Emotions at Work


EQ, Emotional Quotient, is a measure of a person’s emotional intelligence. Let us decode this phrase and get a better understanding of its importance in the professional sphere and how it impacts leadership.

Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and adaptation is the earliest reference to this concept. As early as the 1900’s, researchers were redefining the word intelligence, (which only took into consideration cognitive aspects such as memory and problem solving) to recognize and include non-cognitive aspects like emotions.

What is EQ?

A person’s awareness of his/her own feelings and emotional triggers, those of others around him/her and the ability to respond appropriately to them, based on what the situation and social norm requires rather than what personal emotions dictate. It is about knowing when and how to express emotion in any situation, and equally importantly, about recognizing emotional triggers and controlling them.

EQ at Work

Dr. Manoj Samal, an independent learning consultant and trainer in London who was earlier a research scientist with the Govt. of India shares his insight on why emotional intelligence plays a key role in today’s corporate world,

“During my training and mentoring of people varying from school children to corporate executives, I have noticed that people who succeed the most are those with a higher EQ than an IQ. Primarily because emotion is no longer the poor cousin of intellect in today’s world where ‘team play’ is a prerequisite for success. To be an effective team player, one has to understand and manage effectively emotions of oneself as well as those of others. Moreover, the root cause of motivation to succeed in any task lies in emotion, not in intellect.”

EQ at work can be perceived from three dimensions:

Nature of the job: The service industry holds EQ at work in high esteem. Irrespec­tive of the situation, a certain decorum and emotional stability is mandatory in this job profile. Managing feelings and handling stress are important for success.

Company morale: Consideration of co-workers, avoidance of conflicts through constructive problem solving methods are all morale-building initiatives that lead to stability. Every company, in any industry or vertical needs these qualities in their employees.

Interpersonal relationships: Higher the EQ better the interpersonal relationships between employees and also between employers and employees. People with higher EQs are more popular and liked, more likely to be made team leaders since they display sensitivity and effectiveness in handling eclectic people and situations.

Why do you need to develop your EQ?

The workplace has become more dynamic, more demanding and certainly more fast-paced. The smallest edge you have over your colleague makes a world of difference. Your cognitive, emotional, and physical resources become increasingly important.

Have you ever wondered why, if your day starts badly at home (maybe an argument with your spouse), you are in a bad mood at work too? That is your EI at work. Once you make yourself aware of the emotional triggers and response, chances of handling and expressing it more appropriately improve. Scientists refer to this ability of stopping to analyze and honestly recognizing an emotion (anger, jealousy, embarrassment) as a ‘metamood’.

Let’s look at a more structured method, as laid out in Emotional Intelligence (1995), a best selling book authored by Daniel Goldman. In this book Goldman describes emotional intelligence as the wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. Since the publication of this book, emotional intelligence has become a prominent buzzword in the corporate world. The book outlines four main constructs upon which EQ is measured:

Self-awareness: Awareness of one’sown emotions and the ability to recognize their impact.

Self-management: Control over one’s emotions and impulses while adapting to changing circumstances to bring about the desired positive outcome.

Social awareness: Ability to sense and understand others’ emotions and expression of the same within social norms.

Relationship management: Inspire, influence, and facilitate development even while managing conflict.

Goldman put forth the idea that individuals are born with a general emotional intelligence that in turn determines their potential for learning emotional competencies. EQ can be learnt and developed so that it becomes a tool, a skill set.

Development of these four pillars of emotional intelligence results in a higher EQ at work. A combined higher EQ of an organisation results in better individual performance, team performance and overall organisational productivity, which in turn benefit the bottom line.

Are you a leader?

Some roles, especially as you climb higher up the corporate ladder, require a higher EQ. Leadership roles, management level roles and particularly customer-centric roles place a high premium on a strong EQ. Handling difficult situations and difficult people maintaining one’s own equilibrium and controlling volatile situations with the right attitude and the right words is the true mark of a leader. It is also reflective of his or her high EQ.

The true test for a leader is when he has to solve a complex business problem involving multiple stakeholders, right from customers to vendors, and bring out intense, divergent, and at times, conflicting perspectives during discussions. Clearly, the outcome is better when the EQ of all the stakeholders is very high. Hence, it becomes all the more important to assess this perspective of EQ during a selection process.

R. Satish Chandra, AVP – Operations Support, Micro-land says, “A true leader will not expect the world to be perfect, he will just find a perfect way to work around the imperfect (corporate) world.”

Assessment of EQ

Different models have resulted in the development of various instruments for the assessment of EQ. While the measures itself may overlap, all models look into very different constructs.

Bar-On’s EQ-I , has been around for over a decade. An EQ-I conducted in 2000 analyzed the scores of over seventy-seven hundred administrations of the Emotion Quotient Inventory (EQ-I). Results: men and women did not differ on the total EI. Women scored higher on people skills like empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility. Men scored higher on adaptability, assertiveness, stress tolerance and impulse control.

The multi-rater or 360-degree survey instruments are designed to measure emotional intelligence at the workplace. They assess aspects that are considered important because they provide an insight and a comparative feedback on a person’s relative strengths and weaknesses as against others in the same organisation or within a similar role. Also, the discrepancy between how others perceive a person as against his or her own self-perceptions.

The most obvious and easily recognizable emotional skills are empathy, graciousness, compassion – all nonverbal, which by the way account for 90% of our emotional communication. Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal developed the PONS test (Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity) to measure people’s ability to read all emotional cues.

Today, there are specialist companies that create specific and customized psychometric tests for companies. These tests have their foundations in the existing tests discussed above. So specialized is this niche field, that the companies also analyse and assess the results. The findings are then handed back to the company interview panel. These tests have become an integral part of the recruitment process as they provide important and deeper insights about the person and also his or her suitability for a specific role.

So next time you find someone annoying you, resist that urge to shout or snap, work towards being a more emotionally aware person. It sure will do the magic for you.

-Sheetal Chhabria



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