How Is Emotional Intelligence Important In The Workplace?

Emotional intelligence involves a combination of competencies that allow a person to understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. 

There is now a widespread recognition that these abilities – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management – are crucial to achieving success in the workplace (Goleman, 2020). 

Although academic skills and technical proficiencies are often equated to success, the way we use emotional information to guide our conduct represents a more important predictor of our ability to reach professional goals and objectives (Hess and Bacigalupo, 2011). 

Emotional intelligence enables us to make decisions and solve problems effectively, promotes clear communication between co-workers, and enhances an overall positive work environment. 

In addition, leaders with high emotional intelligence are better able to motivate their subordinates and inspire them to operate at high standards (Krén and Séllei, 2021). 

emotional intelligence building blocks

Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace? 

There are many contexts in which emotional intelligence has proven to be an important skill in the workplace: 

Stress tolerance

People with greater emotional awareness are more capable of recognizing situations that can increase their stress levels and putting in place strategies to promptly manage difficult emotional reactions (Sunil and Roopra, 2009). 

In turn, they can respond more effectively to unpredictable circumstances at work, make more rational decisions without acting on autopilot, and prioritize their well-being outside the work environment to relieve stress.

Ability to deal with change

As many work environments require employees to embrace new initiatives and redefine plans to maximize outcomes, maintaining an open attitude to change is necessary to promote flexibility at work. 

People who can reflect on their beliefs around change and challenge the difficult emotions associated with it can also assume a more optimistic outlook and identify new opportunities for professional growth (Sunil and Roopra, 2009).

Sense of self-efficacy

With greater emotional awareness, it is possible to better understand our own personal resources and build confidence, which can help reach desired outcomes when confronted. 

This skill is also important in education, where adjusting difficult emotions associated with academic performance allows students to assume effective coping skills and achieve higher self-efficacy in activities such as classes or internships (Sun and Lyu, 2022).

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Conflict management

People who take the time to understand different perspectives and are open to redefining their own views can work more effectively towards finding a shared solution, enhancing team decision-making

Managing conflicts also allows better communication between colleagues, preventing misunderstandings based on unspoken assumptions and encouraging different parties to take responsibility for their mistakes (Jordan and Troth, 2004). 

Job satisfaction and performance

Most importantly, emotional intelligence has been shown to be strongly associated with job satisfaction and performance

A study among secondary school heads found that job satisfaction could be predicted by dimensions of emotional intelligence such as emotional stability, self-development, integrity, managing relations, and altruistic behavior (Suleman et al., 2020). 

Job satisfaction also influences the enthusiasm and productivity of employees of an organization, as the sense of gratification deriving from one’s work can motivate behaviors directed towards further achievements. 

In support of this, some studies have found that the relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance was mediated by how satisfied employees were with their jobs (Papoutsi, Drigas, and Sianis, 2019). 

Is emotional intelligence as important as IQ at work?

It is recognized that traditional intelligence (IQ) supports critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are crucial to determine the employee’s adaptability to a work environment. 

However, a person’s emotional quotient (EQ) is just as important. 

People who have difficulty managing their own emotions and struggle to acclimatize to a team are more likely to leave their job and not progress in their careers (Papoutsi, Drigas, and Sianis, 2019). 

In addition, although IQ is associated with leadership success, EQ allows for a better understanding of employees’ needs and priorities, which can enhance team trust and cohesion. Ultimately, this leads to improved performance within an organization (Sadri, 2012). 

In general, both IQ and EQ are considered essential abilities for success. Balancing logical thinking with emotional intelligence and empathy can result in greater versatility, which represents a highly valued attribute in today’s workforce. 

On the one hand, IQ allows us to maintain focus, analyze problems with accuracy and respect deadlines, which can be advantageous in fast-paced work environments.

On the other hand, applying emotional intelligence skills in everyday work situations promotes more constructive relationships between co-workers, leading to successful group outcomes (Zeidner, Matthews, and Roberts, 2004).

How to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace

emotionally intelligent team

Although emotional skills may come more naturally to some people, being influenced by factors such as personality and upbringing, anyone can improve their emotional intelligence with effort and practice.


Self-awareness is the ability to recognize our own emotions and understand the effects they can have on our moods, behaviors, and interactions with other people (Goleman, 1996). 

The first step towards achieving greater self-awareness is paying attention to how we are feeling

What is causing us to experience discomfort, and how do the first signs of stress manifest in us (e.g., fatigue, irritability, headache)? 

Another helpful exercise might involve reflecting on our emotional strengths and weaknesses

For example, how effective is communication with our colleagues, and how often do we create opportunities to understand more about each other, including the personal values underlying work attitudes and performance? 

Do we often find ourselves experiencing annoyance or impatience with others, and what are the ripple effects of our emotions on the work environment? 

Another aspect to keep in mind is that difficult emotions are temporary

There might be days when we feel more stressed because of a differing opinion with a colleague or a task we have to get done quickly; however, it is important to not let these emotions influence our decisions and have a detrimental impact on our longer-term goals (Bradberry and Greaves, 2009).


Self-management is about expressing emotions appropriately, at the right time and place, and regulating behaviors that are driven by emotional impulses. 

To manage emotions more effectively, a relatively straightforward strategy is taking the time to think before making a decision

Decisions that are made while hurrying through our day are rarely as effective as those made when we set aside some time for problem-solving and clear thinking (Bradberry and Greaves, 2009). 

Another helpful attitude is accepting the fact that we cannot control everything. 

Unpredictable events, as well as unexpected outcomes, can naturally occur in a work environment despite our efforts to make things work as planned. The ability to regulate emotions triggered by challenging circumstances allows us to develop better flexibility and adaptability to change (Vakola, Tsaousis, and Nikolaou, 2004). 

Not least important, finding techniques to relieve work stress, like hobbies, exercise, or meditation, can promote a better work-life balance and help us feel more focused when returning to work.

Social awareness

Social awareness involves the ability to recognize the emotional needs of others, pick up on emotional cues that are not always visible, and the ability to understand the power dynamics that regulate the functioning of a group or an organization (Goleman, 2020). 

To improve social awareness at work, we can start by practicing active listening, paying attention to what our colleagues have to say without interrupting them, and introducing our point of view in a patient and respectful manner (Petrovici and Dobrescu, 2014). 

This approach is particularly effective in meetings, where people might tend to make their opinion prevail to influence others or, at the other end of the spectrum, passively listen without providing any input when others are talking. 

With regard to organizational awareness, identifying the values and culture of an organization can help gain insight into the behaviors adopted by its employees and the dynamics of the system (Goleman, 2020). 

For example, we can practice asking ourselves if the organization has a mission statement, what are the spoken and unspoken norms guiding work attitudes, and who are the real decision-makers within a team.

Relationship management

Relationship management skills can be expressed in a variety of contexts, including team collaboration, inspirational leadership, and conflict management. 

A necessary element to enhance this skill is promoting effective and clear communication within teams. 

This can be done by creating opportunities to discuss perspectives on a problem or, if a decision has already been taken, by explaining the rationale behind it rather than expecting others to just accept the change (Bradberry and Greaves, 2009). 

Another way to build a more supportive relationship with employees involves providing direct and constructive feedback

This does not only involve sharing a genuine opinion about a person’s work performance but also suggesting areas of improvement and offering solutions for change. 

Leaders that take the time to identify their employees’ developmental needs are more likely to instill hope and motivation to perform at higher standards (Fianko, Jnr and Dzogbewu, 2020).

Frequently Asked Questions

Are emotionally intelligent people highly successful?

Numerous studies have shown that emotional intelligence represents a significant predictor of performance when considering critical factors for life success. 

Specifically, Freedman and Fariselli (2016) found that the emotional intelligence competencies of seeing possibilities (i.e., “Exercise optimism”) and maintaining a sense of internal drive (i.e., “Engage intrinsic motivation”) are the largest contributors to success. 

According to their interpretation, it might be that maintaining a sense of possibility about reaching a goal can build resilience in the face of adversity and ultimately help individuals achieve successful outcomes.

What is a boss with low emotional intelligence like? 

A lack of emotional intelligence generally manifests in resistance to change, whereby a boss is not open to considering new initiatives from subordinates and holds rigidly to the way things have always been done (Alkahtani, 2016). 

This rigidity can also translate into reduced flexibility towards work schedules and commitments, where adaptations around employees’ working needs are not taken into account. 

Bosses with low emotional intelligence might also present with poor listening skills, and they might be highly critical and hard to please, or fail to recognize signals of discontent in employees.

Are there any limitations to emotional intelligence in the workplace?

Whilst there is a constant focus on improving emotional intelligence in the workplace, presenting this skill to the excess can also be a problem. 

Indeed, some employees might use emotional intelligence to manipulate, deceive or take advantage of their co-workers, acting in dishonest ways to meet their own interests (Lubbadeh, 2020). 

However, in an organization where reciprocal respect is promoted as part of the work culture, these behaviors are easier to identify and less likely to happen.

What types of training can be offered to increase a work team’s emotional intelligence?

Training for emotional intelligence is generally aimed at developing a set of skills, including a team’s communication skills and ability to perform well as a group, individual motivation to reach high levels of standards and goals, and emotional awareness to improve as part of one’s managerial skills (Hodzic et al., 2018). 

There are many workshops and programs available online that address emotional intelligence skills at different levels and can be adapted to different job roles. 

Some specific examples include assertiveness training to improve confidence and communication styles when dealing with difficult work interactions or situations and stress management training to boost employees’ well-being and resilience in an organization.


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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Sara Viezzer

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc in Applied Neuropsychology

Sara Viezzer is a graduate of psychological studies at the University of Bristol and Padova. She has worked as an Assistant Psychologist in the NHS for the past two years in neuroscience and health psychology. Sara is presently pursuing a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.