Emotional Intelligence: The Elusive Concept in Organziations

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Emotional Intelligence (EI) is an interesting concept that kind of escapes people in terms of its use, effectiveness, and the overall controversy over its general existence. Some people believe it shows how you handle emotions; some believe it helps with communication styles decision making; it is all of these things and more. When visiting a site like Dictionary.com, emotional intelligence can be described as, “skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions and feelings.” This is also correct, but there are many dimensions that make up emotional intelligence to describe it in full.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ, describes emotional intelligence as having five components: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, motivation, and socials skills. Self-awareness is the part of EI that describes an individual’s ability to perceive emotions and understand the reasoning behind these perceptions. Basically, they know when they have felt a certain way about an emotionally-driven experience and why they felt that way during. The second domain, self-management, is ability to handle one’s emotions so that actions taking place immediately after the emotion are not hindering to any part of the individual’s reputation while also having the ability to work on reactions due to emotions as a way of personal development. Being able to self-manage emotions can also help individuals foster positive emotions when best suited, for instance to become involved and excited about new experiences. Empathy is a part of emotional intelligence that truly helps with communication and decision making. It allows individuals to know other’s perceived emotions about something. This domain explains why you can tell that your boss is angry with an idea even though they do not state that they are. Motivation is a very important component that can be included as a part of all of the other domains as this helps individuals utilize their emotions to inspire themselves to do great things and react in constructive ways. Last, social skills is very important to EI because it allows for individuals to use the final domain to build relationships. People with high social skills and high EI are better at building rapport and relating to others through relationships while actively listening, perceiving, and understanding others.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “that’s great, emotional intelligence seems like a good idea, where does it fit into the workplace though?” Emotional intelligence, helps many things including education, substance abuse, healthcare, and most things that involve other people. In addition, since every dimension can fall into the line of work, you can only imagine how much emotional intelligence affects and is useful towards the workplace. The best part is, emotional intelligence affects everyone within the workplace too meaning it can distinguish incumbents, applicants, CEO’s and even first year interns. No one escapes the components of emotional intelligence and it can help or hinder any employee in any organization who deals with others. Emotional intelligence is mostly useful for communication, decision making, productivity, teamwork, and leadership.

In regards to communication, having the ability to empathize with others can truly help individuals communicate with others in respectful and productive ways. Emotional intelligence, along with all of its components, can help during conflict resolutions, active listening, communicating tasks to others, meeting structure, and even negotiating. Typically when communication is used and emotional intelligence is higher, trust, respect, and general relationship cohesiveness are also higher. The same benefits are present for decision making. Decision making is a lot easier to deal with if emotional intelligence is high. Think about it – intuition is important when trying to prevent groupthink, or the social tendency to agree with things when they may not be right or the best decision in meetings. Without self-awareness of emotions and motivation, the workplace would be more susceptible to groupthink in group decision making. In addition, while emotionally intelligent individuals may succumb to more emotions which may not be great for decision making, having a high level of self-management will help these individuals express and follow the emotions they need to use, while limiting others that are not relevant.

Turning to teamwork and leadership, emotional intelligence can help influence teams through communication and decision making, as seen above, and can also influence them in terms of motivation, performance, collaboration, and feeling trust and efficacy. Team effectiveness is more likely to be high with the inclusion of emotional intelligence when members are aware of their own and team member’s emotions as well as influences on team processes, group emotions consisting of the majority emotions of the team, and understanding and awareness of non-team member’s emotions. When all of this is achieved team cohesion and team effectiveness is usually very high. The closer groups are, the more trust team members have in one another. The important factor is that like decision making, these team members are not afraid to play devil’s advocate and improve team processing and decision making to make sure to have the best team performance and productivity.

Last, leadership can benefit immensely from being aware, understanding, and improving emotional intelligence. Being emotionally intelligent can do many wonders if its components are used the right way. In a leadership scenario this is most important because leaders must make many decisions based on what leadership style to use. Look at it this way, leaders must be able to tell if followers are becoming disappointed, are excited in a certain idea, etc. in order to adapt their leadership style to embrace the follower’s emotions. Situational leadership would be nothing without emotional intelligence, and communicating to followers and effecting organizational change would be a joke if leaders could not empathize with their followers. Leaders must also be able to motivate their followers via this same idea, as well as have the social skills to do this. Last, and perhaps most important, leaders must be able to be self-aware and self-regulate their emotions while in their leadership position. Many responses to leader’s decisions are going to make leaders feel emotion. A leader must be able to control these emotions that may hurt their reputation and utilize the ones that will help inspire their followers. Having high emotional intelligence can help leaders decide which styles and emotions to utilize when leading, as well as relate to, motivate, and benefit their followers along the way.

While emotional intelligence is a gateway to organizational effectiveness, it is hard to measure and improve in organizations. Organizational development specialists, executive coaches, and regular industrial & organizational consultant use many tests to measure for emotional intelligence while additionally implementing components of emotional intelligence development into their practices. Some of these tests include the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Test (SEITM), the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I 2.0®), the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ECSI®), and many more. While many tests are useful to place emotional intelligence, many others do not distinguish constructs like personality, work outcomes, or account for test fakability. It is important to be very careful and to choose a reliable and valid test when assessing for emotional intelligence since its existence is fairly new. If you would like an assessment on emotional intelligence with an excellent debrief for you or your organization, then contact us today!

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