Emotional intelligence in the workplace

What is emotional intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence is the measure of an individual's abilities to recognise and manage their emotions, and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into five different categories. These are:-

  • Self-regulation
  • Self awareness
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills. 

Let us look at these in more detail...


We need to self-regulate for reliable and healthy emotional wellbeing, to be able to calm yourself down when you are upset and to know what you need to do if you are feeling down so as to make yourself feel happy. This is a skill that anyone can improve on if they so choose to do so. The word 'emotion' derived from the Latin means 'to move'. Consistent self-regulation requires focus on your deepest values rather than feelings. Violation of values can produce bad feelings, while acknowledging them makes you feel more authentic and empowered.


Being self-aware then is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognise oneself as an individual separate from the environment and others. You are also aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. You know your strengths and weaknesses.

If you are self-aware you have an understanding of other people and you are aware how they may perceive you in return. While you develop self-awareness, your thoughts and interpretations will begin to change. This change in mental state will also alter your emotions and increase your emotional intelligence.


Motivation is the desire to do things, to want to get things done. It is the crucial element in setting and attaining goals. It is the reason for people's actions, desires and needs. Motivation comes from within the individual.


Empathy is the capacity to understand and feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. The capacity to place oneself in another person's world.

Social skills

These are the skills we use to communicate and interact with each other, both verbally and non-verbally. These can be through body language, gestures and our personal appearance.

Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace? 

Emotional intelligence at work is about how people and relationships function. How well do the people in the organisation work together? It is important because it:-

  • Allows people to be better able to work in teams.
  • Helps people adjust to change and be flexible.
  • Follows actions not words.
  • It's a powerful tool for success.
  • Leads to effective communication.
  • Means people are authentic.
  • Allows people to show respect.
  • Leads with heart.

There are many opportunities both in work and life to practice improving your emotional intelligence. 

Have a look at the following points:-

  • Focus more on 'we' and less on 'me'.
  • Ask open questions.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Learn about people's expectations.
  • Increase empathy.
  • Learn to recognise others' needs before your own.
  • Be confident, intuitive and creative.

The emotional intelligent business consistently excels in all these areas and has insight into how this happens.

How to develop emotional intelligence

  • The ability to reduce negative emotions.
  • Stay calm and manage stress.
  • Be assertive and express difficult emotions when necessary.
  • Stay proactive... not reactive.
  • Develop resilience.
  • The ability to express emotions.

Where to use emotional intelligence 

In any situation where you need to share your emotions and speak up for yourself, whilst recognising what is going on for the other person. Emotions are not left at the door when you enter the workplace. Practice and use your emotional intelligence to succeed in life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD4
Written by Stephanie Walker, Graduate Diploma in Integrative Counselling.Reg.MBACP
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD4

Stephanie Walker, graduate diploma in Integrative Counselling (MBACP). I have worked in many different counselling settings and I have a diverse background working with adults. Experience working with low confidence/self esteem.
Stress and Anxiety.
Relationship Issues.
Sexual Abuse.
Domestic Violence.

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