Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Practical Strategies for Leaders

‍Building a positive and productive work environment has a significant impact on organizational success and development. Leaders must be able to recognize, understand and manage emotions in themselves and others to foster a successful work environment. With practical strategies, leaders can build emotional intelligence and create a culture of respect, collaboration and innovation in the workplace where everyone feels valued and appreciated.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to an individual’s ability to recognize their own emotions, as well as those of others. It also includes the ability to use that information to guide decision-making and create positive outcomes. Emotional intelligence is considered to be a separate concept from, and more important than, IQ – meaning that someone very intelligent may not be very emotionally intelligent.

Emotional intelligence is essential in the workplace because it facilitates collaboration, productivity and positive relationships. It can be developed, and there are many strategies you can use to do so. By growing your EQ, you can improve your career, your relationships, and your life overall. To grow your EQ, you must understand how emotions work, how they affect people, and what you can do to manage your emotions and the emotions of others.

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotions have a significant impact on the workplace in many ways. Employees who are unhappy at work are less productive, more likely to quit and have higher healthcare costs due to stress-related illnesses.

  • There are many benefits to building a culture of emotional intelligence in the workplace, including:
  •  Improved team morale: Happy employees perform better, so boosting morale is key to increasing productivity.
  • Stronger relationships: Respecting and understanding others leads to stronger relationships and stronger teams.
  • Better decision-making: When leaders are better able to manage their emotions, they are able to make decisions from a place of logic and reason.
  • A competitive edge: According to a Deloitte report from 2017, hiring employees with strong soft skills has the potential to increase revenue by over $90,000.

Understanding the Impact of Emotions

Leaders need to understand how an employee’s emotions could impact their work. How an employee feels in the moment can greatly affect their ability to do their job – and their ability to interact with others. For example, if an employee is feeling overwhelmed and needs assistance, it’s not helpful to tell them to “snap out of it.” This dismissive response ignores the employee’s feelings and does not address the root cause of the issue.

A more effective approach would be for the leader to recognize the employee’s emotion and respond in a way that is empathetic and supportive. This might involve asking the employee how they are feeling, offering resources or assistance, or finding ways to alleviate their workload. By acknowledging and addressing the employee’s emotions, a leader can create a more positive and supportive work environment for their team.

The SAFE-G Method

Here’s a simple framework I’ve learnt over the years to keep in touch with my own emotions and how they are impacting my interactions with others at work. I call it the SAFE-G zone!

  • Start with self-awareness: When you are able to recognize your own emotions and understand why you feel a certain way, you can better manage and regulate them. This self-awareness can also help you be more attuned to the emotions of your team and respond in a more empathetic and supportive way.

For example, you might take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect on your own emotions and how they might affect your interactions with your team. You might ask yourself: “How am I feeling today? How might my emotions impact my interactions with my team?”

  • Use active listening: When someone is speaking, give them your full attention and try to understand their perspective. This can help you better recognize and respond to their emotions.

For example, when someone is speaking to you, you might give them your full attention and try to understand their perspective. You might say: ” I would be greatly interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. Could you elaborate on your perspective for me?”

  • Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from your co-workers and manager about how you can improve your emotional intelligence. This can provide valuable insights and help you identify areas for growth.

For example, you might ask your team for feedback on how you can improve your emotional intelligence. You might say: “I value your input and I’m committed to growing as a leader. Can you give me any feedback on how I can better recognize and understand the emotions of my team?”

  • Show empathy: Make an effort to put yourself in others’ shoes and understand their emotions. This can help build trust and strengthen relationships at work.

For example, you might make an effort to put yourself in your team’s shoes and understand their emotions. You might say: “That must have been really challenging for you. How are you feeling about it?”

  • Practice gratitude: Expressing gratitude and appreciation for your co-workers can help create a positive work environment and improve overall morale.

For example, you might express appreciation and gratitude for your team by saying: “I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your hard work and dedication. Thank you for all that you do.”

How to Build Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Building a culture of emotional intelligence is a process that requires leaders to increase self-awareness, manage stress and create an inclusive environment where open communication is encouraged. To create a healthy work environment that effectively addresses and manages emotions, you can try implementing these strategies:

  1. Stress management:

Stress is a natural part of life, but when it’s out of control, it can have a significant impact on the workplace. There are many ways to manage stress, both on an individual level and within the workplace. Some common ways to reduce workplace stress include:

  • Promote healthy workplace habits: Short breaks between tasks allow people to recharge, build resiliency and come back to work feeling refreshed.
  • Cultivate a Supportive Environment: When people feel like they can be open and honest about their feelings without fear of judgement or rejection, they are more likely to engage in self-reflection and to practice effective communication.

  • Promote a goal setting culture: Achieving a goal can give a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which can contribute to overall job fulfillment and reduced stress.

2. Promote Open Communication

Open communication is the foundation for a culture of emotional intelligence. When communication is closed, emotions are unable to be expressed, and they become bottled up and may lead to increased stress.

  • Schedule Regular Meetings: Regular meetings allow employees to relax and open up, resulting in more open communication. A meeting doesn’t always have to be business-related; it can be anything from a book club to a game night.
  • Encourage Employees to Share Their Insecurities: Sharing insecurities can help employees become more self-aware and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This can help them identify areas for growth and development.
  • Manage Feedback Constructively: Giving and receiving feedback can help facilitate a dialogue between team members encouraging employees to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas.

3. Encourage Empathy

Empathy helps us understand the perspectives and experiences of others, which can help us better navigate and respond to their needs and emotions.

  • Give Genuine Praise: Giving genuine praise can create a positive feedback loop. When people receive praise for their actions, they are more likely to repeat those actions. So if the actions that are being praised involve being empathetic or understanding of others, the person is more likely to continue engaging in those behaviors.
  • Manage Conflicts Constructively: It’s inevitable that there will be conflict at work. Constructive conflict management often involves actively listening to the perspective of others and trying to understand their point of view. This can help individuals develop empathy by considering the emotions and experiences of others.

4. Foster Collaboration

There are many ways to foster collaboration, including:

– Create a Culture of Trust: Trust is an important part of collaboration. When employees trust each other and their leaders, they feel more comfortable collaborating and sharing their ideas.

  • Create Opportunities for Employees to Network: When employees network with each other, they are able to collaborate more effectively, enriching their work experience.
  • Provide Tools for Effective Communication: Collaboration is not only about getting people together in the same room. Tools such as video conferencing can be used to foster collaboration.
  • Build a Sense of Community: When employees have a sense of community with one another, they feel more comfortable collaborating. There are many ways to foster a sense of community at work, including:


In conclusion, emotional intelligence is an important aspect of building healthy and productive relationships in the workplace. By practicing self-awareness, seeking feedback, using active listening, showing empathy, and expressing gratitude, leaders and employees can improve their emotional intelligence and create a more positive and supportive work environment. Emotional intelligence can help foster better communication, stronger teamwork, and increased productivity, ultimately benefiting the entire organization. By making a conscious effort to develop their emotional intelligence, leaders and employees can contribute to the overall success of their team and organization.


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How to Develop Emotional Intelligence Skills | HBS Online

5 Ways To Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (

Making the most of your learning style: Emotional intelligence | Help Centre | The Open University

EQ in the workplace: 6 ways high EQ employees boost productivity (

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