Applying Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Adapt to Circumstances

Rigid, unbending people often become anxious and angry in the face of change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” they insist, “It’s okay to make changes in that other department, but not in mine.” But change in the workplace is inevitable, and flexibility will enhance both your effectiveness and your job satisfaction.

To adapt to workplace change:

  • Invest your energy wisely
  • Change yourself
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Explore your problem-solving options

Invest Your Energy Wisely

There may sometimes be changed circumstances in your workplace that you find burdensome. Should you try to adapt to these circumstances or adapt the circumstances to yourself?

To determine this, you need to first distinguish the things you can change from those you cannot. Accept what you really can’t change—genuinely accept it. Be willing to have it so. This is the first vital step to adapting to it. Fighting the inevitable burns up your emotional fuel without getting you anywhere.

On the other hand, if you have identified a real problem that you can realistically eliminate, you shouldn’t hesitate to invest your energy in resolving it.

Change Yourself

A wise person once said, “When we are unable to change circumstances, we are challenged to change ourselves.” If your behavior no longer fits your workgroup, work activities, or company policies, and you cannot change these things, then you will need to change your behavior.

Identify the source of the friction—the patterns of working, thinking, and relating that are no longer working for you. Brainstorm for ideas on how you can adapt them to your new realities, and develop and work a plan for change.

Leverage Your Strengths

Use success thinking to recall when you skillfully handled change in another time and place. Think of examples of your past successes in dealing with change and being flexible.

What did you learn from those experiences that would be helpful to you now and that you might be able to share with others who face the same challenge? Your past successes have built competencies in you that you may be able to exploit in meeting the new challenges.

Explore Your Problem-solving Options

Flexible people use creativity to find different ways to solve problems and meet the challenges of change. One basic principle of creative problem-solving is that the more possible solutions you develop, the more likely you are to find a good one. Try brainstorming to develop creative solutions. Try to capture every idea that comes to you about the problem. Often people have insights on a difficult problem in the shower, in bed, in the car, or some other non-work-related place, but they fail to record them, and so they forget them. Don’t fall into this trap. Good ideas, like rare butterflies, need to be captured immediately. Otherwise they may escape forever.  For additional suggestions on generating innovative solutions, consult the Nine Approaches for New Solutions Tool #5.


Many very intelligent people fail in the workplace because being smart is not enough. Acting in an intelligent way is more important to your success than just having the ability to do well at intellectual tasks.

Whether you are a great intellect or, like Winnie the Pooh, a “bear of very little brain,” you can find success on the job.