The benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace

Self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, empathy and social skills are all qualities that mark people who excel in life and at work.

Business colleagues [Illustrative] (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Business colleagues [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
According to research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and reported by Forbes magazine (March 5, 2015), 36 separate studies show a strong correlation between emotional intelligence and job performance and success.
In fact, the studies show that although high cognitive intelligence (IQ) does help to enhance and can boost emotional intelligence, the degree of emotional intelligence is a more important predictor of success than just having cognitive intelligence. Emotional intelligence enables people to have positive interactions with others, to predict others’ thoughts and feelings, and to engage in appropriate levels of empathy (, August 2, 2012).
Two psychologists, P. Salovey and J.D. Meyer, first coined the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990. A few years later, New York Times science editor and psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ. Goleman wrote that our view of human intelligence is far too narrow, and that our emotions play a major role in thought, decision-making and individual success. Self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, empathy and social skills are all qualities that mark people who excel in life.
Some years ago, a hi-tech company sought me out to do recruitment interviewing for potential candidates. I knew very little about the technical demands of the jobs these candidates were seeking. The company had developed effective tests and interviews to evaluate technical proficiency. What they wanted from me was to help them evaluate the emotional intelligence of their applicants.
The model that the organization utilized to find the right people is called the strategic selection process. This concept is based on matching two major components in the job recruitment process: the requirements of the job and the assessment of the candidate’s skills to see if they match up.
The human resource director who hired me explained that there were two major factors necessary for choosing the right candidate: the technical skills and the emotional skills. As a psychotherapist, I was fascinated to see how many of the required skills were part of the emotional and psychological realm, even though the jobs were highly technical and leadership positions. Some of the emotional dimensions included communication with others, crisis management, interpersonal empathy and influence, group management skills, self-motivation, emotional strength and maturity, and personal integrity.
I discovered that my role as a clinician and psychotherapist and my interviewing skills allowed me to do what the company asked me to do quite nicely. I filled out rating profiles that matched the job profile and the candidate’s emotional skills that were deemed important on the particular job the individual was seeking.
That experience in recruitment evaluation was a teachable moment in my career. It certainly matches the findings of early research in the 1990s by Goleman and others described above. Looking at the literature on emotional intelligence in the workplace, I found many of the same factors that reflect my experience in recruitment evaluation.
This is the ability to label, recognize and understand your own emotions. Self-awareness requires us to be cognizant of our feelings such as anxiety, fear, sadness, and to recognize how our emotions influence our behaviors, decision-making and general view of things.
Emotional regulation and impulse control
Emotional regulation describes our ability to control strong emotions by not acting on raw feelings in an impulsive or destructive manner. When emotions are stirred up, it is important to know how to sit with negative feelings before acting. People with this skill are more likely to use their emotional strength by not acting impulsively and to think more clearly before making a decision. This is the basis of good, rational decision-making in the workplace.
Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. In work settings, people who have good empathy skills are able to understand their co-workers or subordinates and perhaps be more patient with them. This skill translates to a person’s ability to get along better with co-workers. For leadership positions, it is essential for a leader to be emotionally understanding of the feelings of a subordinate or fellow team member. It adds to the interpersonal cohesion of people working alongside one another.
Active listening and good communication skills
Active listening is a core feature of good communication. Active listeners listen with an open heart and open mind and really try to hear and understand what the other person is feeling or thinking.
Communication is the ability to say things clearly and make sure that the listener understands.
Conflict resolution
The issue of conflict resolution in the workplace reminds me of what I often tell clients when they are in a crisis. At some point in the process, rather than focusing on their perception of the danger in the situation that they are facing, search for the potential opportunity. The same holds true with conflict resolution in the workplace. Do not fear conflict, embrace it; it is part of your job.
When you have emotional intelligence, you will find it easier to empathize with others. This essential trait will come in handy in projects that demand teamwork.
Good teamwork leads to good job performance and getting projects done.
WHAT DOES this mean for the job-seeker? In today’s competitive job market, being intelligent and having specialized knowledge to do the job is simply not enough. When human resource professionals interview candidates, they are also looking for a person who has a strong dose of emotional intelligence.
The good news is that people can increase their emotional intelligence by taking courses or speaking to a therapist about improving the aspects of it that need to be cultivated.
■ The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist, with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana.,