Emotional Intelligence at Work

In the business world, approximately 90 percent of top performers also score highly on emotional intelligence tests.

Employees having a high level of emotional intelligence can make a big difference when it comes to improving productivity and profitability in the workplace. Emotionally intelligent employees and leaders also create a better, more supportive work environment for everyone on the team.

Never heard of emotional intelligence? Read on to learn more about emotional intelligence and why it’s so important to encourage it in the workplace.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

The term “emotional intelligence” refers to a person’s ability to recognize and understand emotions, both their own and others’ emotions. People with a high level of emotional intelligence then use their understanding and recognition to effectively communicate, make decisions, and solve problems. 

Not too long ago, many people viewed emotions and intelligence as two completely separate, oppositional things. Now, though, researchers have found that there are strong connections between emotions, cognitive processes, and the way people’s feelings and moods influence their decision-making. 

According to Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, two of the world’s most prominent emotional intelligence researchers, emotional intelligence involves the following four levels:

Emotional Perception

This level describes one’s ability to perceive and recognize different emotions, as well as their impacts.

Emotional Reasoning

This level describes one’s ability to use their emotion to enhance their cognitive activities and adapt to different situations.

Emotional Understanding

This level describes one’s ability to differentiate between various emotional states, their specific causes, and their specific trajectories.

Emotional Management

This final level describes one’s ability to be open to various emotions and recognize their value in different situations. Emotional management also involves an understanding of both short- and long-term strategies for optimal emotional regulation.

How Is Emotional Intelligence Measured?

There are a few different strategies that one can use to measure emotional intelligence. However, emotional intelligence assessments typically fall into one of three categories:


In these types of assessments, individuals are asked a series of questions designed to measure their ability to perceive, reason with, and understand various emotional states.

Observer Ratings

In these types of assessments, others are asked to answer questions about someone else’s emotional intelligence, specifically as it relates to their ability to perceive, reason with, and understand various emotional states.

Ability Tests

These assessments present an individual with a variety of scenarios and ask them to respond in a way that demonstrates their emotional intelligence (or lack thereof).

How Does Emotional Intelligence Affect Others in the Workplace?

When employees have high emotional intelligence (or are receiving training to help them improve their emotional intelligence), the workplace changes for the better. The following are some specific ways that emotional intelligence positively affects others in the workplace:

Better Decision-Making


Have you ever made a rash decision, one that you regretted later, because you were angry or sad? 

Emotions absolutely affect our decision-making, which can cause us to make bad moves in business. When we work on our emotional intelligence, it’s easier for us to stay in control (especially in high-pressure situations) and weigh the pros and cons of a decision before moving forward with it.

Better Conflict Resolution

It’s easier to resolve conflicts between coworkers when everyone is emotionally intelligent (or is working on becoming more emotionally intelligent). When people can see where others are coming from, be empathic, and remain in control of their emotions during discussions, it’s easier for everyone to get on the same page and prevent problems from escalating.

Better Responses to Constructive Criticism

Some workers have a hard time handling criticism, even when it’s constructive and delivered appropriately. By working on their emotional intelligence, it’s easier for people to learn how to respond to criticism without taking it personally.

Better Collaboration and Teamwork

When everyone is working toward strengthening their emotional intelligence, it’s easier for team members to work together on projects and respect others’ ideas and perspectives. Emotional intelligence allows for more empathy and understanding in all areas of one’s life, including their work life.

Increased Responsibility and Accountability

Emotionally intelligent people can take responsibility and be accountable for their actions and reactions. 

Emotionally intelligent people aren’t perfect, and they do lose control of their tempers or react poorly from time to time. However, they’re able to identify where their reaction came from, recognize why it wasn’t appropriate, and take responsibility for the effects it may have had on others.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Make Better Leaders?

All workers can benefit from trying to improve their emotional intelligence scores. However, when people in leadership positions, specifically, make it a priority, they’re able to get better at their jobs and provide better guidance to their team members. 

The following are some specific ways that emotional intelligence leads to improvements in leadership:

More Awareness

Self-aware leaders can look at themselves objectively and see how their emotions might be guiding their decision-making. They’re then able to shift gears and ensure they’re making choices that are good for everyone and the company as a whole.

Better Self-Regulation

A leader who is constantly losing their temper, threatening their team members, and passing blame to others is not a good leader. By working on your emotional intelligence, you can avoid these behaviours and show up better for your team.

More Empathy

Emotionally intelligent leaders are more empathetic and understanding. They can put themselves in their employees’ shoes during difficult situations, figure out where they’re coming from, and respond accordingly.

Better Collaboration

Emotionally intelligent leaders can work with their teams. They don’t just bark out orders and provide critical feedback. They’re able to connect with their workers in a more genuine way, which leads to better results, increased engagement, and improved productivity.

Reduced Stress

Working on your emotional intelligence can help you to manage your stress and the way you respond to it, too. When you improve your sense of emotional intelligence, you can handle difficult situations better and avoid overreacting or projecting your feelings onto others.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence at Work

Clearly, emotional intelligence has its benefits. How does one become more emotionally intelligent, though? Here are some steps to take to improve your emotional intelligence score:

Become More Self-Aware

Practice identifying your emotions and the way they affect you physically and mentally (this includes your decision-making).

Practice Self-Regulation

Practice using breathwork, journaling, and other tactics to regulate strong emotions when they start to rise.

Improve Social Skills

Practice actively listening to others and paying attention to their nonverbal cues.

Practice Empathy

Practice putting yourself in others’ shoes and seeing things from their perspective.

Invest in Training

Finally, don’t be afraid to invest in training. 

There’s a lot you and your team can do on an individual level to increase emotional intelligence. However, the best way to see results in the workplace as quickly as possible is to invest in an emotional intelligence training program.

Start Increasing Emotional Intelligence Today

From the executive level to junior employees, everyone can benefit from being part of a workplace that values emotional intelligence. 

Keep the information outlined above in mind, especially the tips on increasing emotional intelligence, so you can start creating a better, more collaborative work environment for everyone on your team.