Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:53

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Written by Jonathan "JJ" Jarrell, PHR


Over the past two decades, we have seen our HR roles change from being primarily administrative to making strategic decisions regarding our company’s future direction. A key component of this new role is identifying and strategically aligning our talent. The importance of this responsibility cannot be stressed enough, but how do we go about finding the right people?
In the past, new hires and promotions were based on technical ability or the candidate’s education and experience. If someone had the needed skills and experience, it was assumed that they would make good leaders and be able to pass their knowledge along to others. Sometimes that held true, but we all know that it is possible for an employee to have the necessary degrees, be an absolute wiz at his job and still “be a cancer within the company.”
Let’s talk about Carl. Carl is a fantastic employee. His numbers are always at the top of the list. He’s worked for you for years. He never takes a sick day and is never late. He often works late into the night just to get things done. Carl is dedicated and driven. However, no one wants to be around him.
Carl is not going to win any popularity contests. He is arrogant and his management style is one of intimidation. Carl holds himself to a high standard, and he cannot fathom those who do not hold themselves to the same standard.
He does not understand that he is part of the problem. When people are assigned to Carl’s team, their numbers inevitably go down. Carl turns a good employee with good productivity into someone who no longer wants to come to work. Carl is a poison, but what do you do about Carl?
How did Carl rise through the ranks of your company if he is such a poor leader and communicator? That is easy. He was very good at his job. Many companies promote based on performance with little regard to the soft skills that make someone a stronger leader. In fact, Carl’s poor habits have been reinforced. After all, he keeps being promoted. He must be doing everything right.
When results are all that matter, you get results oriented employees whose methods may not be sustainable or scalable. In the 1990’s, Dr. Daniel Goleman introduced a new way of predicting success. Rather than focus on technical ability, as the sole predictor of success, he advocates focusing on emotional intelligence (EI).
Emotional intelligence focuses on four key factors that successful leaders must have: Perceiving Emotions, Emotional Reasoning, Understanding Emotions, and Managing Emotions.
• Perceiving Emotions—This is one’s ability to recognize emotions in others. It involves reading others and understanding their verbal and nonverbal cues.
• Reasoning with Emotions—This factor involves one’s ability to choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
• Understanding Emotions—This involves understanding what drives an emotional response in others, as well as yourself. What makes people tick?
Managing Emotions—This may be the most important aspect of Emotional Intelligence. It involves using emotions in yourself and others to attain the desired goal. People are emotional creatures. Knowing how to use those emotions to achieve positive results is a large part of being a successful leader.
Since its introduction into the business world, the effect of emotional intelligence has been tested in clinical and real world settings. Each time it has passed with flying colors. Employees who possess a high EI affect those around them in a positive rather than negative way, and make better employees. Companies with a large number of emotionally intelligent employees are more successful than companies with a comparatively low number of emotionally intelligent employees.
This does not mean that companies should engage in hug therapy each morning. It has been proven that employees with a high EI also possess greater technical ability. They use their abilities, and the abilities of others, more effectively than those with a low EI. It is possible to still focus on technical ability, but include emotional intelligence when it comes time to hire, fire, and promote.
Okay, emotional Intelligence is great, and you need more high EI employees. How do you go about achieving that goal? Setting that goal is the first and most important step, and here are a few ways that you can quickly implement this concept into your existing company structure.

Hire People that Possess High EI

The easiest way to change the culture of your company is through new hires. There will always be turnover in a successful company that can be viewed as an opportunity to improve the company culture. During the interview process, you can focus on hiring new employees that possess a high EI.

There are several ways to accomplish this, and all rely heavily on the interview process. Initially, there is no reason to retain EI experts or conduct an extensive battery of tests. A simple shift of focus from work related experience to emotional intelligence during the interview process is a strong step in the right direction. Use the interview to examine a candidate’s emotional response to stressful situations. Make certain that the candidate is being specific. Do not let them get by with just a general response.

Assess Your Current Employees

Hiring is one way to increase the emotional intelligence of your company, but you cannot simply terminate everyone and start from scratch. Your company already has a staff in place. This means assessing your employees with an eye toward EI. Several tests that measure EI are available.
The instrument is not as important as the act of measuring and expecting EI from the employee. The act itself will send the message that this is now important quality within your company. It will also help you identify those who may be suited for a larger role within your company.

Stress How Results are Obtained Rather than the Results Themselves

Results are relevant. You want your employees to perform well, but the methods they employ to achieve those results are also essential. Your employees need to know this. Make sure that you are stressing the importance of communication, teamwork, and flexibility when performing your assessments.

Promote the Right People

When it comes time to fill a position within the company through promotion, make sure that you promote people who demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence. Before promoting, you should ask the candidates pointed questions about what they think it takes to be effective in their new position. Then, ask them how they have demonstrated those skills in their current positions. Once again, by stressing this in the promotion process, you are sending a message to the rest of your company that these are valuable traits.
Okay, you know how to implement emotional intelligence into your company’s HR practices, but is it worth the trouble? Not every employee is like Carl, and you have been doing pretty well over the years. What results can you expect to see if you implement these changes? Let’s look at some hard numbers.
• Credit card giant American Express integrated EI into their training sessions. Employees that received training in EI saw a 20% increase in sales over the control group.
• The United States Air Force decided to assess EI when determining which servicemen would make effective recruiters. Those with high EI were 300% more successful than their counterparts.
• L’Oreal Cosmetics began to select their agents based on EI rather than on technical ability alone. In the first year, these agents outsold their counterparts by an average of over $90,000.
Emotional Intelligence is a predictor of success. No matter what business you are involved in, focusing on EI as well as technical ability will help your company grow. Employee productivity will be better, and employee retention will increase. A business with a high EI rate is a great place to work, and talented employees will not want to leave. Companies that retain high-performing employees are successful.
As a HR professional, you strive to help the other members of your company reach their full potential. You know that by doing so your company will continue to grow and succeed. Implementing programs that emphasize Emotional Intelligence is one way to accomplish those goals. There are a host of programs that will help you increase your company’s overall EI.
The most important aspect of increasing Emotional Intelligence within your company is a commitment on your part. Once employees see that EI is important to the company and their overall success, they will seek ways to improve themselves. All you have to do is lay the groundwork.
07JJJarrellJonathan “JJ” Jarrell, PHR, is the HR Director for Performance Food Group in Gainesville, FL, as well as the 2011-2012 Chapter President for NCF-SHRM. Additionally, “JJ” is a Certified Leadership and Social & Emotional Intelligence Coach. Contact “JJ” at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.