Emotional Intelligence and Workplace Success

Colorful gear icons represent different attributes of emotional intelligence.

Consider, for a brief moment, everyone in your workplace. Is there someone who stands out in your mind as a person who just seems to evoke an inherently negative response in you? A person who makes you cringe inside the second they walk through the door or makes you want to throw your computer through the wall after you read the first few lines of an email? (Or maybe that one is just me.) Every workplace seems to have ‘one,’ but that ‘one’ isn’t always the same individual for you as it is for your peer(s), your boss, or even the clientele base your organization serves.

Workplaces are an assimilation of talents–both intellectual and creative–with each individual hand selected by a superior (perhaps even yourself) with the understanding and intention to bring their unique skill set that is applicable to and will help drive the success of the business and thus every individual working therein. Along with what is often a wide range of specialties (think: Human Resources, Administrative, Graphic Design, IT, and so on and so forth) comes to a variety of personalities, perspectives, backgrounds, and inherent ways of working, living, and being. You cannot (and should not) expect to hold a meaningful and personable relationship that is reciprocated on an emotional level with each and every person in your office.

Understand that it has been reported that an astounding 40% of employee turnover rates have been due to disagreements between employees and supervisors.[1] When you do encounter individuals who might “rub you the wrong way,” what do you do? Moreso, how do you even begin to recognize if you are effective in navigating the multitude of cultures and subcultures present within an office environment, both as an employee and employer?

Hexagon icons represent different attributes of emotional intelligence.
Hexagon icons represent different attributes of emotional intelligence. Illustration by Amruta Awate.

A significant amount of research has been conducted on the behaviors and underlying neural mechanisms and processes to comprise a series of models falling under a unified term, now generally recognized as Emotional Intelligence. Within these efforts, some researchers have sought to investigate the distinct relationship between emotional intelligence and success in the workplace, identifying behaviors and practices in layman’s terms to enable employers and employees alike to develop the vital communicative and interactive skills necessary for a cohesive work environment.

Though the study of emotion is incredibly elusive by nature, and thus the copious amount of research models differ slightly in concluding theoretical assumptions, a majority do agree that the following behaviors are a hallmark in individuals who exude higher EI traits:[2][3]

  1. Awareness/Perception of self and others
    1. Perceiving emotions accurately in oneself and others
  2. Flexible
  3. Empathetic
  4. Self-Regulating
    1. Managing emotions effectively so as to obtain specific goals
  5. Motivated (Curious)
    1. Using emotions to facilitate thinking
  6. Communicative (verbally and non-verbally)

An additional notion concerning EI that resonates throughout most of the literature is the understanding that our EI is plastic; it can develop or deteriorate over time at any point in our life. So, if you find that you do not see many traits on this list that align with your own way of approaching your work environment, do not fret! Look at some of the free resources below to figure out your current EI level and what you can do to raise it if needed.


Originally published in the Zealousness e-magazine in 2019. Revised and updated in 2022. Read more personal development related articles on Zealousness blog Personal Development – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org)





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