Emotional Empowerment: How to Improve EI in the Workplace to Create Stronger Teams

Monique Mahler | October 8, 2020

"When able to determine what motivates someone's actions, rather than fixating on their impact, employees can better understand how to collaborate with each other."

Whether they show it or not, your workers are struggling to manage mounting pressure right now. Surveys released by the American Psychological Association in May showed a significant rise in average stress levels – and that’s before all of the other upsetting events of 2020. Tension and anxiety seem to be the new norm, with as many as 69% of remote workers exhibiting symptoms of burnout and 59% taking less PTO than in the past. If allowed to build up unaddressed, all of this stress could trigger reduced morale and greater employee turnover. 

But, what if the worst results of these anxiety-inducing times could be averted? According to emotional intelligence advocates, leaders can alleviate the effects of workplace stress now and in the future by showing empathy and empowering employees’ emotionally. Here’s what you need to know about emotional intelligence in the workplace and how to empower your workforce.

How does emotional intelligence impact organizations?

The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) is straightforward enough. Those with high EI are more adept at recognizing the causes, impacts, and management of their feelings and other’s. Recent research has shown that characteristics of strong EI (self-awareness, interpersonal skills, etc.) are prevalent in leaders and those who achieve better strategic and financial results.

The benefits of encouraging EI in the workforce are tangible and immediate — take L’Oreal as an example. The massive cosmetics brand conducted research on their sales workforce and found that salespeople with high EI outsold those salespeople with low EI by $91,370. When salespeople were selected for emotional intelligence, they had a 63% lower turnover rate than their peers who were less attuned to this essential skill set. 

Pepsi uncovered similarly exciting insight about emotional intelligence in the workplace. During a pilot study of their executive team, the beverage giant identified that leadership members with higher EI scores were 10% more productive and led teams with 87% less turnover than their lower EI peers. As a result, their approach to management contributed $3.75 million in additional profits. 

The best part is, your employees want to learn this stuff. 84% of millennials say that making a difference is more important than professional recognition and 92% believe businesses should be measured by more than just their profits. They feel as though their career should have a positive impact on more than just their employer’s bottomline.

Now, the only question is how to foster emotional intelligence among your teams.

Building self-awareness

Self-awareness is the first step to developing EI. If an employee can’t understand the way that they feel and how those emotions impact their team members, there’s a higher likelihood for internal misunderstanding and conflict. Encourage your workers to ask themselves questions that get to the root of their emotional state like:

  • What emotions are you struggling to express right now?
  • Where are your emotional strengths and weaknesses? 
  • How does your personal history impact your ingrained actions? 
  • What is the most constructive way you can move forward?

Whether through a thought diary or weekly awareness exercises, regular introspection helps employees to identify elements of their personality and perception that may be impacting their ability to clearly understand and engage emotionally.

Turning awareness into emotional empowerment

Once team members become attuned to their own emotions and attributes, they can more effectively analyze those around them. Encourage your employees to consider the same question set from above, but from the perspective of a colleague or peer. 

When able to determine what motivates someone’s actions, rather than fixating on their impact, employees can better understand how to collaborate with each other. 

So, as a leader, how do you stay on top of emotional empowerment?

First, you can conduct regular one-on-one meetings to gauge the current state of an employees bandwidth, their challenges, and their needs in the workplace. If you give them your full attention, there’s plenty to glean about their stress-level and emotional state from their responses.

You should also ask your employees about who best reflects each of your company values. This can help you to harness some of the emotional intelligence and awareness already on your team.

For instance — let’s say one of your employees stopped being responsive with communications. He or she might deliver excellent work, but you’ve identified in 1:1s that his or her communication style is avoidant, retreating inward when stressed. Recognizing this tell-tale sign of stress, you can take action, whether it’s reallocating a low priority project or proactively reaching out during stressful times.

There are any number of instances where your understanding of an employees’ emotions can benefit your organization. You just need to stay tuned in and “listen.”

Bringing the right people onto your team

Above all else, setting an example that EI is important from the top-down is essential — however it’s a moot point if your team is not full of people who are eager to take on new challenges. For emotional intelligence efforts to have the greatest impact on your organization’s success, you need to hire and select employees, at all levels, that are willing to embrace their EI skills, and not just on your leadership team (though they must be willing to do so).

Organizations that ask the right questions to understand a candidate’s EI and propensity for a growth mindset during the hiring process are better at selecting top performers. Remote interviewing solutions like interview builder and interview on demand ensure that you’re effectively screening and qualifying top performers within your candidate pool.

When you’ve identified (and hired) the best of the best, you can be sure that your workforce is better equipped to emotionally navigate the tough landscapes we face today; you will have built a team that’s receptive to your guidance during a difficult time and that looks out for the wellbeing of each other by default. Then, not only will you win, but so will your employees and your organization.

About The Author

Monique Mahler is the CEO of interviewstream. She is an avid researcher of facts, a self proclaimed marketing geek, and an equestrian in her spare time.


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