Have you ever worked with someone who had mood swings that affected the whole office? Or maybe you had a colleague who often got angry in meetings, sparking tension and disagreements? Have you worked with someone who always knew the right thing to say to make you feel better? Have you been supervised by someone whose positive attitude infected the entire workplace culture?
These are examples of how emotional intelligence can impact the workplace, whether your workplace is an office, a restaurant, a store, or a factory. Very few people work alone. Most people work on teams or in other kinds of groups. So, employers are looking for people who can navigate those teams well and improve the team by being a member of it. For all these reasons, emotional intelligence is a huge plus for a potential candidate.
So, what exactly is emotional intelligence? The technical definition is that it measures the level of ability an individual has in regulating his or her own emotions and moods as well as understanding and considering the emotions of others. People with high levels of emotional intelligence are adept at adapting to stressful situations and having difficult conversations. They can regulate themselves emotionally and help others to regulate themselves by offering care or respect or positivity. Emotionally intelligent people are good at sensing what other people are feeling and knowing how to react to those feelings in order to reduce tension and conflict.
You can see why this would be a good quality to have with your friends and family, but why does it matter at work? Well, there are certain skills associated with high emotional intelligence that correlate to success at work, including social skills, self-awareness, self-control, and motivation. High emotional intelligence also coincides with the ability to manage stress. Work can be stressful, and employers want to know that their employees can handle that stress in productive ways. They also want to know that their employees are self-aware enough to know how other perceive them, including clients and customers.
How can you cultivate emotional intelligence? Treat your co-workers with respect and build relationships with them. Go to work with a positive attitude whenever possible, and if you’re having a bad day, let people know that you’re struggling. If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated at work, take a moment to examine why before reacting. You will be surprised how often just thinking through a problem or conflict that is upsetting before you react will eliminate the power of the feeling associated with it. Try not to blame others for workplace mistakes but offer solutions to problems. Finally, in your interactions with your co-workers, be in tune with them, ask them how things are going, and actually care about the answer. There is nothing as frustrating as working with someone who only pretends to care. If you build caring relationships at work, you will build your emotional intelligence, and be able to exhibit this at work and in future interviews. With some luck, taking the time to care about those you work with will lead to other opportunities, through referrals and recommendations. There are many different kinds of intelligence, and emotional intelligence is a useful one to work on increasing.
Posted by Jessica Baron, Graduate Assistant Career Advisor at OSU
Excellent article. I agree that emotional intelligence is important. While it’s great to have the “hard skills” on a job, soft skills are just as, if not more important. If one can be part of the solution on the job vs part of the problem, it is a much better and empowering thing for everyone.
Thanks for your kind words about the article, Sabrina! I agree that “soft skills” are so important to workplace success. – Jessica
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