Creative coworkers conversing with coffee

Are you emotionally intelligent in the workplace?

Blythe Landry Guidance

Emotional intelligence (or emotional literacy) have become buzz words in the past several years. Especially when it comes to work environments. The correlation between relationship-building and empathic listening between high-level employees and their teams has also come into play. Gone are the days of demands without validation or the wide-ranging acceptance of emotional incompetence in the office; yet some key players are still being left behind.

As a leader, can you get people to do what you want them to do through aggression, demands and intimidation? Sure you can; but it won’t get done with good intention, and it certainly won’t get done with the same optimal mental acuity, drive and purpose as it would if your employees/peers felt safe within your emotional wake. Additionally, the amount of time employees will spend complaining and gossiping about how unhappy they are (as well as spending valuable work time searching for a better job) could potentially far outweigh their investment in the tasks you are disseminating.

For today’s post, I’ve put together some questions to help you assess how successful you have been (until now) at emotional intelligence at the office:

  1. When you greet your team/colleagues how quickly do you dive right into business? Do you engage with a smile or a question about how their day is going, or do you feel so focused on the task at hand that you forget to even notice them as a human being?
  2. How is your eye contact? Do you look others in the eye(s) when speaking to them, or do you tend to keep your eyes on the proverbial “prize (the computer screen, the stat sheet, the data in front of you that you are transmuting to them)?”
  3. How much do you know about the people that work for you? Are they married? Divorced? Kids? Maybe they lost their best friend to cancer last year? Can you take out a piece of paper and write out anything significant about all of the people who work for you or with you, or do you draw a blank?
  4. Do you ever surprise your team with rewards for a job well done? Surprise coffee and breakfast? Gift certificates to their favorite lunch spots? In-office massages after particularly long hours or big project finishes? (Bonuses that are built into one’s salary or work sponsored trips don’t count…this is about YOUR personal connection to the people who you work with everyday).
  5. How do you approach feedback? Do you use every opportunity to tell your team what they do wrong, or do you span it out in blocks of time where you also let them know the way(s) that they add to the team as well?
  6. Do you treat everyone the same, or do you take the time to develop 1:1 relationships with each person with whom you directly work?
  7. How much of your actual self do you display at the office? Do you wear a rigid mask that makes you untouchable as anything other than THE BOSS or THE TEAM LEADER; or do you make the occasional joke, share something personal that is relevant to the person to whom you are speaking, or share maybe one of your challenges that you have worked through that might benefit the other person in their growth (either professionally or personally)?
  8. Do you stay stowed away in your office, door closed unless you have an “appointment,” or do you regularly walk through the halls, check in to see how others are, make yourself present and available for support, questions, challenges and needs?
  9. Do you listen when people share their fears about the new role or project, or do you brush them off and try to “get rid” of them quickly so that you can focus on the next task at hand?
  10. Can you name at least one thing outside of the work world about each person you work with; or do you keep everyone at a distance with the intent of separating yourself as “higher” and more important then them?

If you reviewed this list and you notice that you are already doing a lot of the positive behaviors outlined in the questions, then you are on a path (or already arrived) at having sound emotional literacy in the workplace. If this is the case, then it is highly likely that your team is happy and your productivity is, in part, based on positive and safe working relationships. If you felt you identified more with the more avoidant/less active aspects of the questions (or even have some specific areas of challenges), don’t write yourself off as a bad boss or someone who is incapable of making the needed changes. Emotional intelligence is a skill, just like any other skill, and to some it is inherent and to others of us it comes through practice, hard work and asserted efforts. No matter which category you fall into (or even if you fall somewhere in-between), it is really important for you to be honest with yourself about where you land.