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Being more emotionally intelligent at work

Emotional intelligence is not a trait you’re born with or not, it can be learned and developed. But how?

As artificial intelligence in the workplace dominates the headlines, it’s easy to forget the people. But to keep employees engaged, motivated, and performing, another kind of intelligence is required: emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Emotional intelligence – a brief definition

Emotional intelligence was first put forward as a concept by Daniel Goleman. It refers to your ability (or lack of it) to perceive, analyse, understand, and manage emotions – yours and others. Goleman defined it this way:

  • know what you’re feeling and be able to handle feelings without having them swamp you,
  • be able to motivate yourself to get work done, be creative and perform at your peak,
  • sense what others are feeling, and handle relationships effectively.


A useful skill set in any workplace, that Goleman divided into four domains in his books “Primal Leadership”: self-awareness (understanding yourself), self-management (controlling yourself), social awareness (understanding others), and relationship management (applying your understanding, self-control and awareness). Working on these areas can lead to a number of benefits for the emotionally intelligent worker or manager

Benefits of EQ in the workplace

Communication is key in any team or workplace and the emotionally intelligent tend to be better communicators, taking into account not only their own emotional state but those of their audience.

A higher level of EQ often comes with a more nuanced approach to managing conflict. Faced with a clash of interests or opinions, the emotionally aware are less likely to ‘shoot from the hip’ and more likely to understand the differing positions and actively look for ways to satisfy everybody’s needs.

EQ can also have an impact on teamwork and relationships between colleagues. Greater emotional intelligence comes with greater respect for the ideas or input of others. High EQ tends to equate to being open to cooperation and collaboration and less dismissive of colleagues with different perspectives. What’s more, emotionally intelligent team members are generally supportive of others – a fundamental for any team.

As you can imagine, better communication, better teamwork, and less aggravated conflict means improved performance – not just that of the individual but of the whole team. And for team leaders commenting on performance, emotional intelligence can ensure that their feedback is balanced, well-judged, and more likely to be accepted and acted upon. Research by Goleman has found that while intellect (can we say, ‘non-emotional intelligence’?) and cognitive skills were important in the workplace for performance and strategic thinking BUT that emotional intelligence is twice as important when it comes to performance.

Being more emotionally intelligent at work

Emotional intelligence is not a trait you’re born with or not, it can be learned and developed. But how? What does being more socially self-aware and managing yourself and your relationships look like in the workplace? A few concise tips:

  • Feedback on behaviour, not criticism of people.
  • Accept responsibility where appropriate.
  • Take note of other people’s strengths and skills and acknowledge them.
  • Treat others with respect.
  • Be available to talk.
  • Listen.


If your role requires you to work well under pressure, with other people, not allowing potentially emotive situations to undermine performance (and in one way or another, what role doesn’t?) then emotional intelligence is a success factor.

If you want to know more, including how to identify your own EQ ‘blind spots’ and how to use your emotional intelligence in difficult situations, check out our free, taster webinar, “Emotional Intelligence”, on 19 April 2024, at 11.00 am; sign up here. Or give us a call at 01582 463460; we’re here to help.


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