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He’s the guy everyone wants to be: he moves through the room with comfort and ease, can talk to anyone, and always leaves people feeling good after a conversation. He’s the co-worker who makes everything look easy, who seems to have all the luck, and the one person everyone likes. If he weren’t so likeable it’d be almost obnoxious. How does he do that?
The key to being that guy in the office is emotional intelligence.
There are many skills that help you thrive in the workplace: organizational, technological, time management, communication and problem solving. Of all these skills, emotional intelligence can be ranked among the most useful. Applied Psychology experts say emotional intelligence is a comprehension skill that helps you understand and adapt to other people’s emotions and motivations as well as your own. It helps cut through a lot of the office politics, insecurities and other landmines that weigh down a lot of people in the workplace.
Those in management positions can benefit tremendously from finely honed emotional intelligence. Studies have found that managers with high EI can increase company profit growth by as much as 34 percent, as well as reducing formal grievances by 20 percent. Emotional intelligence helps managers remain calm in the face of stress or incident, empathize and bond with employees, and unify diverse workplaces. A high EI helps managers strengthen their team or department because they can admit to and learn from mistakes (both personally and procedurally) and communicate with those under their authority calmly and thoughtfully, even when presented with a hard topic.
Effectively, emotional intelligence strengthens all the qualities that make a manager into a leader. It can help you determine why an employee is suddenly struggling and how to get them back on track in a supportive, positive way (instead of a performance improvement program). It makes sticky situations, like addressing an employee’s hygiene problem or unwanted romantic workplace overtures, easier for all involved. Leaders can rely on emotional intelligence to make sure their team is engaged in fulfilling tasks that engage their personal skill set for better results — and show their appreciation, increasing loyalty and job satisfaction.
High emotional intelligence is key to developing the traits among the most-desired skills in an employee. Many recruiters and hiring managers rank EI higher than IQ in hiring and promoting decisions. High EI has been linked to better productivity, higher job satisfaction and advancement opportunity. A high EI helps employees fit in and get along with coworkers. Every office has the person who feels compelled to foist their political beliefs onto coworkers, or stir up discontent and drama for their own amusement. EI is the tool that helps employees navigate these pitfalls without getting involved.
Emotional intelligence also plays a big part in doing your job effectively. It helps employees understand directives from higher up (whether bluntly stated or implied). Confidence, a factor of high emotional intelligence, cuts down on indecision or second guessing. It plays a major part in accepting feedback and address criticism — accepting it with a cool head, and not as a personal slight or a sign they are perceived badly. It is a key to emotional freedom, and job satisfaction
Improving Emotional Intelligence
So how do you improve your emotional intelligence? First things first: be aware of your own emotions and manage them. Reduce any incidental stressors to make your time at work friendlier to your well-being. Take stock of your feelings, and try to get to the root of them. Mindfully practice a positive outlook.
Learn how to deal with negative emotions. Work on dismissing unwarranted frustration, anxiety or annoyance. Don’t hold grudges. Move past agitations that have no solution, whether they be from coworkers who stubbornly refuse to correct a wrong or a hole punch that always sticks.
Be aware of how you present yourself to others. Keep your body language in check — your facial expression, posture and gestures should all communicate what you want them to say. Give thought to your words — choose them carefully. Take measure of the things you say — are your conversations more frequently positive or negative?
Understand that what people do or say is more about them than it is you. Don’t internalize other people’s behavior to be about you. Instead, think about other reasonable causes for their words or behavior.
Listen. Don’t interrupt or abruptly change the subject. Listen to understand, not to respond. Look for body language, and see if it matches the conversation. Ask questions. Summarize and repeat back what you think you’ve heard to eliminate misunderstandings.
Care about your coworkers and employees. Invest in their successes and happiness. Help them to not just feel important, but be important. Consider their needs, talents, comfort levels. Take their feedback and truly think about it’s validity, effectiveness or cost (both in money and manpower) to implement.
It’s a tough skill to master, but with work and practice, emotional intelligence takes you from just another employee to a happy, invaluable member of your work community.