28 December 2016
Emotional intelligence (known as EI or EQ), a term that came to prominence in the 1990s, is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. It is also about empathizing with others and trying to see things from their perspective before you react.
And while researchers are still debating whether it can be learned and strengthened, or whether it is an inborn characteristic, global business leaders were quick to grasp that it has genuine implications on the health of their bottom line.
Whatever the sector, company employees who are self-aware and understand the importance of managing their emotions are likely to be proactive in their jobs and be able to control stress levels. Because they understand themselves, they are less likely to let destructive emotions ruin their relationships with their colleagues or clients. Therefore they will be able to manage a complex network of relationships successfully, which will then reflect on business results. So far, so obvious - but in reality fostering EI in the workplace can be tricky.
Symptoms of low EI
Hanan Nagi is founder and CEO of HNI Training & Coaching in Dubai and has nearly two decades of experience helping organizations achieve goals through their people. She says there are some definite behaviors individuals display in a corporate setting that may indicate low EI.
"People reacting while upset and angry without verifying facts or the actual intentions behind a message received is a good example of low EI," she said. "Especially when it comes to emails, which is one of the worst modes of communication in sensitive or negative situations.
"A low EI person would immediately react and send a reply to an email he or she didn't like full of capital letters and red font or several exclamation marks. Usually, when they calm down they regret doing that, especially if they later discover they misunderstood the message. They then get perceived within the workplace as too emotional, not professional and so on - which can be a career barrier."
One way of assessing, or acquiring your own, EI skills is to take a formal test. Once the results are processed, you are able to know where you stand in relation to the fundamentals of EI which are: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. The test report offers an accurate analysis of emotional strengths and weaknesses, and suggests a plan to improve.
Hicham El Amrani is the managing director of the Dubai-based ACG DWC - a consulting firm in communication, training and development - and a certified EI Coach. He explains how employing professionals with a high EI can actually increase revenue for businesses.
"An emotionally intelligent team is a well-functioning team that has high empathy levels, therefore the inter-team communication will be much clearer and supportive to business results," he said. "Leaders who are emotionally intelligent tend to inspire trust, commitment, and motivate others to give the best of their abilities."
Myriad regional reports and surveys have shown lack of empathy and the accompanying "office politics" is rampant in the workplace, leading to high levels of job dissatisfaction. Yet some companies have still not grasped that in this post-industrial era, employees expect their emotional wellbeing to be taken care of, not to be just treated as machines.
"Office politics is a symptom of a deep lack of clear, respectful and two-way communication between various components in a company," explained El Amrani.
"It starts from the top. If the leadership engages in office politics and gossip, so will employees. Lack of crystal clear communication is a result of low EI because people succumb to their negative emotions such as anger, resentment, or jealousy and act on them.
"The disgruntled employees who don't leave become depressed because of the accumulation of negative emotions day in, day out, and as a way of relieving themselves they try to bring as many colleagues to their mix of toxic feelings as possible. A wise company owner would nip this all in the bud early on - or indeed make better hiring decisions."
Decades of research now points to emotional intelligence - even over IQ - as the critical factor that sets star corporate performers apart from the rest of the pack. As the experts now like to say: "IQ will get you hired, EI will get your promoted."
© Accelerate SME 2016