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Mark Slaski (UK)* looks at how the concept of Emotional Intelligence has been applied to the workplace and how having a better understanding of Emotional Intelligence can be useful in the workplace.
Emotional Intelligence 10 years on
Despite early predictions that Emotional Intelligence (EI) was just a fad, 10 years after it first emerged it is still very much a topic of discussion in organisations and amongst consultants. A decade of research has demonstrated time and time again that EI is a key component of leadership and management, and the higher you climb in the organisation the more important it becomes. My own research has shown that managers who score higher on a test of EI report less stress, higher morale and experience less illness. Not only that, but their performance is rated as significantly higher by their immediate line-managers.
So what is emotional intelligence? - Now for the science bit.
One of the first principles of human behaviour is safety and survival. To that end we are constantly scanning our environment for danger, both consciously and unconsciously. Emotions (fear, anger, sadness, joy & disgust) are one major and rapid pathway for alerting us toward challenge and threat in our environment. We also use emotions to communicate this information to others. Recent research has shown that the brain has specific areas dedicated to processing emotional information (Joseph LeDoux - `The Emotional Brain’). An important point is that 21st century survival is as much about self-preservation in the social and psychological world as it is in the physical. So emotional intelligence is really about our ability to integrate our emotions with our cognitive thoughts for everyday safety and survival in the modern world; and like other forms of intelligence some people are better at it than others.
Emotional Intelligence capability
Emotionally intelligent people are capable of reading their own emotions, and understand why they are feeling a particular emotion at a particular time. By virtue of this fact they are also able to control their emotions more appropriately; and in doing so they are more likely to make better decisions. I am sure we have all experienced times of emotional overload when logic seems to fly out of the window! In addition, once people understand and work with their own emotional experiences, they are able to read the emotions of others; they do this through body language, facial expression, tone of voice and listening. As a consequence they are also better at building and maintaining relationships. This is critical in modern organisations where difference and diversity are the norm, and effectiveness is directly related to how well people work together.
EI competencies at work
In the past we have undermined the role emotions play in our everyday life, no more so than at work. I have often heard people say “work and emotions don’t mix”. Our view is changing, and the reality is that we cannot separate emotions from our moment-by-moment human experience, including the workplace. However, if we look at today’s organisations; very few have embraced emotional intelligence as a framework for organisational development. Daniel Goleman (Working with Emotional Intelligence) researched over 500 global organisations and found that whilst technical competencies such as: problem solving, planning & organising and technical skills appear in over 50% of leadership competency frameworks, the emotional intelligence competencies such as: listening, self-control, enthusiasm appear in less than 10%. This is even more incredible when we consider that whilst IQ abilities are somewhat fixed, EI can be improved through coaching, training and development.
Whilst there still remains scepticism and misunderstanding around Emotional Intelligence, those organisations and consultants who have integrated this concept into their developmental approach continue to enjoy greater success through personal, team and organisational effectiveness.
For further information on our Emotional Intelligence360 tool, please click here.
Slaski, M and Cartwright, S. (2002). Health, performance and emotional intelligence: An exploratory study of retail managers. Stress and Health, 18, pp 63-68.
*Dr Mark Slaski - ConsultingTools Chief Psychologist. As a chartered organisational psychologist, Mark has over 15 years experience studying and applying the concepts of human psychology and emotional intelligence at work. His approach blends rigorous academic research with effective real-world practise.
As a senior lecturer in the psychology department at the
Mark is one of only 2