Using emotional intelligence in the workplace

In a previous blog, I discussed some practical ways to use emotions in the workplace. Let’s explore a little further.

If you are interested in EI, there is a very good book called the Emotional Intelligent Manager, by Caruso and Salovey. The work of Mayer, Salovey and Caruso’s on EI tells us the following:

Emotions are information – they are telling us something about how we and others are feeling about a situation or decision. To ignore them is to miss out on potentially useful information. Emotions make us human and underpin our thought processes, by taking emotion out of the process we are ignoring the values driven, people centric side of the decision making process.

We can try to ignore emotions, but it doesn’t work – as human beings we are hard wired to have emotions, they help us survive. Social psychologists have found that when people work at suppressing emotion they remember less. The energy taken to suppress emotion is energy diverted away from listening and processing. So suppressing emotions actually makes us less effective at work.

We can try and hide emotions, but we are not as good at is as we think. Studies on facial expressions have shown that people are very good at picking up on nonverbal cues and they KNOW when someone is covering up. That undermines trust in leaders and organisations. On another note, acting out an emotion you don’t feel (think flight attendants and their ability to smile through everything) takes so much energy it has been linked to burnout and high turnover.

So, emotions are useful in the workplace (and no matter how we try they are always going to be there) – let’s look at some basics of how to use Emotional Intelligence. The Mayer Salovey Caruso model of EI has four skills:

Identify emotions:

This helps us get complete and accurate data. Listen, ask questions, check in with yourself and others to find out how people feel. People who are skilled at this have a great “read” on people and situations.

Use emotions:

Figure out how these feelings will impact and influence your thinking and that of others. In my previous blog I mentioned that a positive mood helps creative thinking and a neutral or negative mood helps accurate diagnosis. People who do this well are good at feeling what others are feeling, they can generate emotions and use them to help the thinking process. They understand how moods influence thinking.

Understand emotions:

Evaluate the possible scenarios – what are the causes of these feelings? If they continue, what might happen next? Will they escalate, or diminish? How might they play out? People with this skill have a rich emotional vocabulary, they understand how people can feel mixed emotions about something and they are really good at knowing the right things to say when someone is emotional.

Manage emotions:

Determine the root cause of the emotions (Why do I feel like this? What is really going on for me?) and take action. Take positive steps towards bringing yourself and others back into values congruence. Add the emotional data to the logical data to make your decision. Skilled people can manage the emotions of themselves and others. They can calm people down, pep them up, and inspire and motivate.

Are you good at these four steps? Is it innate, or do you have to work at it?

If you are not that great at it, the good news is that EI can be developed and I’ll be discussing how you might do that in future blogs.

Contact Ros for leadership development, coaching and facilitation, or if you have questions about the topics – or visit Shaping Change at

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