Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

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Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
02.09.2020
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The concept of emotional intelligence is extensively used in various workplace psychology studies. Despite the term, “emotional intelligence”, is versatile, multidimensional, and complex, it is usually defined as the ability to monitor and interpret one’s own and others’ emotions, moods, and feelings with the purpose to guide one’s thinking, behaviors, and actions. Emotional intelligence is hypothesized to affect and shape the success with which employees interact, communicate, and collaborate with coworkers, and to determine tactics they use to cope with conflicts and stressful situations. The current paper aims to shed light on the concept of emotional intelligence and the significance of emotional management in the workplace. In addition, much attention is paid to the link between emotional intelligence and organizational productivity. Finally, the paper analyzes and assesses the core benefits and downsides of emotional intelligence, and discusses the best practices and strategies employees can utilize to contribute to personal and professional successes.

Introduction

Emotional intelligence is one of the most significant assets and vitally important success factors in different careers. Moreover, the concept of EI is far more influential than IQ and technical expertise because it contributes to superior performance at work, drastically reduces stress and anxiety among employees, decreases both burnout and retention rates, improves employee satisfaction and self-esteem creates a healthy working atmosphere and fosters transparent and direct communication. The current paper aims to elucidate the concept of emotional intelligence and its effectiveness in the workplace. In addition, much emphasis is placed on the impact of emotional intelligence on productivity and employee performance. Finally, the research paper examines and determines to what extent employee emotional intelligence is essential in the occupational environment, its advantages and disadvantages, and, finally, the increased need in balancing and managing the pros and cons of emotional intelligence.

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The Concept of Emotional Intelligence

The phenomenon of emotional intelligence is one of the most ambiguous and controversial topics. Researchers actively investigate the impact of emotional intelligence on team performance, productivity, and organizational effectiveness. Despite the term, “emotional intelligence”, is interpreted in different ways, researchers agree that EI is one of the best predictors of organizational performance (Brackett, Rivers, & Salovey, 2011). According to the studies by different researchers, emotional intelligence (EI) is an ability of people to recognize emotions of other individuals to balance and manage relationships. Brackett, et al. (2011) who explore implications of emotional intelligence for social and workplace success, define emotional intelligence as a combination of competencies which ensure a unique chance to be aware of, understand, recognize, objectively assess, and be in control of own emotions as well as emotions of other people (Brackett et al., 2011). Researchers claim that emotional intelligence is one of the most critical factors responsible for determining and influencing success not only in personal well-being but also in shaping interactions between employees and their work environment (Brackett et al., 2011). According to the contemporary meaning, EI is an effective adaptive mechanism, which assists employees in coping with challenging, unstable, and competitive work environment (Brackett et al., 2011).

Shahhosseini et al. (2012), who explore the role of EI on job performance, prove that there are three main factors, which influence and shape emotional intelligence, including controversies among researchers, specific time in history, and impact of the popular culture (Shahhosseini, Silong, Islaill, & Uli, 2012). The researchers are proponents of the idea that the definition of the term “emotional intelligence” should not be limited to traditional academic intelligence (Shahhosseini et al., 2012). The concept of emotional intelligence involves a set of essential abilities to perceive, analyze, and reason the information on emotions and feelings. In other words, the notion of EI is the ability of people to accurately and objectively perceive, regulate, and manage emotions and feelings (Shahhosseini et al., 2012). Therefore, emotional intelligence can be interpreted as a vast array of non-cognitive capabilities, characteristics, and competencies that affect one’s ability to succeed in providing solutions to challenging environmental pressures and demands (Downey, Roberts, & Stough, 2011). The main components of emotional intelligence are as follows: self-awareness, self-regulation, well-developed interpersonal skills, stress tolerance, adaptability to flexible environment, motivation, and optimism (Downey et al., 2011). Thus, despite a variety of research controversies and debates, emotional intelligence is an exceptional ability to perceive, analyze, and express emotions, assimilate these feelings and emotions into thought, and explain and regulate positive and negative emotions in the self and others.

Effectiveness of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

The role of emotional intelligence in the workplace is of paramount importance because it maintains healthy working environment and atmosphere, contributes to development of cohesive and collaborative teams, and gives an opportunity to retain “right” employees (Lunenburg, 2011). According to the results of statistical data, emotional intelligence influences and maximizes organizational effectiveness in a variety of areas, especially employee recruitment and retention rates, development of skills and talents, effectiveness of teamwork, employee loyalty and commitment, morale, innovation and efficiency, sales and revenues, quality of services, and, finally, satisfaction of customers (Lunenburg, 2011). Emotional intelligence is essential in the workplace because it exerts a positive influence on retention and recruitment of talented and skilled employees. For instance, the extent to which emotional intelligence of candidates is used in making crucial executive decisions has a fundamental influence on the overall success or failure of those people (Lunenburg, 2011). In simple words, emotional intelligence ensures an excellent opportunity to make correct hiring decisions (Lunenburg, 2011).

The concept of EI contributes to accumulation of experience and development of talent. For example, emotional intelligence of leaders, mentors, and peers affects the future relationships and interactions in a company, since their influence can help create friendly workplace environment and increase organizational effectiveness (Lunenburg, 2011). Moreover, the concept of emotional intelligence should not be limited to an individual level, because EI, as a group-level phenomenon, contributes to creation and development of emotionally intelligent groups (Lunenburg, 2011). EI teams are critically important in the workplace because these cooperative, committed, and creative groups promote organizational excellence (Lunenburg, 2011).

Brackett et al. (2011), who investigate the correlation between EI and workplace success, successfully argue that individuals with a high level of emotional intelligence usually experience a harmonious and healthy balance of feelings, including increased motivation, fulfillment, self-respect and self-control, appreciation, autonomy, and peace of mind (Brackett et al., 2011). On the contrary, low level or absence of emotional intelligence promotes anger, instability, frustration and dissatisfaction among employees, resentment, failure to set realistic goals and pursue organizational missions, dependence, and emptiness (Brackett et al., 2011). Researchers have found that increased emotional awareness is far more important than IQ because abilities to manage feelings determine satisfaction and happiness of employees in their professional life. Therefore, local companies and multinational organizations have revealed that IQ alone should not be viewed as a reliable predictor of employee performance and success (Brackett et al., 2011).

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EI promotes workplace atmosphere and environment, where ideas and viewpoints of every employee are respected, aggression and adverse behaviors are eliminated, leaders celebrate small successes and wins of every worker, diversity is understood and respected, integrity is valued, and employees work as a strong and effective team (Brackett et al., 2011). Research evidence indicates that EI is hypothesized to affect the processes of interaction and collaboration among employees, and positively influence strategies the workforce uses to manage misunderstandings and stress at work that put at risk an overall job performance (Brackett et al., 2011). According to numerous assessments that have measured the impact of emotional intelligence on workplace outcomes, EI is directly linked to leadership performance and team performance. The impact of emotional intelligence on leadership behavior and actions is essential because leaders within organizations bear responsibility not only for personal emotions and feelings, but also for mood of every team member (Brackett et al., 2011).

Kannaiah & Shanti (2015) share the views of the researchers who believe that high level of emotional intelligence is directly linked to effective workplace (Kannaiah & Shanti, 2015). The researchers suggest that EI improves strategic abilities of companies and organizations. Moreover, high EI turns employees into “star performers” who pursue and successfully achieve organizational missions and objectives (Kannaiah & Shanti, 2015). One of the studies presented by Kannaiah & Shanti (2015) explains that emotional intelligence in the workplace results in a variety of positive outcomes as it considerably increases self-awareness and self-expression, boosts creativity and tolerance, improves trust and integrity, and contributes to performance of each employee as well as organization as a whole (Kannaiah & Shanti, 2015). Finally, the research by Kannaiah & Shanti (2015) demonstrates and confirms that emotional intelligence in the workplace contributes to the development of competitive advantage and makes other competitors lag behind (Kannaiah & Shanti, 2015). Thus, promoting EI in the workplace is the most optimal, rational, and conscious decision, as the ability to express emotions and feelings will enable employees to share the best of themselves with other employees and not to reveal their worst and hurt their coworkers and friends. Emotional intelligence and competence are of utmost importance in the workplace because these factors assist leadership and employees in maintaining an atmosphere and environment of flexibility, loyalty, commitment, adaptability, rewards, trust, clarity, and truthfulness.

Emotional Intelligence and Organizational Productivity

For several decades, great researchers have devoted their efforts to the study of the link between emotional intelligence and productivity of companies and organizations. Taking into consideration research observations, EI has the power to boost organizational productivity and increase occupational performance (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). Researchers have revealed fascinating findings, saying that emotional intelligence has a tremendous positive impact on annual profit growth (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). With the purpose to maximize organizational productivity, companies and organizations have to focus on various applications of EI in the workplace using such tactics and strategies as EI profiling, team training and development, training on individual and corporate levels, succession planning, corporate coaching, and many others (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011).

Like most authors, Sahdat and Sajjad (2011) suggest that emotional intelligence influences not only employee satisfaction and happiness, but also boosts organizational productivity. Once employees are aware of and possess enough capabilities to manage own emotions, they have an opportunity to work with increased productivity and efficiency (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). Emotionally intelligent employees directly and indirectly influence productivity because these individuals usually get more satisfaction from their work. Adequate understanding and respect of emotions of other people maintain friendly, supportive, and harmonious relationships between leadership and employees that, consequently, assist in enhancing organizational productivity (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011).

According to a variety of analytical papers, emotional intelligence is one of the strategic tools for boosting organizational productivity, because it drastically increases the value and efficiency of the human resources working within organizations (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). Research evidence indicates that lack of EI can decrease performance and productivity because employees who are unhappy and dissatisfied with their job are demotivated and perform worse than usual (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). As reported by Bhaskaran & Jubi (2014), who research the impact of EI on increased productivity of professionals in software industry, emotional intelligence affects and shapes productivity. More specifically, it assists employees in managing stressful situations, gives the chance to control depression, motivates employees to understand and control self, understand and respect emotions of colleagues, respond with empathy to complex situations, and, finally, be ready to respond with compassion and facts (Bhaskaran & Jubi, 2014). In conclusions, after having investigated the studies of the researchers concerning the effects of EI on organizational productivity, it is possible to come to conclusion that this phenomenon maximizes productivity because it decreases conflicts and misunderstandings among employees. EI teaches and motivates employees to resolve disputes in a peaceful manner, manage own emotions, and respect emotions of coworkers. Emotional intelligence contributes to greater productivity and performance, increases sales, promotes stability of staff and worker satisfaction, and fosters communication and interactions among employees.

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence at Workplace

Employees with low emotional intelligence put at risk organizational reputation and success, as lack of EI is directly linked to poor morale and unhealthy relationships among coworkers. In general, emotional intelligence at work influences the way employees interact, collaborate, and communicate. Companies who hire emotionally intelligent employees understand that EI is one of the most critical advantages in today’s competitive business environment since employees who are able to recognize emotions of other people and manage own emotional state are the most effective problem-solvers and efficient decision-makers (Deleon, 2015). Deleon (2015), who explores the benefits of EI in the workplace, emphasizes that as the workplace continuously evolves, it is critically important for every employee to follow emotional intelligence rules (Deleon, 2015). The author provides evidence that EI matters at work because it maintains healthy and harmonious professional relationships among employees, motivates them to practice transparent communication, and drastically increases personal effectiveness (Deleon, 2015). Moreover, emotional intelligence is the key to personal and professional success because being able to recognize and manage emotions is one of the most crucial factors for successful career growth. M. Deleon (2015) is a proponent of the idea that EI in the workplace improves critical-thinking and analytical skills, equips every employee with the most effective capabilities to cope with negative emotions, and enhances leadership competence, as EI helps leaders develop empathy, inspire, motivate, influence, and, finally, persuade followers (Deleon, 2015).

Emotional intelligence offers tremendous benefits because it fosters effective and cohesive teamwork and collaboration. Teams with emotionally intelligent workforce acknowledge the increased significance of individual and collective relationships, interactions, moods, and emotions (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015). In addition, employees who possess very high levels of EI are more self-confident and more self-aware, compared to individuals with poor emotional intelligence. People with decreased emotional intelligence do not recognize critical feedbacks, lay blame on other employees, rely on passive and aggressive comments, play the role of victims, are not capable to work in teams, fail to self-regulate, are pessimistic, and fail to face and cope with disappointments (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015).

Daniel Goleman (2009), who investigates EI and its application in the workplace, stresses that EI is definitely far more important that IQ because emotions and feelings usually play a predominant role in thoughts, decision-making processes, and professional successes (Goleman, 2009). Emotional intelligence enhances relationships among people and makes them flourish. Emotionally intelligent employees benefit companies and organizations to the greatest extent because EI contributes to self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, enthusiasm, motivation, empathy, and collaboration among employees with different characters, viewpoints, and worldviews (Goleman, 2009). Thus, emotional intelligence is the most effective tool that enables people to balance rationality and emotions. EI contributes to self-awareness, emotional regulation, collaboration, and empathy. Finally, EI promotes strong social skills that encourage employees to share their emotions and communicate in a clear, comprehensive, and courteous manner.

Downsides of Emotional Intelligence

Being able to recognize emotions of other people and control own feelings are the most fundamental elements of emotional intelligence. Although EI has a vast array of benefits in the workplace, it is characterized by numerous disadvantages. Misuse of emotional intelligence is a common phenomenon that happens when leaders make decisions that best serve them and have a threatening effect on other employees (Lunenburg, 2011). In other words, many irresponsible and selfish leaders rely on high emotional intelligence to manipulate their subordinates (Lunenburg, 2011). Because EI is extensively applied in the workplace and various business settings, it can be used to make certain employees feel inferior. One of the most important downsides of emotional intelligence is associated with time (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015). It takes time to enhance and develop the necessary skills and characteristics to fully harness and maximize the effect of emotional intelligence. In order to increase employees’ levels of EI, they have to accumulate all their strength to combat their negative habits, anxieties, and fears (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015).

Testing and negative views are two most important downsides of emotional intelligence (Kannaiah & Shanthi, 2015). Testing of emotional intelligence is a complicated and challenging task because personal temperament and personality have the power to influence the processes of EI learning (Braskaran & Jubi, 2014). On the one hand, testing of EI based on the nature considers the following factors: personality, emotional stability, character, and conscientiousness. On the other hand, testing based on nurture mainly focuses on teamwork, leadership skills, and, finally, essential interpersonal skills (Braskaran & Jubi, 2014). Negative or false view is another crucial downside of emotional intelligence because many employees do not take the importance of this concept seriously. According to the results of statistical data, significant percentage of employees is deeply convinced that workplace excludes emotional reactions and feelings, while considers logic and rationality to be the two main powers that rule and motivate people to pursue organizational missions and objectives (Braskaran & Jubi, 2014).

Social scientists who explore and document the negative side of EI claim that when leaders deliver inspiring speeches filled with excessive emotions, the followers are less likely to scrutinize the delivered message and do not remember the content (Braskaran & Jubi, 2014). However, results of recent experiments with participation of more than 1500 employees prove that leaders should try to “break hearts” of employees to persuade them to follow certain mission and support a particular project (Braskaran & Jubi, 2014). Therefore, leaders who continuously master their emotions have the capacity to rob employees of their analytical skills and capacities to reason (Grant, 2014). Thus, according to the new evidence presented by researchers, when leaders pursue self-serving motives, EI becomes tool to effectively manipulate and ignore viewpoints and ideas of other people. S. Cote, a famous psychologist, provides arguments that many employees rely on high levels of emotional intelligence to engage in the most harmful and aggressive behaviors with the purpose to demean and embarrass their coworkers for personal gains and successes (Grant, 2014). In addition, in jobs and settings that do not require extensive attention to emotions, highly developed EI usually translates into decreased performance (Grant, 2014). Thus, it is critically important to remember that EI may have numerous hidden costs that put at risk personal and professional successes of employees. In some jobs and settings, being in touch with emotions seems to be a hazardous detriment that threatens health and well-being of employees.

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Emotional Management: Balancing Pros and Cons

Emotional intelligence training programs for employees and leaders are the most effective tactic to balance pros and cons, and enhance EI by better recognizing and managing emotions under pressure. Training programs and courses enable employees to focus on managing, recognizing, and respecting emotions by understanding how to control emotions in the most complicated and controversial situations (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011). Training courses and programs are extremely effective because learners can explore the brain science of emotions that shapes behavior of people under pressure, develop practical tactics to respond to negative emotions more skillfully, accurately identify emotional pressures, and learn many other lessons (Sahdat & Sajjad, 2011).

Leaders and managers should invest into the development of emotional intelligence, emotional competence, and emotional management, because socially and emotionally competent employees have a positive impact on organizational growth and development. Researchers provide evidence that the ways and strategies of enhancing emotional intelligence are endless (Goleman, 2009). The effectiveness of EI development efforts depends not only on the methods and techniques used, but also on design and implementation of interventions. One of the most optimal ways to promote and improve EI in the workplace includes the following four processes, such as contemplation, preparation, action, and, finally, maintenance (Goleman, 2009). Contemplation is the first phase for promoting emotional management that creates a friendly and encouraging environment, assesses readiness, assists learners in recognizing benefits, teaches learners how to assess the level of EI and provides a constructive feedback, focuses on positive explanations, and, finally, makes the process of learning more self-directed (Goleman, 2009). Preparation phase teaches learners to set clear, realistic, and meaningful goals and objectives. The phase of action fosters practice and provides constructive feedback on performance. Finally, maintenance teaches learners to enhance emotional management skills and experiences (Goleman, 2009).

In order to boost emotional intelligence and learn how to diffuse anger, and accurately decode emotions and unspoken feelings of other people, employees have to understand that EI is the important for effective performance (Downey et al., 2011). Leaders who want to improve their emotional management should follow several simple strategies. They have to increase their self-awareness, improve listening skills, express a genuine interest in subordinates, enhance a strong sense of respect and appreciation, and develop a unique ability to manage emotions of other people, since EI is the most valuable tool in the economy of human interactions (Downey et al., 2011). EI or the ability to identify, understand, and interpret emotions opens doors for dozens of missed connections and opportunities (Downey et al., 2011).

Shahhosseini et al. (2012), who research the role of EI in effectiveness and performance, stress that employees should pay attention to emotional reactions, and not ignore physical manifestations. Furthermore, they have to connect emotions and behavior, avoid criticizing and judging emotions of other people, be sincere and open-minded, and improve empathy skills in order to understand how other people are feeling (Shahhosseini et al., 2012). In addition, the role of skill-based training in the workplace is of utmost importance because it provides leaders and employees with the necessary resources to create a safe, caring, friendly, and productive environment and atmosphere (Shahhosseini et al., 2012). Finally, emotional management coaching is critically important for employees because this method encompasses four phases, including cognitive, inspirational, determined, and, finally, collaborative (Shahhosseini et al., 2012). In simple words, EI coaching contributes to understanding, commitment, practice, and, finally, feedback. Transformational EI coaching promotes valuing self and others, increases responsive awareness and courage, and contributes to authentic success (Shahhosseini et al., 2012).

Conclusions

In conclusions, the role of emotional intelligence is of paramount importance, as this phenomenon is extremely useful in workplace settings. Moreover, feelings, moods, and emotions of people play a dominant role for the management team, because the ability to understand emotions of the self and respect the moods of other people enhances the effectiveness of leadership, improves cognitive and decision-making processes, and enhances collaboration and interactions among employees. Therefore, emotional intelligence boosts productivity and contributes to effective leadership, as this intelligence motivates leaders to develop collective goals, instill in employees an appreciation, generate confidence and optimism, enhance cooperation and respect, and maximize flexibility. However, in some jobs and settings, being in touch with emotions and moods may result in devastating consequences. Emotional intelligence should not be used to manipulate employees, motivate people to act against organizational interests, and criticize. Emotional intelligence and management are critically significant and worthy of consideration in the workplace because these factors have a tremendous potential to contribute to workplace effectiveness and performance in multiple ways. Emotional intelligence really matters in the workplace because it motivates employees to maintain and develop a healthy balance of feelings, especially motivation, awareness, freedom, appreciation, focus, and, finally, fulfillment.

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