Recognizing and Building Employee EQ/Emotional Intelligence

Use these tips to identify and boost emotional intelligence among your workers.

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Recognizing and Building Employee EQ/Emotional Intelligence

Here's what you need to know:

  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotional responses and recognize and manage them in others
  • There are 5 key aspects of emotional intelligence
  • Train staff members for the development they need and target high-EQ employees for advancement
  • Online programs and classes and group brainstorming sessions can be great resources for training
  • High EQ at work translates to every relationship and interaction in life

Skilled employees are a must for business to thrive, but skills only take a staff member so far. It’s rare for employees to work completely on their own; most have to work cooperatively and effectively with others.

Those interactions make or break a company. They impact morale, productivity, and culture. Staff members with high emotional intelligence, or EQ, interact easily with others. They bring the best of themselves to the job and bring out the best in others.

Employees with lower EQ may be more challenged. Business leaders can enhance teams and build productivity by recognizing and developing EQ in all staff.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotional responses and recognize and manage them in others. EQ helps employees work cooperatively, interact successfully, and use influence to achieve team goals.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotional responses and recognize and manage them in others.

High EQ is the ability to recognize, handle, and even use emotions productively in any situation. When working in a group or independently, separating logical versus emotional responses is key to success.

What are the qualities of emotional intelligence or EQ?

There are some variations on the theme of EQ, but generally there are 5 key aspects of emotional intelligence. These focus on recognizing when a response is emotional, rather than logical, and how to deal with it.

They target emotional responses in others — recognizing, empathizing and motivating. Interpersonal skills are high in employees with strong EQ, as are these traits:


Recognizing emotions — understanding how they impact mood, actions, and their effect on others


Taking awareness a step further — assuring emotions don’t negatively impact the work or others


Identifying emotional responses in others — both verbal and physical cues — and helping based on that knowledge


Beyond external rewards — finding satisfaction in a job well done, assisting others, or advancing the team or company

Social skills

Successful interactions and relationships with others — strong listening and communication skills; persuasiveness, and leadership

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Recognizing high emotional intelligence in workers

Some employees with high EQ are easily recognized. These are the leaders and helpers of the group. These staff members are the ones others go to for advice and assistance, but they don’t wait to be asked. They’re ready to step in when needed and typically improve the situation.

Turn high-EQ staff members into trainers for new hires and to help other staffers better represent your brand.

Front-facing employees with high EQ serve customers well. They respond to clients’ body language and emotions and are ready to defuse a potentially bad situation. “I’m so sorry you had to wait — the sun came out and everyone wants ice cream! What can I get for you?” These staffers understand the customer isn’t mad at them personally, they’re frustrated by the long line (often with antsy children in tow).

They’ve been there, and they know a bit of understanding and empathy goes a long way toward customer satisfaction. Turn these high-EQ staff members into trainers for new hires and to help other staffers better represent your brand.

Some staffers bring high EQ but little else. You hired them for their enthusiasm, but they may be lacking in technical skills. Target these staff members for development, then advancement. Train them on the practical skills they need to succeed: they’re ready for effectively working with teams, and eventually leadership, with high EQ.

Improving EQ among employees via classes and training

Some employees have great technical skills but low EQ. These team members do the job well, but can be moody, unreliable, or  have emotional outbursts. They may struggle to develop relationships with peers or serve customers well. They can build emotional intelligence with specific training.

It’s a best practice to encourage all staff members to boost their EQ. For low-EQ employees, training could dramatically improve their work and job satisfaction today, and translate into meaningful career development.

You may recognize an employee with low EQ, but are challenged to convince them there’s room for improvement. Approach the situation with care. Let the staff member know their technical skills are great: it’s time to build on leadership capabilities. While leadership is only a small part of EQ, it’s a great way to entice a staff member to give EQ improvement a try.

Online EQ tests are a great resource. Many free, private tests are available. Suggest a staff member take a test and come back to you with a generalized result.

You’ll want to work on training that builds on existing strengths and develops areas of weakness. You may know where improvement is necessary without a test: target these areas for training and development.

Training can be informal: working with a team member with high EQ to tone down emotional responses. This may include relearning the ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’ attitude. Other training will need to be more robust and targeted.

Again, online upskilling programs and classes can be a terrific resource. Workers take these classes at the office or on their own time. They’ll find they’re not only better able to manage work and work relationships, they’re also better able to further their own career.

How emotional intelligence training looks in the workplace

Business leaders often work with staff to build basic EQ skills through simple team exercises. Role playing highlights where emotional intelligence helps defuse a situation or lack of it can make it worse. Discuss issues employees may face and how to respond: an angry customer or a perceived snub from a colleague.

Have the group brainstorm how to get to a successful outcome, working through different scenarios. Focus on what worked best and how each employee can leverage that knowledge when they interact with guests or others.

Don’t just ask for best case-scenarios; discuss when situations were especially difficult. The more your team talks about solutions in advance, the better armed they are when circumstances arise. They’ll be growing emotional intelligence by coming up with practical, non-emotional responses to difficult scenarios.

Using these solutions in the field will likely yield a better outcome. When these tools prove to be successful, you’ll find workers who want more training. They’ve reaped the benefits of EQ development, and they’ll want to learn more.

The benefits of emotional intelligence for all relationships

The bonus for most employees who build their work EQ is improvement in personal relationships. Recognizing and moderating emotional responses helps us deal more effectively with family, friends, and strangers. When you learn to be more empathetic, you’re better able to help others. Building listening and communication skills helps grow relationships.

High EQ at work is a desired skill set: the good news is it translates to every relationship and interaction in life. While you’re building better employees, they’re becoming better partners, relatives, and friends.

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