Does it ever feel like some people are just “easy” to get along with at work: the boss that really “gets” you, and goes out of her way to develop you; the colleague you love brainstorming with, or the employee who always anticipates what you need from him, almost before you know yourself?
…While others seem to just rub you the wrong way, no matter what they do, such as: the co-worker who always interrupts; the boss who never seems to be satisfied with your work; or the employee who seems to not to be able to get along with their team members?
Should you just chalk it up personality differences, or is there something else involved?
Much of what makes our working relationships work – or crumble – is emotional intelligence.
The impact of EI at work
Championed by Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence (EI) is increasingly shown to be the key differentiator between average and exceptional performance on the job.
Research has shown that 80% of difference between outstanding and average leaders linked to EI, and that EI is twice as important as IQ and one’s technical expertise combined.
What typically derails leaders and teams is also EI related:
– Unsatisfactory team leadership during challenging times
– Inability to handle interpersonal challenges
– Inability to adapt to change
– Inability to elicit trust
What EI is
The good news is that EI can be developed through practice. EI consists of 4 components that build upon each other:
- Self awareness (the ability to recognize our emotions and their effect on others)
- Self- management (the ability to manage emotions in ourselves)
- Social awareness (the ability to recognize emotions and experiences of others)
- Relationship management (the ability to effectively relate to others)
Starting with understanding our own emotional landscape, and the way our actions impact others, we can learn skills to better understand and self-manage our emotions. When we understand our own patterns, we can be more aware of and in tune with the experiences of others, and ultimately be able to interact and relate with others more effectively.
Why EI matters at work
It’s said that people don’t leave organizations, they leave bosses. When one person is emotionally reactive to stress, there is a cost to everyone. Studies have shown emotions can become contagious, even when there is no verbal communication. Work environments with a culture of emotional reactivity lead to higher turnover, lower levels of employee engagement, and lower productivity.
Our emotional reactions happen fast (10-15 seconds typically) and have side effects. It can take 5-6 hours to recover from the adrenaline and cortisol rush in our bodies that follows. In the meanwhile, while the emotional stimulus is happening, our thinking capacity is reduced.
By becoming more familiar with our own internal states, preferences and resources, we can slow down our automatic responses to stress, and can regain or maintain our thinking capacity more quickly.
Developing awareness of our own emotional habits and tendencies, and learning self-management skills to de-escalate our own tension helps us better to engage with and work with others.
Even when under stress and organizational change that is beyond our control, we still can make choices to understand and work with our own emotional landscape in order to be the best we can be at any given moment, and lead by example.
To practice cultivating more awareness about your own emotional patterns at work, try this:
Think about a stressful situation that happened at work, when you became emotionally reactive – that is, you didn’t handle it as well as you could have.
Think about another stressful situation at work, when you weren’t reactive – that is, you were able to handle the situation well.
In each situation:
What was happening inside you? What were the thoughts, emotions, beliefs that showed up?
What did you do in response to the stress?
What do you notice about these two scenarios?
What do you know about what helps you when you’re under stress?
Taking a break, or a breath – anything that creates a pause, to regain our thinking capacity – can often help stop the inner escalation.
Now, think again about the situation where you were reactive. How could creating some type of pause have helped you regain more self-management?
In the comments below, I’d love to hear your experience with using emotional intelligence in the workplace.
1) How has emotional intelligence helped you in your work?
2) How have you used self-awareness and self-management tools to be more aware and effective in your relationships with others at work?
Hanna Cooper is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.