What is emotional intelligence and why is it becoming “a must-have skill” at work?

Daniel Goleman issues a stark warning to job seekers in 2022 and beyond: it’s no longer enough to be smart.

Dr. Goleman, an American author and psychologist, has spent decades extolling the importance of “emotional intelligence” in the workplace and in other areas of life.

And it seems businesses and organizations have caught up.

“[In the mid-1990s] someone said to me, ‘you know, you can’t use the word emotion in a business context. Today is very, very different,” he told ABC RN’s Future Tense.

But what is emotional intelligence or EI? And is it just a more professional language or a “must-have skill” of the future?

What is Emotional Intelligence?

There are many definitions of emotional intelligence, but it boils down to understanding your emotions, understanding the emotions of those around you, and acting on them.

Dr. Goleman, who put the term on the map with his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, says it has four main components.

Dr. Daniel Goleman says we can all work on our emotional intelligence. (Getty Images: Daniel Zuchnik)

The first standing self-awareness. Or as Dr. Goleman puts it: “Knowing how you feel, why you feel it, how it makes you think and want to act, how it shapes your perceptions.” So, for example, being able to label an emotion as anger and know its causes.

The second part is to “use this information to manage your emotions, in a positive way. Stay motivated, stay focused, be adaptable and nimble, instead of being rigid and locked in.”

The third part is to connect with the emotions of others – practice empathy. It’s “understanding how someone else feels without them telling you in words, because people don’t tell us in words, they tell us in tone of voice and facial expressions, etc.

And finally – relationship management or “bringing it all together to have effective relationships”.

Dr. Goleman also makes a key point: it’s not just about being nice.

“There is a difference between being pleasant and be kindly. And that’s really important to understand. You might be nice not to make waves and get along, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re helping.”

Why is it important?

Amol Khadikar is Program Manager at Capgemini Research Institute and is based in India.

“[Emotional intelligence] is increasingly seen as a very precious thing, and its importance has only increased over the past couple of years,” says Khadikar.

Mr. Khadikar and his organization have tried to measure this with a survey surveying 750 executives and 1,500 non-executive employees around the world on emotional intelligence.

He revealed that 74% of managers and 58% of non-supervisory employees think EI will become a “must have” skill.

Mr Khadikar says EI will become more important in the coming years due to continued development – as automation and AI see more and more manual or routine jobs replaced by machines, jobs involving interpersonal skills will be the dominant jobs of the future.

“We [already] increasingly see a demand for people to have skills that require relationship building, more customer-facing work,” he says.

“And [the survey] found that the demand for emotional intelligence skills will increase on average about six times over the next three to five years.”

A modern office with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling while people work on their computers.
AI and automation continue to change the types of jobs we humans do.(Unsplash: Israel Andrade)

Mr Khadikar and his team also built a financial model to assess the potential benefits of investing in emotional intelligence training – looking at outcomes such as revenue, costs, productivity and attrition on the job. workplace.

“We have clearly seen that there is, essentially, a benefit, we have seen that an investment of around $3 million in an average organization can potentially lead to an additional gain of around $6.8 million in over the next three years… And that was a conservative scenario.”

He also cited a study conducted by French personal care company L’Oréal which found that employees with high EI skills outsold other salespeople on an annual basis by approximately $91,000, which resulted in a net increase in revenue of over $2.5 million.

Supported by training?

Dr. Goleman says that when he wrote his book in 1995, there was little, if any, data on the benefits of high emotional intelligence.

“Now we know it’s clear,” says Dr. Goleman.

“In the workplace, it turns out that emotionally intelligent workers perform better, they are more engaged in what they do. Leaders who have emotional intelligence get better productivity from people, and people enjoy working. for them,” he said.

But when it comes to exactly How? ‘Or’ What the concept is adopted, it’s much more of a patchwork.

“Most organizations will show some interest in [emotional intelligence] – some do it well, some don’t,” says Dr. Goleman.

He then says that “I think of [an executive level]many people have the luxury of being coached [on emotional intelligence]”, training is not widespread outside of management positions.

This is a point made by Mr. Khadikar.

“[In our study] we actually found that only about 17% of organizations conduct emotional intelligence training for their non-supervisory employees and only about 32% for middle management employees,” he says.

And Dr. Goleman says that at worst, some organizations pay lip service to the idea: Promote EI but don’t implement it.

“It’s the same as with ‘greenwashing,’ where a company or a company spokesperson will say, ‘yes, we do that, we advocate emotional intelligence’… But if you look their actual record, you realize it’s BS, it’s not true.”

IE in a post-COVID workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted traditional workplaces and, as cases rise in Australia, some employers are advising their staff to work from home again.

So what does emotional intelligence look like in a workplace connected via Teams or Zoom? Or more broadly, in increasingly digitized and fragmented professional environments?

Dr Goleman says workplaces need to ensure that one-on-one time still exists, as our emotional well-being can be damaged if we are all totally isolated from each other.

“But one-on-one can also be digital. The idea is that it’s personal, you’re talking to the person about themselves, not just about the task at hand, which tends to happen when group calls,” he says.

“So I think it’s important to balance the isolation, the specialization that can exist in digital media, with the person-to-person contact [time] it’s in person or online.”

How do you improve your emotional intelligence?

Dr. Goleman says we can all improve our emotional intelligence.

“It’s really about changing habits,” he says.

He says the most common manifestation of low emotional intelligence in the workplace is poor listening, such as interrupting people or picking up a conversation too soon.

“If you want to change that, it’s a habit. You’ve done it thousands of times.”

Dr Goleman says: “First, keep in mind that this is a time I can change. Second, you have to have a different repertoire – a new habit to replace it. [Then] practice this at every opportunity that naturally presents itself. »

“When you do this type of learning, it changes the brain, the circuitry of this behavioral sequence, it picks up the new habit, and you do it automatically after a while,” he says.

“It takes a bit of work, a bit of perseverance, but our data shows it’s definitely possible.”

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