The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

How many times have you done someone a favor, not because you actually wanted to, but because you respect and care about the person who asked you? If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot. Now, imagine if you had these kinds of relationships with your boss – or better yet, with your customers. How much more productive of an employee would you be? How much more loyal to your company would your customers be? These are the kinds of questions that employers have been asking lately, because personal relationships are becoming increasingly important in today’s workplace. If you’re not seeking out better relationships with your customers and employees, you might want to start considering it.

Think about it: what kind of people do you want to be around? What kind of people do you want to work with, and for? Chances are, they’re people who are kind and respectful, with whom you get along, who foster positive, innovative thinking and make you feel good. They are people with high Emotional Intelligence (EI.)

What is EI? According to the study Positive Psychology in the Workplace, by Larry Froman, EI is “the ability to accurately perceive, access and generate emotions, assist thought processes, and reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” Essentially, it’s using social skills to navigate through and avoid issues and conflicts in a way that stimulates learning. Woah. Many people refer to this as merely charisma, sociability, or even a good personality. EI, though, is incredibly underrated in today’s workplace.

EI, whether we realize it or not, is extremely prevalent in our everyday lives. That clever friend we all know who always manages to finagle her way out of speeding tickets and sweet-talk her way out of undesirable commitments? She uses EI. Politicians use it to generate trust and loyalty every time they make speeches and campaign. And companies use it, too – or, at least, they want to. A survey of roughly 2,500 hiring managers reveals that the majority of employers both desire EI over IQ and actually would not hire someone with a low EI, even if he had a high IQ. In today’s economy, booksmarts alone just aren’t going to cut it.

Why foster EI?

Nowadays, if you’re miserable at your job, you can leave it. You don’t have to stick to the blacksmithing or candlemaking in which you received your apprenticeship – it’s 2015! You have options; you can go back to school, pursue an alternative career path, or start your own business endeavor. There’s greater flexibility for us to do what we want and what makes us happy. As a result, our lives and business relationships are getting increasingly reliant on personal connections.

We more often seek happiness and go with our gut instincts than systematically analyze outcomes. As a company, you don’t want the reaction of your customers to your service to be “Well, thank goodness that’s over. Their customer service is atrocious!” You want it to be “Wow, These guys are fantastic. I’m definitely going to continue working with them!” You want your employees to think “I love working for this company! I think I’m going to stay here for a while,” instead of “I really need to start sending my resume out.”

You want to provide happiness to everyone your company comes into contact with. To foster better cooperation and greater satisfaction among your employees and your customers, and fight the 21st-century employee urge to switch jobs when the going gets tough, you need to harness EI. How can you get from low to high EI, though?

How do I get this EI in my company?

If reflecting on your processes has you noticing a lack of EI in your office, what should you do? Well, you could immediately fire everyone who doesn’t have a high EI and hire replacements who do … or, you could try implementing a new movement to encourage and train EI in the workplace.

According to the study Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible? in which researchers use control and experimental groups to attempt to teach emotional intelligence, teaching EI actually is possible. In their experiment, subjects participated in ten hours worth of EI training broken up into 4 sessions. Results of their EI were compared to those of a control group, which received no training. Their study shows that participants in the experimental group exhibited a significantly greater ability to regulate both their own and others’ emotions even six months after training.

While implementing such training may seem daunting, it’s actually much more easily done than most people expect. Start setting aside an hour or two a week where groups of coworkers can participate in EI seminars or have new employees take an online class as part of their initial company work. You can even work with specialized EI coaches if you find that employees struggling with EI.

In today’s relationship economy, it always pays to be trustworthy and to invest in individuals. You don’t need to have a politician’s EI, but you should start increasing your own EI, and encouraging those around you to do the same. Increasing your EI will leave employees and customers with a great experience to talk about when it comes to your company!

Let us know what you and your company are doing to try to promote greater EI in your workplace by shooting us an email us at hello@aspire.is or tweet at us at @aspireperks. We’d love to discuss how to better implement EI and any other workplace-improving techniques! 

For more about EI, check out this article.