For many years, emotions were something that most people assumed were best checked at the office door. After all, bringing emotions into the work environment was seen as an unnecessary intrusion. Today, there’s a growing recognition of the fact that emotions, when managed well, may in fact support our work and even have a positive impact on measurable outcomes ranging from productivity to worker retention. As a result, many organizations are now actively attempting to foster emotional intelligence and in some cases, screening candidates on the basis of their emotional intelligence rather than simply on the basis of their technical or communication skills.
What is EQ?
Since the publication of Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book on the topic in 1995, the concept of emotional intelligence or EQ has continued to gain currency. In a nutshell, EQ refers to our ability to identify, use and manage emotions to support our work and life goals. The higher your EQ, the more likely you are to be able to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others and to manage these states in a positive rather than negative way. In other words, it means being self-aware and socially aware and knowing how to manage yourself and other people in a productive and supportive manner.
Impact on Workers and the Work Environment
Workplaces that support the development of emotional intelligence across the workforce may see gains on a myriad of levels. First, EQ is integral to managing the complex social terrain of the workplace. It also plays an integral role in developing effective and motivational leaders. Indeed, alongside advanced technical skills and communication skills, many organizations recognize high EQ as a core quality in their most productive and invaluable workers. Second, EQ is closely linked to communication. People with highly developed EQs tend to be better able to express their feelings and thereby, have stronger communication skills and stronger relationships with co-workers. Finally, EQ impacts both physical and mental health. In short, workers who are able to handle stressful situations and even turn them around in a positive way are not only less likely to experience stress and anxiety but in turn, less likely to experience the negative physical impacts of stress and anxiety. In the long term, this can lead to higher productivity and place less strain on employee health plans.
Selling EQ Training to Workers
While there is little doubt that raising one’s EQ is good for organizations (indeed, there are now training consultants across the US who specialize in EQ training), in some workplaces, introducing EQ training remains a challenge. After all, despite the growing recognition that emotional intelligence matters across work environments, some workers remain unwilling to take emotions seriously. So how does one sell EQ training to a group of mechanical engineers or stockbrokers whose initial reaction to such an initiative may be to dismiss it as flaky, new age or simply “soft”? If EQ is a hard sell in your workplace, begin with the facts, which suggest we all have the ability to change and all have something to gain from doing so.
First, research on EQ suggests that while our emotional intelligence tends to be more or less stable over time (like athleticism, some people are just more emotionally intelligent than others), it is not calcified. With the right training, we can become more emotionally intelligent over time. Unlike physical potential, however, one’s EQ tends to go up not down with age. Second, research supports the conclusion that EQ training can have an impact. Bear in mind, however, that ongoing support may be necessary to ensure that the impacts have an enduring effect. Third, if you want your EQ training program to be effective, it is important to choose the right trainer. After all, not all trainers are made alike and one trainer may be better for your work environment than another. If you can find an EQ trainer who is a good fit for your work environment, however, their intervention can have a transformative short- and long-term effect on individual workers and the broader organization.