A Heart Leaders Slant on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the Workplace

Daryl Wizelman

According to Wikipedia, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) describes the ability, capacity, skill or, in the case of the trait EI model, a self-perceived ability, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups.

While EQ has deep historical roots dating back to Darwin’s work, it has become more common in the business landscape over the past several years as understanding the human condition and why we think, feel and act the way we do has become an important piece to operating a successful business and creating a happy and productive corporate culture.

Thoughts, feelings, actions/behaviors and results represent my view of the emotional intelligence continuum. What I mean by this is that thoughts lead to feelings which then lead to actions/behaviors and ultimately to results. This the step by step path that human beings take many times every day.

The thoughts and feelings we have cannot be controlled but the actions/behaviors and results from those behaviors can. For example, imagine being at work and a co-worker speaks to you in a way that you find insulting. This immediately leads to anger and resentment, which causes you to fire back, file a complaint with HR or even worse, resort to physical action. The result is that you and your co-worker have become contentious at work and may even be penalized with disciplinary action.

Now what if just as our co-worker was speaking to you, a voice whispered in your ear that he/she had a chemotherapy treatment later in the day and really had no awareness or ill intentions in the way they spoke to you? Do your actions/behaviors change because you have this information? You now have a heightened awareness of your co-worker and you may choose different actions/behaviors which produce more positive results. Thus, a change in your awareness made a huge difference in the outcome.

People are imperfect and as a result, they make missteps. Even if your emotional intelligence is high, you will experience low awareness from time to time resulting in actions/behaviors and results that fall below your expectations. It is key to understand when the EQ bell goes off in your head as timing is a key component to relational success.

There are three areas of time discovery in EQ. The first is before negative actions/behaviors occur. The second is during the episode where negative actions/behaviors take place. The final stage is the results.

The before stage requires a deep understanding of who and what triggers your negative actions/behaviors. Once you are aware of these defaults, you can watch for them and create a heightened sensitivity to their presence.

When you see the first sign of their existence, you can use your awareness to sidestep the default that can derail your behavior.

The during stage requires you to become aware of your negative actions/behaviors while the event is in progress. Once that awareness is realized, you can adjust your actions/behaviors during the episode and then achieve the goal of positive behavioral results.

The after stage is the most painful stage because the damage has already been done. However, it is never too late to analyze the errors of your ways and ask for forgiveness. This is also an opportunity to learn a lesson in what trigger you missed so that you can better recognize it the next time.

Here are some tips and advice that Human Resources Executives can implement to build emotional intelligence at their company:

1. Encourage employees to always give the benefit of the doubt regarding the other persons’ (co-worker, customer, vendor etc.) behavior or attitude.

2. Encourage employees to raise their awareness of what they say and do and how it affects the people they are saying and doing it to.

3. Encourage employees to ask for forgiveness if and when their actions/behaviors are inappropriate. Ensure that employees understand what they did and how they missed being aware of their behavior before it created a negative result.

4. Bring emotional intelligence experts into the workplace to train and work with the employees on improving their EQ and thus their positive impact on their co-workers, clients, vendors etc.

In the end, I believe EQ boils down to giving the people we come in contact with the benefit of the doubt. We don’t know what the other person’s personal experiences or triggers are. Nor do we know what they are thinking or feeling. Thus, the awareness we can give to them, the greater our ability to control our actions/behaviors and the results. It comes to knowing thy self and being aware of what we say and do and how that affects the people we are saying and doing it to.