How to promote emotional intelligence in the workplace

Organisations need emotionally intelligent leaders who know how to facilitate positive behaviours

How to promote emotional intelligence in the workplace

The World Health Organisation recently recognised the serious effects of burnout, defining it as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

In particular, the condition is characterised by energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job and reduced professional efficacy.

READ MORE: How can HR gauge the emotional intelligence of applicants and employees?

Recent findings by the Harvard Business Review revealed that workers who describe themselves as mentally distant, or disengaged (a key indicator of burnout) had 37% more absenteeism, 49% more workplace accidents, and 60% more issues with accuracy and defects.

Therefore, organisations need emotionally intelligent leaders who know how to respond to a situation in a way that facilitates positive behaviours.

The good news is that insight and awareness around the feelings of others is a skill that can be learned and developed. Upskilling managers to both identify and manage their own emotions, as well as those of employees, is vital for a harmonious workplace.

Marcela Slepica, clinical director at Access EAP, said emotions and vulnerability are part of who we are and that doesn’t just go away when we enter the workplace.

“Opening up to colleagues and letting them know when I was feeling vulnerable, allowed me to make real connections, gain support and feel better sooner,” said Slepica.

“Leaders should show compassion and support workers to do the same, simply put, leaders need to lead by example.”

READ MORE: Emotional intelligence: Is it ready for the workplace?

In fact, understanding the impact that feelings can have on a worker’s ability to function and knowing how to manage them are essential skills for leaders

In particular, it’s imperative to focus on engagement and wellbeing initiatives which essentially means recognising the importance of emotions.

The following are tips on how leaders can encourage emotions to create a positive workplace, according to AccessEAP.

Start at the top
Leaders set the tone for organisational culture and communication. They can implement proactive resilience initiatives that aid well-being and engagement, resulting in an increase in productivity and of wellbeing factors by up to 40%, according to the 2018 Global Resistance Study.

They can also role model acknowledgement and acceptance of emotions through talking about their feelings and demonstrating that having and exhibiting feelings is normal.

It’s important to model the behavioural responses that you want to see in others. Role modelling is important, as employees will typically mirror the behavioural standards which are set by their leaders.

This may include having broader conversations which show an acceptance of emotions and showing compassion. Encouraging people to open-up could lead to them receiving needed support or help.

Support constructive conversation
At some point, we’ve all experienced a well-intentioned attempt to have an honest work discussion which has led to hurt feelings and further distress. Often this results in avoiding these exchanges altogether. However, creating an opportunity to have these discussions and to clear the air can be very beneficial.

Constructive conversations training or coaching can provide leaders with the knowledge and skills to have these talks and manage negative emotion. The training covers communication skills and includes active listening, de-escalation and working towards compromise.

Improve self-regulation
Leaders must show the ability to control or redirect impulsive actions and feelings that might negatively impact a highly-charged or difficult situation. Try to remain uninvolved in office politics or conflict and avoid impulsive decisions. If you are struggling to manage your own feelings, try waiting a few hours or days before responding or making a decision.

Learn about emotional intelligence
The best way to develop self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation and empathy is to practice these daily in the context of your work environment. This creates a culture which encourages and empowers employees.

Focus on mental health and wellbeing
With mental health issues receiving significant attention in the media, leaders need to create an environment where talking about them is normalised.

Sharing their own strategies for promoting mental health and wellbeing allows staff to open up about their own experiences and to ask for help. This creates a psychologically safe workplace and a positive culture for all team members.

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