As a concept, many see “emotional intelligence” as touchy-feely bunk. But by investing in employees’ EQ — their ability to be aware of, control and express their emotions — companies can improve their overall business. Knowing how to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically is a skill important both in personal and professional situations.
In Life and at Work
“Statistics show that only one-third of individuals are accurately able to identify their emotions as they happen. This means that two-thirds of individuals are controlled by their emotions. When our emotions are controlling our responses, it’s difficult to receive feedback without becoming defensive, challenging to hold difficult conversations, hard to solve problems or listen attentively,” said Deborah Hedderly, an assistant professor in the business administration master’s program at Roseman University of Health Sciences. “When we are aware of our emotions and can recognize their impact on our own behavior and the effect our behavior has on others, we can choose to monitor our responses (in ways) that will generate positive results in life and at work.”
Hedderly said EQ has been associated with better results in leadership, sales performance and academic performance, as well as cultivating friendships and health. It has even been taught to cancer patients as a mechanism of coping and driving recovery, and those patients have demonstrated higher rates of survival.
“I’m an educator, but I know that understanding EQ and working with others who understand EQ is tremendously beneficial to accomplishing the leading/learning task,” said Denise Signorelli, a biology professor at the College of Southern Nevada. “I think EQ training for customer service would be very helpful; empathy can go a long way toward defusing unhappy clients, persuading repeat business and encouraging effective relationships.”
In Signorelli’s experience, students can be lost “because they report no one cares about the trials and tribulations they have to overcome to be in college.” There are parallels in the workplace, as employees may perceive a lack of support or understanding from supervisors less inclined to sensitivity and empathy, and their morale and performance can suffer as a result.
“To me, it should not be difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to feel their frustration and help them accomplish what they need to get done.” Signorelli said, adding that low EQ can be a roadblock to success. “In my field, if colleagues don’t understand nonverbal cues and they don’t consider other people’s feelings, it certainly impairs relationships and often keeps individuals from getting promoted.”
Needs, Wants, Fears
At Las Vegas accounting/consulting firm JW Advisors, investing in employee success has been key to having a happy staff and delivering the best possible service to clients, says co-founder and partner Chris Wilcox.
“It is a continuous process,” he said. “A lot of what we would call emotional intelligence is being able to empathize with the customer’s situation, to really understand their point of view. That’s something we emphasize through our mentoring program.”
Wilcox said that if he hears an employee on a phone call or in a meeting with a client “and I don’t think they understand each other, then we get together and talk about it. We stress to our employees that understanding what the client needs, wants and fears, or what the client is struggling with, is critical to finding solutions and helping them meet their goals. It’s not an intellectual exercise. Emotional intelligence means knowing how to put yourself in the client’s position and accept it and move forward.”
As an employer, if he sees one of his employees is having a bad day, “I know that coming down on them won’t help them snap out of it. In accounting, there can be a lot of stressful situations,” Wilcox said.
Patricia Kaytia, owner of Fruits & Roots Cold Pressed Juice Bar + Wellness Kitchen in Las Vegas, said: “Investing in any person’s emotions has great value, employee or non. Allowing each individual team member the opportunity to feel understood and valued gives them ownership and confidence in their work environment. That empowerment results in optimal work performance.”
Kaytia said it’s vital that leaders put teamwork at the forefront of business decisions.
“If the individuals are not all in for teamwork, it will make it hard for the team to be all in for each other, and the EQ will not be something each individual learns to practice,” she said.
Hedderly said the first step in rolling out an EQ training program is to get executive leadership to buy in and train management.
“This way, they can walk the talk,” she said.
Speaking of the talk, what a colleague says to another is not what sticks. “It is how you make a person feel that will remain with them over the long term,” said René Cantú Jr., executive director for JAG Nevada (Jobs for America’s Graduates). “They may forget what you said, and they may forget whether you gave them what they wanted or not, but they will remember how you make them feel.”
So for the health of business across the board, all in the workplace should try to control their emotions and take cues from the emotions of others.
“People want to be heard and respected,” Cantú said. “Staff that have high EQs do that.”