Articles

Emotional intelligence in the workplace

By Jan Mueller

Haven’t we all wanted to take back something we’ve said or done in the workplace? Our environment triggers myriad feelings each day, and those responses can derail us if we do not recognize our emotions and control our impulses. Joshua Freedman, an expert on developing emotional intelligence to improve performance in our daily lives, has designed a simple EQ model that begins with three important pursuits: 1. Becoming more aware (noticing what you do), 2. Becoming more intentional (doing what you mean), and 3. Becoming more purposeful (doing it for a reason).

By becoming more aware, you know yourself and are mindful of your feelings and what you do as a result. Knowing yourself gives you the “what.” You know your strengths and challenges, what you want, and what to change.  Being more aware allows you to accurately identify and interpret both simple and compound feelings.

The second concept, becoming more intentional, provides the “how” … how to take action to influence yourself and others. Mastery of this stage is common among successful leaders who understand how to empower their people, engage teams and foster mutual trust and respect.

The third pursuit, becoming more purposeful, helps you put your vision and mission into action so you lead with purpose and integrity. This delivers the “why” … why to respond in a certain way, why to move in a new direction, and why others should be led by you.  Increased empathy allows you to recognize and appropriately respond to others’ emotions and allows you to connect your daily choices with your business goals.

You can improve your emotional intelligence by simply observing how you react to people and to stressful situations. Be aware of how your actions will affect others. Take responsibility for your actions, and if you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize directly. Don’t ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right.

“At the core of emotional intelligence is something to be,” Freedman says. “By being more emotionally intelligent, smarter with feelings, you will more accurately recognize emotions in yourself and others.”

Stay on top of your emotions at work by keeping a feelings diary. This will help you see patterns that can help you develop your strengths and avoid those stressful situations that trigger negative emotional reactions. Higher levels of emotional intelligence equate to a more productive workplace and will contribute to the bottom line in your organization.

Jan Mueller is an Executive Director for Thunderbird Executive Education. References for this article include Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (Bantam, 2000), and At the Heart of Leadership by Joshua Freedman and Peter Salovey (Six Seconds; 3rd edition, 2012).