By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series focusing on emotional intelligence)

Building on last column’s overview of emotional intelligence, the following research illuminates the effectiveness of employing emotional intelligence in the workplace. For those nonprofits continually struggling for time and resources, the following information can be helpful.

In an article titled “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Why it Matters More Than Personality,” Mike Poskey, vice president at Zero Risk Human Resources, Inc., a Dallas-based human resource risk management firm specializing in hiring and retention, discusses how emotional intelligence impacts the bottom line. He notes that many organizations concentrate selection criteria and employee training on the more established  worker attributes such as technical skills, industry knowledge, education, and personality assessment. Conversely, qualitative skills — stress management, assertiveness, empathy and political and social acumen — were not measured in selecting job candidates or in training and development. Ironically, the author argues that these [emotional intelligence] skills have proven to be critical factors for success: they directly impact the bottom line.

Poskey cites research supporting his assertions:

 ♦ A study of 44 Fortune 500 companies revealed that salespeople with high levels of emotional intelligence produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores;

♦ Technical programmers rating in the top 10 percent of emotional intelligence competency developed software three times faster than those with lower scores;

♦ A recent study by a Dallas-based corporation indicated that productivity was 20 times greater among workers with higher emotional intelligence scores as compared with those scoring low in emotional intelligence; and

♦ A large hospital reduced turnover of critical-care nurses from 65 to 15 percent within 18 months of instituting an emotional intelligence screening assessment.

When examining questions many supervisors ask — Why do some people cause conflict while others are adept at resolving it? Why do people put self-interest before organizational values and objectives? Why do some employees get into more accidents than others? — Roskey again points to emotional intelligence, offering this profile of the emotionally intelligent employee:

“An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her own impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations. These employees also have empathy, remain optimistic even in the face of adversity, and are gifted at educating and persuading in a sales situation and resolving customer complaints in a customer-service role.”

Sandi Redman, an education manager at the National Telephone Cooperative Association, points to research from the Center for Creative Leadership indicating the top causes of failed leadership are associated with a lack of emotional intelligence:  a) an inability to manage change; b) inability to function well in teams; and c) a dearth of interpersonal skills. Conversely, it was found that six emotional competencies were often possessed by successful executives: influence, team leadership, organizational awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership.

Redman notes that adult workers’ level of emotional intelligence can be improved through cognitive and emotional learning, as companies worldwide are investing training resources in emotional intelligence awareness and assessments to better educate their leaders. It is emphasized that learning success hinges on four important conditions: a) commitment from top management; b) a strong plan; c) skilled trainers; and d) a good learning environment.

QUESTION TO READERS: How has your organization used emotional intelligence to improve its operations?


By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the first in a series focusing on emotional intelligence in the workplace.)

Emotional intelligence is defined as “a leader’s ability to recognize one’s own feelings and those of others for self-motivation and for managing emotions in themselves and in relationships with others.” The key is an awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur.

The concept dates back to Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and adaptation. In the 1900’s, despite traditional definitions of intelligence focusing on memory and problem-solving, researchers in intelligence began recognizing the importance of non-cognitive aspects. As early as 1920, E.L. Thorndike coined the term ‘social intelligence’ to describe the skill of understanding and managing people.

While there was growing acknowledgment among professionals of the relevance of emotions to work outcomes, it was not until Daniel Goleman’s 1996 best seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, that the term became widely known. Goleman believed that emotional competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned skills that must be  developed to result in excellent performance. He postulated that people are born with a general emotional intelligence determining their ability to master emotional competencies.

Research suggests four basic capabilities composed of specific competencies:

Self-Awareness: The ability to read and understand your emotions and realize their impact on work performance and relationships; accurate self-assessment (realistic evaluation of your strengths and limitations); and self-confidence.

Self-Management: Emotional self-control (a person’s ability to control disruptive emotions and impulses); transparency (consistently displaying honesty and integrity); adaptability (flexibility adapting to changing situations and overcoming obstacles); achievement-orientation (the drive to improve performance and meet internal standards of excellence); initiative (readiness to seize opportunities); and optimism.  

Social Awareness: Having empathy (skill at sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective and taking an active interest in their concerns); organizational awareness (an ability to read organizational life and navigate politics); and a service orientation (ability to recognize and meet follower, client and customer’ needs).

Relationship Management: Inspirational leadership (guiding and motivating with a compelling vision); influence (using a range of persuasive techniques); developing others (mentoring through feedback and guidance); change agent  (proficiency in initiating new ideas and leading people in new directions); conflict management (ability to resolve disagreements and orchestrate resolutions); building bonds (cultivating and maintaining a network of relationships); and teamwork (promoting cooperation and building trust).

Realistically, few leaders possess strengths in every aspect of emotional intelligence, but very effective leaders usually have strengths in at least of five or six key areas. While IQ is certainly needed for effective leadership, emotional intelligence is essential for managers to lead successfully.

In Part II, I’ll discuss how emotional intelligence positively impacts the workplace.

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