more important than ever.

Why it is important for managers and team leaders to have high emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the hallmark for effective work management. Cambridge lays out five ways to develop emotional intelligence in dealing with employees:

1. Figure out if you’re effectively communicating. Do your employees fully understand what you are asking?

2. Make sure you fully understand your employees.

3. Practice focused and deep listening when talking to your employees.

4. Pay attention to your emotions. Analyze how you respond and get feedback.

5. Ask your employees how they feel about the task or question.

Managing your emotions: Stop, drop and process

Sometimes we all need help managing our emotions so we do not react with anger when we’re feeling overwhelmed. You can learn a set of skills to manage your emotions: it is called “stop, drop and process.”

STOP – Do not act automatically on emotions. Stop and think about the consequences and the best way to approach the situation.

DROP – Before you can think through a situation rationally, you have to calm down. There are many ways to calm down or de-stress. It could be as simple as thinking about something that causes a positive feeling; meditating or doing yoga; spending time outside or playing with a pet.

PROCESS – Accurately identify the emotions you are feeling and identify the sources of those emotions. This will help you avoid overreacting in the future.


Improving your emotional intelligence can help you fulfill your personal and career goals, succeed at work and build stronger relationships. Focusing on my emotional intelligence at work has helped me to be more flexible and understanding of other people’s needs. It has also helped me take things in stride and not overreact to perceived negative behavior.

Author:  Linda Barnes is a management and program analyst with the federal government where she specializes in human resource and administrative matters . She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northeastern Illinois University and a MPA degree from American Public University.  Email:  [email protected].

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