Emotional intelligence in the workplace seems to be one of the many things everybody needs but doesn’t want to practice. It is pretty much like charity- everybody needs it, but not everyone wants to practice it. We’re constantly wishing our coworkers will “act mature”, but oddly enough, we’re silent on the matter of our own maturity.
In Nigeria, the reality is that emotions are not given too much priority so many people do not take any time to understand their proper usage. That’s why you often hear people only use the phrase in relation to females. On the other extreme, we have emotional manipulators, who use emotions to control situations and people.
In both situations, these are unacceptable. In order not to find yourself on either side, it is important to learn to balance the scales so that you enjoy goodwill everywhere you go.
This post is about understanding emotional intelligence and how you can apply it in your workplace and interactions with coworkers.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Help Guide defines Emotional Intelligence as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Emotions are a core aspect of human existence. It is what we are made up of-male or female. The ability to control our emotions or otherwise is one of the direct influences of behaviour or character. Most character flaws stem from an inability to control or hold back negative emotions. The same is true for positive character traits- it stems from channelling our emotions in helpful ways to ourselves and those around us.
Unfortunately, the absence of emotion has been exalted in many areas of life in Nigeria-just ask the average Nigerian if emotions are a good or bad thing. The answers will confirm this. It is very relieving to see the subject of Emotional Intelligence pop up on television and various other media recently. We are positive this will continue until every Nigerian becomes conscious of being emotionally intelligent.
Pillars of Emotional Intelligence
We cannot talk of emotional intelligence without talking about Daniel Goleman and the light shed on this subject. He outlines 5 key elements to emotional intelligence which are:
- Self-awareness: This is the ability to always know how you feel, your strengths and weaknesses, and how your actions affect others and being honest about it.
- Empathy: This is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It helps you understand predicaments and react in a manner that focuses on building up the other person instead of tearing them down.
- Motivation: Simply put, this is the ability to encourage yourself and others towards higher standards. Usually, this requires a good dose of optimism in the face of dire situations.
- Social skills: This involves knowing how to manage and resolve conflict, manage disagreements, communication skills, and set positive examples for those around you.
- Self-regulation: This is the ability to hold yourself from making rushed emotional outbursts and decisions, verbal attacks on others, or outwardly expressing anger or rage. It is generally staying in control of your outward expressions of overwhelming negative emotions.
Why is it important to the workplace and work-life balance?
In the context of the workplace, emotional intelligence is simply the way you use your emotions in the workplace. It is wrong to believe that emotions have no place in a work environment. I dare say it is the most important tool in your workplace toolbox. In maintaining a work-life balance, it is important to be emotionally intelligent and listen to what your mind and body are saying you need to do. To know more about work-life balance, read our post.
Importance of Emotional Intelligence to the Workplace.
In the workplace, Emotional intelligence is important to help you perform duties tasks and functions. It helps you understand the assignment and fulfill it in a way that satisfies the needs of your client, or superior. E.g. if you were asked to take notes for a meeting that was held, emotional intelligence will help you to emphasize the important parts. It will help you to make segments and reminders about important, time-based events. Doing things in this manner will communicate your resourcefulness and proactivity to your superiors.
This also helps you put in a better performance at work. You can manage stressful situations, conflict and generally do better than most in tough circumstances, even trying to motivate your teammates to see the brighter side of things. This will help your workplace to be a more conducive place to work.
Automatically, you position yourself as a leader when you develop a better understanding, empathy and ability to motivate your colleagues. Curbing your negative emotions, reacting gracefully in tough circumstances and conflict situations are useful skills of a leader. Emotional intelligence helps you build such skills.
A lesser-known benefit in your workplace is that you know when a workplace is no longer a good fit for you. This helps you to leave amicably and without fostering resentment most times.
What practices can Foster Emotional Intelligence in the workplace?
Pause and examine yourself, your emotions and your actions regularly:
This will help you be more self-aware enough to catch yourself before outbursts happen. Constantly find out why you acted or reacted a certain way to certain situations. If your actions have hurt people, learn to apologize or explain yourself when you seem misunderstood. This is not for anyone else’s benefit- just for your own clarity.
Put yourself in other people’s shoes mentally every time someone slips up.
Your entire life will be much healthier if you do this. It is honestly not an easy feat to exist on the planet, and many people already have a hard time doing things successfully. Help in whatever way you can. If you can’t help, then politely state so. In simpler English, people already have enough problems. Don’t add to it when you can help make things lighter and easier for them.
Be more approachable to everyone.
Regardless of their placement within your organization, they should be able to approach you, converse with you and exchange pleasantries at least. People should be able to communicate freely with you to a large extent.
In conflict, don’t speak hastily
We’ve all had those times when we just can’t hold ourselves. With continued practice of emotional intelligence, you can reduce those times, until they are few and far between.
Treat others the way you’d like to be treated-always
this is a good rule to observe because it guides you to know what to do and what not to do to your coworkers. Just thinking, “Would I like this if it was done to me?”, can save you from hurting others with your actions and reactions
Be assertive, not aggressive
Many people tend to be perfectionists and this can put them at loggerheads with everyone because of the aggressiveness they display. Perfectionism is not the same thing as being aggressive and insensitive. It is emotionally intelligent to insist on good quality and still not be disrespectful to individuals.
Motivate yourself and others
Celebrating their achievements, encouraging them when they seem discouraged about a situation, having moments to genuinely relax and bond with your teammates is a good way to motivate everyone. You don’t have to be the team lead to suggest this.
Learn the basics of good communication
Clarity. Persuasion, confidence, among other things. These help you to be friendly and approach your coworkers and people with the confidence to make a good first impression.
Always ask, “ is there a better way this could be done?’’
Answering this every time helps you provide your best and exceed expectations. In addition, this is what helps you increase in skill and competence at your job.
When stressed, take some time off
Understanding your body and mind will also mean knowing when you are approaching burnout and help you take time off to rest. In a corporate organization, you can have leaves and vacations.
Practice active listening
Ask questions when you do not understand. Make an effort not to interrupt people when speaking. Even in instances of conflict, it is possible to ask questions to clarify points of conflict.
Make an effort to understand others.
This way you are more tolerant and reduce instances of conflict between you and others. Ask questions that will help you understand people’s behaviour and their reasons for doing things a certain way. Apart from gaining an understanding of people, you communicate empathy on a greater level.
The list is not exhaustive, but focusing on these areas can be a good starting point to develop and practise emotional intelligence in your workplace. We make it our job to get you ready for that job, so talk to us, we’re here to help you out.