The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Work might be the last place we associate emotional intelligence with. This is because it clashes with the more traditional notion that ‘getting personal’ or involving any element of emotion interferes with productivity. But the workplace is actually one of the places where we need emotional intelligence most.

Emotional Intelligence, or EI, is defined as the capacity to recognise and effectively manage personal emotions in ourselves and in others. EI acknowledges that humans – our colleagues – are social beings, and despite efforts to keep the personal out of professional settings, the personal is an inherent part of the human condition. By acknowledging this, and being supported to actively exhibiting EI skills, workers can become better able to manage their daily interactions both in and out of professional settings.

So, why is it so important?

Research has proven that a strong propensity in emotional intelligence increases a person’s ability to make sound decisions, build and sustain collaborative relationships, deal effectively with stress and cope to a greater degree with constant change. This means that a higher degree of EI better equips individuals to deal with the challenges of daily life, enabling them to not only perform well in the workplace, but also in accomplishing their broader personal goals and objectives.

This positive attribute is recognised widely in effective workforce leaders due to its criticality to interpersonal communication and stress management. The trait has also been revealed as being more reliable in predicting overall success than intellect (as measured by the intelligence quotient: IQ). 

What does it look like in the workplace?

Emotional Intelligence manifests as part of the multitude of workplace interactions that are possible on any given day, and plays greatly into interpersonal function. It is essential to conflict management in the workplace, which involves having the ability to help others through tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open, and defining solutions that everyone can get on board with. 

Those who demonstrate emotional intelligence often also take time to understand different perspectives in order to work toward establishing a middle ground in disagreements or discussions. This might include adopting active listening in meetings, which involves listening to colleagues’ input, not interrupting and asking clarifying questions to confirm discussed concepts. By paying attention to how others respond to one another, this type of intelligence helps people to feel heard, which in turn, promotes harmony and a willingness to compromise for the benefit of the team.

EI starts with YOU

In order to be practised in the workplace, EI first involves recognising various aspects of the individual’s own feelings and emotions, and taking time to work from the inside out. There are five important aspects of this process, defined by renown psychologist Daniel Goleman as the five elements of EI.


Exercising self-awareness depends on your ability to recognise and understand your own emotions – a critical part of emotional intelligence. Beyond just recognising your emotions however, is being aware of how your actions, moods and emotions affect other people. To become self-aware, you must be capable of monitoring your own emotions, recognising different emotional reactions, and then correctly identifying each particular emotion. Self-aware individuals are also aware of the correlation between what they feel and how they behave.


Self-regulating does not encourage locking down emotional reactions or hiding true feelings. Rather, it is the ability to regulate and manage emotions in a way that allows you to wait for the right time and place to express them. In other words, self-regulation is all about expressing your emotions appropriately. Doing so tends to make a person more flexible and adaptable to change, as well as helping with managing conflict and diffusing tense or difficult situations.


Intrinsic motivation also plays a key role in emotional intelligence. This type of motivation is evident in people who are incentivised by things beyond external rewards like money, recognition or acclaim, and instead by an internal passion to fulfil their own inner needs and goals. 


Being empathetic – or having the ability to understand how others are feeling – is crucial to emotional intelligence. As well as being able to recognise the emotional states of others, it also has to do with your responses to people based on this information. For example, if you sense that someone is feeling bad, depressed or disheartened, you might treat them with extra care or concern, or make a conscientious effort to lift their spirits.

Social Skills

The quality of interpersonal function is closely linked with emotional intelligence, and so our capacity to interact well with others is tied up in social skills which might include active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication, and persuasiveness. These skills bring together the ability to consider our own emotions and those of others in different contexts, and apply this information in daily interactions and communications to achieve true emotional understanding. In a workplace setting, managers benefit from the use of social skills because they allow them to build relationships and connections with employees. Workers equally benefit from being able to develop strong rapport with leaders and co-workers. 

It doesn’t take a high IQ to realise that EI is highly valuable in helping to improve communication, management, problem solving and relationships in the workplace. And while EI comes naturally to some, the good news is that the key emotional competencies described above can be trained and developed to enhance everyone’s professional and personal performance. Chat to the team at Bodycare to find out more.