Applying Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Promote organizational Self-awareness

The people in smart organizations continually assess what they are doing to foster enthusiasm, passion, and emotional intelligence at work. Self-awareness is as important for a group or institution as it is for an individual.

To raise awareness and enhance emotional intelligence in your organization:
  • Exchange feedback
  • Look for ways the organization can improve
  • Model optimism
  • Foster civility

Exchange Feedback

An emotionally intelligent organization thrives on a culture of open communication. The respectful exchange of information raises the awareness of the organization by raising the awareness of the people who comprise it.

Remember to ask others for their feedback. This provides you with valuable information about your own performance, and it models self-awareness, encouraging them to seek, and open themselves up to, feedback from you. Asking for feedback is the best way to increase your opportunities to give it.

For suggestions on exchanging feedback politely and effectively:

Guidelines for Giving and Receiving Feedback

When receiving feedback…

  1. Assume a non-judgmental attitude.
  2. Listen carefully for understanding.
  3. Ask for specific examples.
  4. Don’t attempt to defend your behavior.
  5. Clarify what you hear.
  6. Express appreciation for the effort.


When giving feedback…

  1. Speak directly to the person.
  2. Assume a non-judgmental attitude.
  3. Make it timely.
  4. Give specific examples.
  5. Maintain the person’s self-esteem.
  6. Focus on changeable
  7. Engage the person in developing solutions.
  8. Express your confidence in the person.

Look for Ways the Organization Can Improve

Every organization can improve—and, as an employee who has learned the skills of emotional intelligence—you are in an ideal position to see how it can improve. To do this you have to think about what goes on in the organization.

You should particularly try to notice repeated conflicts, errors, production bottlenecks, or inefficiencies. These often have simple solutions that can substantially improve both organizational effectiveness and the ease of your own work. When you identify possible solutions or even just persistent problems, bring them up in meetings, as appropriate, or approach your supervisor about them privately. Your efforts will improve your organization, and your value to the organization.

Model Optimism

One problem you may notice is pessimistic thinking. It is usually better not to point this out directly since this may make others feel defensive and damage relationships. A better way to combat pessimism is to model optimism.

If a colleague describes a challenge your team faces as a permanent problem with no solution, you can listen courteously and then offer your own, more positive perspective. By explaining the challenge in terms of temporary causes that can be removed or overcome, you give others hope that they can improve the organization—and you teach them the skill of optimistic thinking. As you model optimism for others, they will begin to reflect the same positive attitude back to you, creating a “cycle” of improvement in your workplace.

Foster Civility

Rude behavior at work is a nuisance! Unfortunately, that’s not all it is. According to studies carried out by Christine M. Pearson, of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, discourtesy in the workplace damages organizational effectiveness. A rude worker wastes valuable work time, reduces others’ effectiveness by causing them to worry and avoid him or her, lowers morale and commitment to the organization, and increases rates of absenteeism and turnover.

An emotionally intelligent organization will have a culture of civility and respect. You foster civility principally by being civil to others. Being courteous isn’t difficult, but it requires you to think about the needs of others and how you would want to be treated in the same circumstances.

Remember the little courtesies that make life more pleasant: say please and thank you, express sincere appreciation, listen respectfully to others’ opinions, even if you disagree, accommodate their needs and schedules, remembering that your work isn’t the only important work done in your organization.