Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Leader and employee emotions have long been neglected in the workplace, assuming that these had better “be left at home”, without this affecting the quality of output produced or the relationships formed. The truth is that we cannot disregard emotions at work, or at home; nor should we do so.


We should, therefore, be smart about how we use emotion, otherwise our personal and professional lives will be negatively affected.


It is scientifically proven that:


  • Any decision we make (be it personal or professional) is influenced by our emotions and/or those of others.
  • Emotions are contagious; therefore, any interaction with another contains an exchange of emotion that can affect both parties. The same applies when more than two parties interact with each other, within teams or company environments, for instance.
  • About 80% of all thoughts we have at the end of the day are repetitive, 90% of these being negative.


The good news is that it is also proven that we can identify, manage, and leverage our thoughts and emotions, in order to foster positive interactions, make rational decisions, and achieve the objectives and goals we set. It is only a matter of rewiring these habits into our minds.


The difference between successful and stagnant leadership


Decades of research show a correlation between Emotional Intelligence, productivity, and efficiency in the workplace.


In his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman writes: “The rules for work are changing. We are being judged by a new criterion: not only by how smart we are, by our aptitudes or experience, but also by how well we handle ourselves and others… The new criterion assumes having sufficient intellectual capacity and technical knowledge, instead focusing on personal qualities such as self-initiative, empathy, adaptability, persuasion… In other words, what matters today is being able to be smart in a different way.”

Some data indicating the importance of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace:


  • A study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the main causes preventing executives from climbing the corporate ladder involve deficits in Emotional Intelligence competencies. The study identifies a lack of adaptability, an inability to work in a team, and poor interpersonal relationships as the three primary causes.
  • According to Case Western Reserve University professor Richard Boyatzis, who studied several hundred executives from twelve American companies, the executives with increased self-awareness were associated with a superior performance to those who lacked it.
  • Another study of 130 executives, conducted by the Clark Associates, concluded that the executives’ ability to manage their own emotions determined the number of people who wanted to interact with them.
  • Human resources firm Egon Zehnder International analyzed 515 leaders from different Latin American countries, in addition to Germany and Japan. The analysis concluded that those who had competencies in Emotional Intelligence were more likely to be successful than those who had more experience in their sector or a high IQ. The three distinct cultural regions had almost identical results.
  • A study conducted by PepsiCo found that its executives with high emotional coefficients generated 10% more income than those without, in addition to a 1000% return on investment after receiving emotional training.
  • Sheraton trained its leaders in Emotional Intelligence, and thereafter saw a 24% increase in company market share.
  • The World Economic Forum identified ten job skills that will be crucial for career success in the 21st century (and for the year 2021, specifically); Emotional Intelligence was ranked as the sixth most important skill. The remaining identified abilities are clearly characteristic of emotionally intelligent people.


A leader with low Emotional Intelligence negatively affects employees. According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential (IHHP):


  • More than 80% of the competencies that distinguish excellent workers and leaders from others are characteristic of emotionally intelligent people.
  • 80% of workers who have a negative relationship with their bosses end up unmotivated.
  • 50% of employees who decide to leave a company do so primarily to get away from their superiors.
  • 18% of workers suffer from stress.


Employee stress, demotivation, and a lack of adaptability are proven to cost organizations millions each year. According to Six Seconds, the teams that demonstrate the greatest commitment to their work are:


  • 50% more likely to have roster changes,
  • 56% more likely to acquire greater than average customer loyalty,
  • 38% more likely to have above-average productivity, and
  • 27% more likely to achieve higher profits.

Developing Emotional Intelligence for professional growth


Emotionally intelligent leaders and employees in a company or organization accept, validate, and respect both their own emotions and those of others. They use bodily sensations as data for making decisions; they do mental preparation in order to better manage their emotional impulses; they are cognizant of insecurities, prejudices, and biases that might be clouding their judgment, and are better capable of putting them aside.


These professionals know their strengths and recognize opportunities for improvement, thus developing the self-confidence and motivation necessary to grow. The increased understanding they have of themselves means that they also have a clear vision of their dreams, personal motivations, and professional goals. They are also better able to communicate their feelings, goals, and ideas to others.


They are aware of what they can control and what they cannot, see opportunities rather than obstacles, and can adapt to any environment and team. They are empathetic in any circumstance and manage their stress more effectively than those who haven’t learned how to manage their emotions. As a result, they allow for better efficiency and creativity among their peers and subordinates. A respectful, empathetic, and positive atmosphere increases team commitment and contributes to the success of the organization.


Developing social and emotional skills positively affects commitment in the workplace, teamwork, talent development, the capacity to innovate, quality of service, and customer loyalty – or, in the case of educational institutions, the parents’ trust and the students’ commitment. Emotionally intelligent people have been proven to experience greater career success, build stronger personal relationships, lead more effectively, and better cope with external pressure and demands.


Emotionally intelligent people tend to experience more pleasant emotions than others, and lead a happier life.


Emotionally intelligent institutions are formed by emotionally intelligent individuals who have the potential to leave their biases and agendas aside, in order to help build a more peaceful and just world. Decisions are always driven by emotions and, when emotions are not managed or taken seriously, they have the power to negatively impact others both inside and outside of the institution’s direct influence. Emotions should therefore always be taken into consideration when making decisions and leveraged in service of the institution’s vision.


The same applies to child and youth development professionals. Emotionally intelligent leaders, educators, and stakeholders involved in child and youth development are better suited to create an atmosphere that fosters growth, and to rear emotionally intelligent individuals. In order for that to happen successfully, all professionals involved need to develop their emotional intelligence; this enables their institutions to create a ripple effect that positively affects children, students, families, and communities at large.


Resilient and empathetic child and youth development organizations have the potential of translating into resilient and empathetic societies in the future.

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