HR Strategy | By Scott Schulte,

Can Emotional Intelligence Enhance Workplace Performance and Results?

Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

HR and C-suite professionals are often confused about the role emotional intelligence plays in the workplace. Does it affect the bottom line? Can it be measured? Is it something employees have naturally, or can you train for it?

Answering these questions could be extremely helpful to forming company policy, including hiring practices, employee assessment, onboarding, training, policy, and more.

But first things first.

Does emotional intelligence really matter?

Emotional Intelligence may be considered part of the softer side of business, but that doesn’t mean its effects should be minimized.

Emotional intelligence plays significant a role in team dynamics, company culture, work environment, communication, performance management and more. Once you start looking for it, you’ll see it showing up literally everywhere. And although it can be extremely hard to quantify the effects, there’s no doubt that emotional intelligence can contribute to (or prohibit) your organizational success.

Employees with high levels of emotional intelligence tend to be more self-aware and exercise better self-control, especially when it comes to feelings like anger and disappointment. They are also better able to influence their co-workers, and more flexible and adaptive when it comes to change. These qualities can be extremely beneficial in a dynamic work environment.

On the other hand, employees with poor emotional intelligence can have an extremely negative impact on your workplace. Signs of low emotional intelligence include not being able to read social cues, not recognizing which information is relevant or irrelevant, being unable to accept feedback graciously, constantly laying blame on others, exhibiting passive-aggressive behaviors, and lacking empathy.

When a manager or leader has low emotional intelligence, he or she can come off as being rude, aloof, out of touch, or simply not listening.

Imagine the effects that can have on teamwork and employee morale.

Still not convinced?

Research has shown that there is a highly significant relationship between emotional intelligence, organizational productivity, and occupational performance.

Research from the UK found that that the emotional intelligence of restaurant managers significantly impacted annual profit growth. Restaurants run by managers with high emotional intelligence showed an annual profit growth of 22% versus an annual average growth of 15% for that same period. The research also revealed that more emotionally intelligent managers experienced significantly less stress, were healthier and enjoyed their work more when compared with less emotionally intelligent managers.

In study after study, high emotional intelligence in for managers and leaders has a direct and measurable effect on overall company productivity and profits.

But it’s not just about leaders. A survey of retail sales buyers found that apparel sales reps were valued primarily for their empathy, with buyers reporting that they wanted reps who could listen well and really understand what they wanted and what their concerns were.

When it comes to the workplace, it’s becoming more and more obvious that emotional intelligence is moving from the “nice-to-have” to the “must-have” category.

Can emotional intelligence be measured?

For a long time, the only way to spot those with high emotional intelligence was to go with your gut. But this isn’t exactly something you can build into a hiring assessment or training exercise.

Fortunately, this has begun to change. Now there are lots of tools and resources to assess and measure emotional intelligence.

If you find that emotional intelligence is jumping up on your priority list, you can quickly test yourself or work with someone like TalentSmart to conduct company-wide emotional intelligence assessments.

Once you know what you’re working with, you can decide what needs to happen next.

Can you train for it?

Are people born with emotional intelligence or is it something you can acquire? As with most human traits, it’s probably a little of both.

Some people might have more or less emotional intelligence innately, but learning and experience can build on that foundation.

Many companies offer courses and seminars in emotional intelligence. The important thing to keep in mind is that emotional intelligence cannot be gained overnight, nor can it be taught by simply reading a book or listening to a lecture. Good corporate training will provide a mix of theory, group discussion, role-playing, feedback, and assessment.

What next?

Emotional intelligence has become an increasingly more important facet of organizational development. That said, it is not clear how well it has taken hold when it comes to corporate policy.

Most HR professionals we speak with at Sonus have heard of emotional intelligence, and some have shown interest in finding employees who have an abundance of it. But few organizations have made assessing or training for it part of their hiring and onboarding practices.

Why not get on the front end of this curve?

Start building a workforce that lends itself to better results by filling your organization with emotionally intelligent leaders and employees. Your team (and your bottom line) will thank you.


Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Sonus Benefits, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch with Sonus to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

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