How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Wondering how to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace? Training, assessments, and practice can build this vital soft skill.

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Emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace is becoming a valued asset to companies everywhere. Forbes named emotional intelligence, the ability to recognize and understand emotions, as No. 4 of the top 10 “power skills” of 2022.

The characteristics of emotional intelligence — things like self-control, perseverance, self-awareness, and empathy — have clear benefits in the workplace.

Why emotional intelligence in the workplace matters

With interpersonal conflicts reduced and less workplace stress, employees are much more likely to have higher job satisfaction.

Emotional intelligence (or the lack thereof) can make a major difference in your company culture. Emotionally intelligent people will naturally create a more respectful, and conflict-free culture among their coworkers. People want to stay at a company when they feel respected, understood, and valued. With interpersonal conflicts reduced and less workplace stress, employees are much more likely to have higher job satisfaction. Ultimately, that means lower personnel turnover, higher productivity, higher profits, and a more successful business.

Emotional intelligence can also affect outward-facing aspects of the business, such as brand representation and customer satisfaction. Customers and clients should be able to see emotional intelligence in every aspect of their experience with a company. They’re much more likely to return as a customer or refer your business to a colleague when they do.

How can I improve company culture with emotional intelligence?

While some will have a naturally high emotional intelligence, EQ is a skill that can be taught, learned, and refined. To cultivate emotional intelligence at work through your company culture, the key is to prioritize it.

When hiring, make a list of necessary soft skills related to emotional intelligence that a role requires. When crafting or revising your company’s vision, consider how you can practically apply emotional intelligence to its core values. For example, suppose one of your core values is collaboration. You can employ emotionally intelligent qualities like active listening and clear communication to improve collaboration.

When evaluating employees, Consider emotionally intelligent skills alongside other hard skills. Focus on skills like empathetic communication and openness to feedback as you try to establish a healthy culture.

How can I improve my emotional intelligence at work?

Follow these steps to improve your EQ while at work.

Do a self-evaluation

If you’re unsure of your own emotional strengths and weaknesses, use a self-evaluation tool. This can help you examine how in-tune you are to your own emotions and how they affect interactions with others. Many free assessments online can help with this, including this emotional intelligence quiz from MindTools.

Practice self-awareness

How do you react to other people? How do your words and actions affect others? What is your body language communicating in your interactions with coworkers? Nonverbal communication is one of the most powerful ways we send messages to others.

Practice empathy

Empathy is a bit more difficult to learn but not impossible. It requires putting yourself into another person’s position. From there, you can better understand how and why they may feel a certain way or hold a certain perspective. Empathetic people know how to make another person feel seen and heard, even if they disagree with their perspective.

For example, instead of sending a passive-aggressive memo about email response times to the whole company, address the person directly. “I can understand how an email can get lost in your inbox. You’re juggling a lot of different things! That happens to all of us from time to time! So we don’t create friction with clients, maybe we can figure out a way to organize your inbox. That way, the important messages don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

In that situation, the manager or coworker empathizes with the pressure and stress the employee may be experiencing. Then, they offer a solution to address the problem.

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Practice active listening skills

One of the most important aspects of building positive relationships is knowing when to speak and when to listen. This is a skill based in emotional awareness that can be built with self-control and practice.

Practice clear communication

Communication skills are one of the most highly-valued leadership skills companies can hire for, especially in management. Clear, concise, and professional communication is the key to a business’s workflow and eventual success.

If it’s an ongoing problem, you may need to establish different frameworks for your communication. You may have to set meeting guidelines and objectives, build a spreadsheet for feedback, or set up weekly check-ins. The key is to be on the same page as others.

Keep an open mind

Do you rush to judgment before all the facts are brought to light? You may need to practice keeping an open mind as you approach friction and conflict in the workplace. Your ideas and perspectives aren’t the only ones being brought to the table. Every employee deserves a chance to voice their ideas, perspectives, and feedback. You may be surprised at what you learn!

Listen to feedback

No one enjoys hearing negative feedback, but it’s the catalyst for positive growth and change. Positive feedback is also helpful, but it requires a much higher level of emotional intelligence to take negative feedback well.

When you receive negative feedback, develop practical solutions to address the problem and move forward with self-confidence. You could even schedule a follow-up to see if the problem has been handled or solved.

Stay calm under pressure

Everyone experiences a stressful situation at work from time to time. It’s easy to let emotions go from zero to one hundred in a matter of minutes. Part of emotional intelligence is facing these intense situations with a grounded, professional frame of mind.

Before you go into a situation or meeting, prepare your mental space by clearing your mind and taking deep breaths. If you face an unexpectedly intense situation, then focus your energy on problem-solving and maintaining a positive attitude. If things seem to be spiraling out of control, involve a third, neutral party to mediate or take over.

How can you improve the emotional intelligence of your team members? 

The key to improving emotional intelligence is to practice what you preach. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to model the kind of emotional intelligence you want to see in employees. It’s also important to hold other leaders to the same standards. If your employees see you taking emotional intelligence in the workplace seriously, they’re likely to follow suit. How you regulate your own emotions sets a precedent for positive workplace culture.

If your employees see you taking emotional intelligence in the workplace seriously, they’re likely to follow suit. How you regulate your own emotions sets a precedent for positive workplace culture.

Hire for emotional intelligence

It’s much easier to hire for emotional intelligence than to develop emotional intelligence in current employees. But how do you measure a candidate’s emotional intelligence level? A few key things to look for are body language, social skills, and how they respond to hypothetical scenarios. Ask the candidate to tell you about a time when they experienced conflict in the workplace. How did they react to the issue? Look for indicators of self-regulation, interpersonal problem solving, self-awareness, and active listening.

Having more than one person involved in the interview process can also be helpful in assessing emotional intelligence. Part of an emotional quotient is being able to interact and respond well to different personalities and levels of authority.

Personality testing

Most people want to enjoy the workplace, even their virtual interactions with coworkers. It’s where we spend most of our time. So if you’re looking to improve the emotional intelligence of your team members, one place to start is personality testing. Many great options are available, including DiSC, Myers-Briggs, and Eysenck. Do some research to determine which, if any, would be helpful for your workplace.

Approach each coworker as who they are rather than just what they can do. This helps to bridge the gap in perspective. For example, a personality test may reveal that Jen’s core motivation is to be independent and remain in control. That would explain why she gets agitated when assigned to a collaborative project led by another, less-qualified coworker. What Jen doesn’t know is that the coworker is in training for a new role. The project is part of the learning process. While it may not help with Jen’s frustration, knowing that this is a learning process for her coworker may help Jen develop an emotional understanding.

It’s important to note that personality testing alone won’t necessarily improve emotional intelligence in the workplace. It’s how we use the tool to gain perspective and overcome differences between employees. Personality testing coupled with discussion and training is a much more effective approach.


The right training can be helpful in developing emotional intelligence skills. Many resources are available online for anyone looking to improve their job performance and achieve professional success. LinkedIn has some good resources on how to develop emotional intelligence. Class Central is another great place to find academic institutions that offer online training for emotional intelligence. 

Learning how to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace 

Learning emotional intelligence is so much more complex than learning hard skills. The nuances and intuitive nature make it a process rather than a box to check off. However, it’s well worth the effort, as it has the potential to drive your business toward success.

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