Empathy and emotional intelligence at work are key in building successful and rewarding professional relationships. Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings, and emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others”. Empathy, therefore, plays an important role in emotional intelligence.
The main purpose of empathy and emotional intelligence at work is creating better workplace behaviours, so “that passive-aggressiveness is replaced by honest, candid conversations; so conflicts are resolved in ways that don't force feelings down, only to resurface again later with even more negative consequences; so managers and teams learn to build psychologically safe cultures, instead of workplaces people dread coming into”.
Emotional intelligence (or EQ for emotional quotient, the equivalent of IQ) is essential in interpersonal communication and is especially important for HR and management personnel because as the saying goes, “people don’t leave a job—they leave a boss”. Managers who don’t demonstrate empathy and emotional intelligence at work are not only damaging the employee experience but also risk losing their employees and losing out on future talent.
Leading with empathy is essential to creating a team that feels valued and heard.
With the blurring of boundaries between work and home, companies have had to adapt and become more human-centric than ever before, and that means that empathy and emotional intelligence are more important than ever.
In the past, the markers of traditional intelligence (higher education, results-driven mindset, etc.) have been linked to success. However, traditional intelligence is not enough anymore. Research shows hiring managers indicated that they value emotional intelligence over traditional intelligence. Being in tune with your own emotions, and being able to manage them effectively, as well as the emotions of others around you, is an essential skill for any leader. The key takeaway is that, especially in leadership positions, your emotions and actions affect those around you.
Empathy and emotional intelligence can benefit all employees at all stages of their career. It makes us not just better employees, but better people, too.
Emotional intelligence is impactful for all employees, not just leaders. It can benefit employees at every stage of their career, with research suggesting that “emotional intelligence influences how well employees interact with their colleagues, and EQ is also thought to play a role in how workers manage stress and conflict. It also affects overall performance on the job. Other studies have linked emotional intelligence with job satisfaction”.
There are a number of ways that empathy and emotional intelligence at work can benefit everyone:
- It allows you to stay calm under pressure
- It allows for critical thinking and problem solving
- It allows for a better response to constructive criticism
- It allows you to resolve conflicts with empathy, not frustration
Although emotional intelligence is at least in part impacted by factors outside of a person’s control, such as upbringing and overall personality, it’s also something that can be learned.
The five main components of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation. These can all be improved or developed with these simple but effective activities:
- Keep a journal where you write down your different emotions and what triggered them. This can help bring awareness to what you’re feeling and why. Stopping to write down your thoughts is also a great way to take a beat and not react in the heat of the moment.
- Commit to examining any issue from all sides and holding yourself accountable when appropriate. This helps to develop empathy, as you can practice seeing things from another’s point of view.
- When you’re writing down your feelings, try to write out some gratitudes as well. These can help you stay motivated, even when things are challenging.
- Ask for feedback and give thoughtful feedback as well.