Growing Your Emotional Intelligence to Become an Effective Employee
“Leave your emotions at the door.” You’ve most likely heard a coworker or boss tell you this before, but have you ever stopped to consider how that strategy affects our work when every single person has emotions?
Emotional intelligence is an ability that greatly enhances job performance and satisfaction. Without it, voices often aren’t heard, workplace conflicts can get out of hand and incorrect judgments can be made.
But by boosting your emotional intelligence you can collaborate with teams more effectively, increase your motivation to get your work done, improve your confidence and relationships, and grow your overall happiness at work.
What exactly is this key to workplace success and happiness? Emotional intelligence is made up of five categories: social skills, self-awareness, self-management, empathy and motivation.
In general, it’s your ability to identify, perceive, understand, and regulate your emotions and the emotions of others. Think of characteristics like humility, conscientiousness, self-efficacy, and emotional stability as a part of your emotional intelligence, or EQ, along with several other “people skills.”
Being knowledgeable in your industry and skilled at your job duties are extremely important qualities, but managing your emotions and the emotions of people around you can give you an edge in the workplace. Let’s take a look at how you can grow your emotional intelligence to become a more effective employee:
Reflect and Take a Self-Evaluation Test
Self-reflection is a great first step in determining the level of your current emotional intelligence and where you have growth opportunities. Ask yourself questions like these:
- How do I react in stressful and difficult situations?
- What are my interactions with other people at work like?
- Am I open to other views and opinions?
- Do I judge or stereotype other people, even unintentionally?
When self-reflecting it’s important to be extremely honest with yourself about how you actually act, not how you hope or intend to act, for the best results. Taking an EQ test can also give you tangible information to jump-start your growth process. Try one here!
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Acknowledging when you made a mistake, apologizing, correcting your behavior, and being willing to forgive others can have a large impact on your emotional intelligence. One way to build your skills in this area is to remind yourself to consider how your actions affect others, which can be easily overlooked in work settings. When you realize the impact your decisions or actions can have on someone else, though, it’s easier to shift to a more mutually beneficial direction, say you’re sorry, or make amends if necessary.
Ask People Questions
Becoming aware of other peoples’ emotions and needs doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work. And while you’re learning how to identify and manage the emotions of your coworkers and boss, it can be useful to ask them questions to grow your awareness. This will help you understand their preferences and feelings so you can better identify and regulate them in the future. Try asking a few of your coworkers these questions:
- How do you feel about X decision?
- How would you prefer that I communicate with you about X?
- How can I support you on X project through more than the tasks that need to be done?
- What’s something that you’re struggling with recently?
- What’s something that you wish we did differently as a team/office?
You can also ask people questions about how they perceive you. That may seem scary, but it will show you how people interpret your emotions, which may be different than the way you interpret them. For example, maybe you come across as angry in staff meetings, but in reality, you’re focused and attentively listening. Knowing that can be constructive because it will allow you to better manage your focused energy so it comes across as more engaging to other people. When you’re asking for this feedback, be sure to find a trusted colleague who you know will be honest and open. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What do you think are my social strengths and weaknesses in the office?
- How would you describe the way I relate to others?
- What is your opinion on the way I handle stressful situations?
Assume Good Intent
Your emotional intelligence can drop when you blame others for problems, make judgments about other peoples’ opinions, and let anger take over when conflicts arise. A great strategy to combat this is to always assume that people have good intentions with their actions, words, and views. Very few people are purposefully trying to cause problems in the workplace, but it’s easy to assume that they are when we don’t understand where they’re coming from. Starting with assuming good intent makes it easier to seek understanding instead of forming judgments and trying to prove people wrong.
Talk to Your Boss About Motivation
Understanding what motivates you is a key component of your emotional intelligence. When you are properly motivated, your performance and effectiveness will soar. Have an open conversation with your supervisor about the things that motivate you and how those things can be incorporated into your relationship and work. They will appreciate your initiative and higher performance, and you will feel more confident and driven!
In short, becoming an emotionally intelligent employee requires honest self-reflection, open and vulnerable conversations, and authentic efforts to change how you address complex and ever-changing emotions in the workplace. And the good news is, as you grow, your coworkers will notice the changes you’re making and your emotional intelligence might inspire them to reflect and transform, too!
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