Here’s why emotional intelligence matters at work

By Hannah Kingston

Wednesday September 9, 2020


Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as the ability to understand and manage both your emotions and the emotions of the people around you.

Emotional intelligence was coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in the 1990s, it is a concept that spread quickly to other areas including business, education, and popular culture.

EQ matters at work because those with a high level of emotional intelligence can effectively manage those around them, spending less time on office politics and more time focused on their work. Those who have high EQ are highly motivated, better at compartmentalizing tasks, looking at the bigger picture and showcasing empathy for those around them.

Having emotional intelligence is essential for leaders to successfully manage a team, however, it’s something that everyone can improve, similarly to communication skills, to better both their personal and professional life.

Why does emotional intelligence matter at work?

Emotional intelligence matters at work because it relates to a number of key functions that we carry out on a daily basis such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, project development, management and execution, as well as how we carry ourselves among our colleagues and higher management.

In simpler terms, EQ matters at work because it can play a role in optimizing your performance. EQ can be broken down into four key functions including:

  • Perceiving emotions
  • Reasoning with emotions
  • Understanding emotions
  • Managing emotions

According to David Goleman, author of the 1995 hit book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”, EQ, when coupled with traditional intelligence makes for successful leaders, and often those who currently hold leadership positions often have a high EQ.

In a 2011 survey, it was found that nearly 75% of hiring managers prefer a high EQ to IQ. To date, EQ is widely recognized as an attractive skill that helps improve communication, management, problem-solving, and relationships within the workplace.

Those who have a high EQ are:

  • Decisive
  • Problem-solvers
  • Unphased by pressure
  • Natural conflict resolvers
  • Empathetic
  • Open to constructive criticism

EQ is something that is often developed during one’s upbringing or is a natural personality trait, however, it is also a skill that researchers believe can be improved with training and practice.

In a 2011 study, it was found that those who were trained in some of the key components of emotional intelligence including self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation experienced improvements in their physical health, mental health and social relationships. The results also showcased lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood following the study.

Now read: Wondering what kind of leader you are? Here are the 7 most common leadership styles

Now read: 5 ways to beat imposter syndrome at work 

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