EQ @ Work: Emotional Intelligence at Work

What is Emotional Intelligence ?

Emotional Intelligence is a much used term used to describe the response and the behaviors of employees at the workplace in different settings. Before launching into a discussion on how Emotional Intelligence manifests at the workplace, it would be pertinent to understand what EI is all about.

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to manage the emotions of one and the emotions of others. In other words, the ability to remain calm and composed under pressure, to empathize with the behaviors of others, to defer gratification when faced with urgent and demanding tasks, the ability to be guided by the inner rudder or the inner voice instead of being swayed by the external forces no matter how compelling and powerful they are, and above all, the ability to understand, relate, empathize, and manage the emotions of peers, coworkers, subordinates, and superiors.

Explaining Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Quotient

To explain the above terms further, it would be useful to note that EI and the related concept of Emotional Intelligence Quotient or EQ refers to the ability to work under pressure without being frustrated, the ability to relate to the emotions of others and to understand “where they are coming from” and above all, the ability to withstand stressful situations at work without “giving into the pressure and conflict” that characterizes many workplace situations.

Indeed, with modern day and contemporary organizations having their share of pressure cooker situations where stress and strain are an integral part of the workplace, having a high EQ has become more important than having a high IQ or Intelligence Quotient. Further, with most workplaces becoming results oriented and outcomes driven, being good at what one does also include how well one is able to carry oneself and manage others.

Examples of EQ@ Work

To take an example, it is often the case that managers and leaders in organizations have to decide and choose between competing agendas and conflicting interests. In addition, they would have to deal with scarce resources that are to be allocated to different interests which mean that they would have to prioritize how well the resources are allocated. Apart from this, managers and leaders often have to deal with unpredictable responses from their employees who are as much or more stressed than they.

Above all, leaders and managers have to confront the “unknown” when their decisions and actions can lead to outcomes that are totally unpredictable. To ensure that all these situations result in the positive and favorable outcomes for organizations, leaders and managers have to be necessarily guided by their inner impulses and inner voices if they have to ensure that the decisions and the actions they take have to be optimal for the organization.

Increasing Importance of EQ @ Work

Further, contemporary workplaces are also characterized by high levels of frustration among the employees due to various reasons ranging from lack of enough time to complete the tasks, being driven by the need to show results in the immediate term instead of building capabilities with a longer view, and are also characterized by disgruntled employees who often feel that “the higher ups do not understand their pressures and their concerns”. Therefore, to be successful leaders and managers, the ability to manage the emotions of others is very important as not only have the leaders and managers do need to relate to their employees but they would also have to assuage their concerns and send a message through their actions that they indeed, “care about them”.

Technology, Automation, and EQ

In recent years, much has been written about the advent of technology and automation that is rendering modern day workplaces devoid of human and humane modes of relating to each other. With employees expected to perform under all situations irrespective of the stress or the pressure as well as perform consistently and productively, the need for them to manage their emotions and be calm and composed at all times has become paramount.

All these situations demand that employees have high EQ which means that they are not only “on top of the situation” but they are also able to “manage their own emotions” well.

Therefore, the twin imperatives of managing the emotions of others and managing the emotions of oneself become the yardsticks on which a particular individual is deemed to be emotionally intelligent. Gone are the days when the need to excel at tasks was the only criterion for performance evaluation.

Concluding the Discussion by Tying all the Themes about EQ @ Work

It is not the case that one should always be in a cheerful frame of mind at all times without doing one’s work properly. Rather what we are saying is that the combination of performing well and performing “gracefully” is the absolute imperative in the modern day workplaces. This calls for employees to not only excel at what they do but also excel in how well they relate to others and how well they manage their frustrations and disappointments.

Taken together, the points made so far in this article indicate that in the future, emotionally intelligent organizations would have an edge over organizations that drive their employees without paying heed to their emotions.

Indeed, given the relative shortness of organizational lives in recent years with many former market leaders being at the bottom of the heap due to rapid changes in market landscape, it is more than ever the need for organizations to deliver both in the shorter term as well as build capabilities for the longer term.

This calls for organizations to be staffed with employees who can manage themselves and others at all times and be guided by the twin imperatives of individual needs and organizational needs.


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