Communication and leadership consultant and author Anneli Blundell offered HC Online a succinct definition of emotional intelligence in the context of the workplace. She says, “EQ is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and to be aware of the emotional states of others. It’s about being aware of how your emotional responses affect your thinking and behaviour. In the workplace this is vital for things like handling setbacks, dealing with difficult or frustrating people, and managing stress and challenges.”
Blundell adds that positive emotions and emotional intelligence can broaden thinking, increase accuracy, improve creativity and enhance problem solving. Negative emotion can, of course, have a blocking effect on analysis, logic, and making sound decisions. “The ability to recognise and understand your emotions supports your ability to manage their impact on your productivity and performance,” she says.
Blundell points to four ways that a good understanding and high level of emotional intelligence is vital for HR professionals:
- To predict performance issues in teams, with stakeholders or clients
- To know who might need extra support with managing difficult work situations or access to EAP services
- To understand the capability gaps for training and development purposes
- To know how to support managers on the job with having difficult conversations
Perhaps the circumstance where gauging emotional intelligence is most important is the job interview. In this setting, Blundell advises that HR managers should assess how a candidate manages nerves and stays calm as they answer questions, how they respond to non-verbal clues (smiles, nods and eye contact) and crucially, how they adapt their behaviour in response to the emotional clues of others. That is, if they are typically gregarious and extraverted, can they tone this down in response to a quiet, reserved interviewer, or do they overwhelm them with their enthusiasm?
For Blundell, emotional intelligence should be demonstrated at all levels within an organisation. To this end, she recommends a number of steps for HR managers to cultivate and improve their own EQ:
“Pay attention to what you are feeling and how that impacts your thinking and behaviour. Seek feedback on how others experience your leadership behaviours as it will give you clues as to how you are managing your emotional states and how they are impacting people around you.”
Review your responses
“When you are experiencing emotional states that don't serve you – like anger, frustration, annoyance, stress – ask yourself if this is getting you the outcome you want.”
Change your language
“Emotions are magnified or minimised by the language we use to describe them. Change your language and you’ll change how much power the emotion has over you. Compare the emotional intensity between furious and frustrated, or angry and annoyed. The label you use affects your neurology around the emotion, which in turn affects your physiology – for better or worse.”
Though hardly a new idea, emotional intelligence (or ‘EQ’) is something organisations and HR departments are taking increasingly seriously in relation to both existing and potential employees. But how can managers gauge emotional intelligence in others, and take steps to increase EQ in workers and indeed themselves?