Is Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace Becoming the Most Valuable Soft Skill?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is a key component to a great leader and team member. So how do you look for this trait in job candidates?

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emotional intelligence at work

EQ (emotional intelligence) is an incredibly valuable skill for leadership teams. Maintaining a high level of emotional intelligence in the workplace can help strengthen company culture along with several other essential values. According to Mariah DeLeon, Vice President of People at Glassdoor, “EQ will bring your company more engaged, committed employees. And that spells success.”

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence or EQ is an individual’s “ability to recognize, understand, manage, and reason with emotions.” This soft skill is becoming more sought after by employers. With today’s focus on company culture and teamwork, emotional intelligence is a critical component to building high performing teams.

Before the term was first defined in the 1990s, HR leaders and business professionals didn’t give the concept much thought or consider emotions and intelligence as compatible cognitive functions. Today, emotional intelligence in the workplace is a highly studied concept by psychologists and HR experts.

How will emotional intelligence at work help my team?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is a valued skill concerning business decisions, high-pressure situations, conflict resolution, constructive criticism, and more. Managers with a high level of EQ will be able to handle these situations most effectively. Understanding and reasoning with coworkers, supervisors, and customers requires more than logic alone.

This soft skill is so important that 75 percent of hiring managers surveyed reported valuing EQ over IQ. Many studies show high emotional intelligence in the workplace directly relates to better job satisfaction and performance. These studies also indicate that high EQ equals better stress management and leadership abilities.

How do I increase the emotional intelligence of my leadership team?

Can emotional intelligence be trained? Research says yes. Although social skills and personality traits are key factors in EQ, practicing emotional competencies can increase this valuable skill set.

Self-awareness is a critical skill when it comes to EQ. Practice recognizing your own emotions to become more self-aware. Once you can effectively identify your own feelings of happiness, anger, frustration, etc. you’ll be able to better pick up on emotional cues of others.

Strong social skills are also linked to high emotional intelligence in the workplace. For example, social skills help you listen actively, recognize nonverbal cues, and communicate with others. Put yourself in more social situations to develop this characteristic.

Becoming more emphatic and understanding the core motivators of coworkers and team members is another part of the EQuation. Understanding other points of view can have a big impact on the way others respect and listen to leaders. Taking steps to identify intrinsic motivations is very helpful to understand the emotions of others.

Managers can help their leaders increase their emotional intelligence in the workplace through education. Help your employees understand these different components of EQ. It’s beneficial to create situations that test the emotional intelligence of your leaders. Mock social situations and conflict resolution scenarios will help your team improve their skills.

How can I identify candidates with high emotional intelligence?

During the hiring process, it’s beneficial to choose candidates with a high EQ. Especially when filling managerial roles. Daniel Goleman, an emotional intelligence expert, explains there are five categories of EQ:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy

When screening new candidates for high EQ, test for these qualities. Hiring managers can gauge their level of competency by asking scenario questions during the interview. Pick questions that test their knowledge of each trait to determine if they will be a good fit for your organization.

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