Emotional Intelligence: Telling Traits of Successful Employees

Written by Nic Dampier

Shot of a group of businesspeople sitting together in a meeting

A recent study revealed that an astounding 60-80% of organizational challenges stem from strained workplace relationships, with 62% of employees attributing these conflicts to differing values and perspectives. These numbers shed light on how organizations operate. Stressful work relationships not only lead to communication breakdowns but result in reduced collaboration, lack of trust, and high turnovers. In other words, no matter how great your employees are at their jobs, you’re headed toward failure if they can’t work together.

Look at it this way: Organizations are often likened to complex machinery, with each employee acting as a vital cog or gear. And like how machinery needs grease to make all the parts work together seamlessly, employees also need their version of “grease” to reduce friction in their workplace relationships.

In this case, the grease is emotional intelligence. When tensions arise, emotional intelligence acts as the lubricating force, smoothing rough edges for a fluid operation. Just as a well-oiled machine runs efficiently, a workplace rich in emotional intelligence tends to function the same, encouraging communication, cooperation, and understanding across the entire company. Emotional intelligence helps navigate the intricacies of human interactions, ensuring that the cogs of a company can turn without the resistance that might otherwise hinder progress.

Emotional Intelligence in Practice

Emotional intelligence, in simple terms, is “What I think and do about the way I feel”. It’s about recognizing your feelings, understanding your thoughts, and assessing your potential reactions in different situations.

According to another study, emotional intelligence accounts for 58% of job success. It’s also projected to be among the top ten skills to have in the evolving job market.  Employees with strong emotional intelligence are believed to be better equipped for success, as they possess the capacity to address various workplace challenges that interfere with productivity or collaboration.

The ability to analyze and manage emotions, both yours and others, can thus be a game-changer in the workplace as it creates a productive environment that elevates efficiency and job satisfaction. In particular, focusing on 5 core traits can significantly improve your emotional intelligence. These traits are part of a broader set of 15 known as subscales within the EQ i2.0 Assessment and serve as a valuable tool for optimizing workplace dynamics. These 5 traits are:

  1. Emotional Self-Awareness: Recognizing and understanding your emotions.
  2. Assertiveness: Expressing thoughts and feelings with respect and confidence.
  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Building and nurturing connections with others.
  4. Problem-solving: Effectively addressing challenges and finding solutions.
  5. Flexibility: Adapting to change or new circumstances.

Emotional Self-Awareness: To Thine Own Self Be True

The journey to higher emotional intelligence cannot begin without genuine insight into your emotions. Having strong emotional self-awareness is like acquiring a roadmap to your feelings – a guide that reveals your triggers and describes how they impact your decisions.

Achieving this involves taking a good, hard look at yourself and exploring your triggers. What irritates you? What causes you to have mood shifts or intense emotional reactions? Most importantly, how do you react when faced with these triggers?  Knowing these aspects enables you to realize how your emotions influence your thoughts and actions. It empowers you to respond more consciously and manage your feelings in a way that aligns with your values and objectives.

Take this scenario as an example.  Your manager has just given you unexpected negative feedback on a project. What’s your first reaction? Do you find yourself becoming upset and defensive right away? Or do you manage to stay composed, taking a step back to process the feedback? Analyzing your response can provide clarity on your behavioral patterns and coping mechanisms, consequently supporting the development of more effective strategies for regulating your emotions.

If you find yourself often struggling to keep your emotions in check during situations like this, try the following strategies to regain control:

  1. Recognize you are triggered: Start by acknowledging that you’re experiencing a triggered emotional response. Being conscious of this initial reaction is the first step toward self-regulation.
  2. Pause. Breathe: When you recognize the trigger, take a moment to pause and breathe. This simple step creates a space between the trigger and your reaction, allowing you to respond thoughtfully rather than impulsively.
  3. What am I thinking?  Pinpoint the specific thoughts or beliefs surfacing due to the trigger and question their validity to consider alternative perspectives.
  4. What am I feeling? Assess the emotions that arise within you. Being able to name the emotions connected to the trigger can provide valuable insight into your reactions.
  5. What’s the best way to respond? Deliberate on various ways to respond to the situation and select one that best aligns with your values and goals.

By putting these strategies into practice, you can boost emotional self-awareness to adeptly manage triggered responses across various situations.

Assertiveness: Unlocking Confident Communication

Consider the same scenario where your manager gives you negative feedback. How very likely are you to say something in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later? Or are you more likely to keep quiet, choosing instead to internalize your frustrations? In this situation, both impulsive reactions and silence aren’t ideal. A spontaneous reaction might aggravate the situation while remaining silent can heighten stress and diminish your morale.

Being able to communicate assertively is thus another important trait of emotional intelligence. Assertive communication is neither aggressiveness nor passivity – it doesn’t involve overpowering or dismissing others, nor does it involve withdrawal and avoidance. It’s the perfect balance between expressing yourself authentically and ensuring your message remains thoughtful and respectful. In times of conflict, using assertiveness can enhance team interactions and outcomes.

Employing the following strategies can reinforce the positive impact of assertive communication:

  1. Again, recognize you are triggered: Acknowledge when your emotions prompt a reactive response. Pause to step back and reflect on your reaction.
  2. What value feels threatened? Identify the personal value or belief being challenged to grasp the root cause of your emotional response.  
  3. What would a passive response look like? This might involve avoiding the situation, not asserting your needs or beliefs, or disregarding your values, which may lead to further frustrations on your part.
  4. What would an aggressive response look like? Aggressive responses tend to be dominating or confrontational, disregarding others’ feelings and viewpoints and ultimately deteriorating relationships.
  5. What would an assertive response look like? This type of response involves advocating for your beliefs while respecting the rights and feelings of others. It strikes a balance that considers multiple perspectives, making it the ideal approach that values the voices of all involved.

These tactics help you skillfully handle relationship tensions by improving your self-awareness, allowing you to choose responses that encourage balanced and respectful interactions.

Interpersonal Relationships: We’re in This Together

Now go back to the scenario with your manager. You’ve decided not to respond immediately, but to pause and reflect on the negative feedback.  Despite feeling upset, you recognize the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with your manager. You understand that giving in to your emotions could lead to further complications, fallout, and resentment. Instead of reacting impulsively, you choose to have a one-on-one conversation to seek clarification on their feedback.

At this point, try looking at the situation through the lens of others. What circumstances might have led to this situation? Are there potential stressors or expectations they’re facing? How might your actions have shaped their perspective? Being able to empathize with what others are going through is another core emotional intelligence trait, as it allows you to pave the way for more constructive and compassionate communication.

Consider using these techniques to fortify relationships, especially during moments of personal stress:

  1. Listen with the intent to understand:Be mindfully present and focus on grasping their message rather than formulating a response.
  2. Understand the perspectives of others: Acknowledge that everyone has the right to their point of view and seek insight into what led to that perspective.
  3. Be respectful and confident: Strike a balance between assertiveness and politeness – think twice before you say anything that could be hurtful or damaging.
  4. Address the issue because of the relationship:  Approach the issue with a focus on nurturing work relationships. By resolving conflicts together, you not only strengthen the relationship but enhance buy-in, commitment, and mutual understanding among all involved.

These techniques can enhance interpersonal relationships during conflict, fostering a supportive work environment that substantially contributes to overall employee morale.

Problem-Solving: How Do We Move Forward?

Let’s imagine you’re now about to engage in a one-on-one conversation with your manager. Throughout the dialogue, keep in mind the main objective, which is to find practical solutions that will overcome current challenges.

Of course, this may prove difficult when tensions are high. In this case, use the following strategies to help you separate your emotions from decision-making so that you can work towards a resolution that benefits all parties:

  1. Ask yourself if emotional information is blocking action: Before deciding, reflect on whether emotions like fear or anger are clouding your judgment and preventing you from thinking objectively. If they are, consider steps to minimize their impact.
  2. Talk through your emotions with someone who can be objective: Speak with impartial individuals to gain clarity about your emotional state. Do they think you’re overreacting? Can they relate to the other person’s perspective? Holding conversations with a neutral party can help you analyze the situation better and reveal blind spots or biases that may not be evident to you.
  3. Brainstorm pathways: Be open to exploring various avenues for solutions. It’s not your way or the highway – the more willing you are to consider diverse perspectives, the higher your chances are of finding a solution that will benefit everyone.
  4. Paint a picture of what success would look like for you and your team: Remain assertive about what your vision of success is like for yourself and your team. Be able to define specific objectives, milestones, or goals that align individual and team efforts toward a shared vision.

Using these strategies during decision-making in times of conflict can facilitate a clearer and more objective approach to addressing the issue.

Flexibility: Adjust, Adjust, Adjust

Flexibility in emotional intelligence involves adapting your behavior to manage change. While we all possess the capacity to adapt to different circumstances, overcoming certain barriers can maximize our flexibility. Identifying and removing these barriers encourages a more agile response to diverse situations.

For instance, go back to the scenario of you and your manager. By the end of your one-on-one, the agreed-upon solution requires major changes in your work approach and the acquisition of new skills.  Your initial thoughts might be “Oh, that’s overwhelming!”, “I’m worried I’ll fail”, or “I don’t have the time to do all that”.

If you find these thoughts familiar, it’s time to reassess and reframe your perspective. Remind yourself to be flexible and adjust to the new situation by following these techniques:

  1. Acceptance of change: Accept that change is constant and happens at different paces for everyone. While others may be quick to respond to change, you may need more time to get adjusted.
  2. Growth mindset: Embrace the idea that you can learn from every situation, no matter how stressful. Adjusting to diverse scenarios becomes easier when you view each situation as a learning opportunity.
  3. Analyzing control: Ask yourself whether your reluctance to be flexible is linked to an unwillingness to lose control. Reflect if your fear of the unknown is a primary reason for resisting change.
  4. Staying curious: Multiple solutions to a problem often exist; remain open and curious about alternative approaches.

Practicing the strategies above enables a responsive approach to change while cultivating resilience and personal growth.

Increase Your Emotional Intelligence with Frontline

Emotional intelligence is the foundation for cohesive, collaborative teams. It lays the groundwork for robust communication, stronger connections, and a healthy work environment where every individual can excel.

To gain deeper insights and valuable tips on emotional intelligence, explore our webinar and discover how mastering emotional intelligence can help you create successful employees. Also, you can learn more and register for our course, Foundations of Emotional Intelligenceto improve your team collaboration and leadership abilities through a deeper understanding of your own emotional intelligence.

Or contact us if you would like to learn more about EQ i2.0 assessment or other tailored solutions for your company. Our team is ready to guide you on this transformative path toward building a more emotionally intelligent and thriving workforce.

-Frontline Training Solutions

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About the Author

Nic Dampier

Nic Dampier is the Creative Director at Frontline Training Solutions as well as the Grand Rapids, Michigan locations of Express Employment Professionals and Specialized Recruiting Group. With his degree in Strategic Communication Management, and over a decade in creative leadership, Nic developed the C.R.I.C.K.E.T. framework for effective brand messaging and excels in storytelling and brand identity. A U.S. Navy veteran and former Creative Arts Pastor, he has a rich background in cross-cultural communication and large-scale production. Nic is also an accomplished filmmaker, recognized at the 2021 ArtPrize International Art Competition for his impactful storytelling.