The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

By Verity Creedy

I saw a sign recently that said, “EQ is the new IQ” and it got me thinking. It comes as no surprise that technical skills are of the utmost importance at work, especially when it comes to keeping up with new technology, like AI, and implementing hybrid roles. But technical skills are no longer sufficient for driving performance and attracting top talent. Now more than ever, organizations must emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence at work, leaning on leaders with strong interpersonal skills, as well as building collaborative and inclusive cultures.

Mastering emotional intelligence is a catalyst for high-quality team performance. This skill can significantly influence culture and productivity, leading to better communication, stronger teamwork, and better leadership. Let’s explore the importance of EQ and how it not only helps navigate new landscapes but also drives team performance in the long run.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a multifaceted skill set. It encompasses the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, while also acknowledging and influencing the feelings of others. This includes emotional awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills.

While the term was coined around 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked emotional intelligence as a top-10 skill for success in 2020. That’s because when organizations prioritize EQ, employees feel valued and understood, leading to higher morale and job satisfaction. In this sense, emotional intelligence carves a path for a positive company culture, with research showing how it drives engagement and retention.

Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

So, what exactly does it look like when an organization puts EQ at the forefront of its core values? Here are a few benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

  1. Improved communication and conflict resolution: Employees with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to handle communication challenges and navigate conflicts effectively.
  1. Enhanced leadership and teamwork. Leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence inspire trust and loyalty and can adapt their leadership style to the needs of different individuals, resulting in stronger teams and more motivated employees.
  1. Better stress management and decreased burnout. When EQ is a priority, employees can avoid burnout and are more resilient when inevitable setbacks surface.

Developing EQ in Your Leaders

Leadership is intensely human. So, it’s no surprise that effective leadership requires a deep understanding of emotional intelligence. Leaders with high EQ are better equipped to inspire and guide their teams. While there is certainly not a “quick fix” solution, here are three steps organizations can encourage employees to take:

Step 1: Recognize and Manage Personal Stress

Leaders should first understand their own stress and potential derailers, which are the negative aspects of personality that emerge under pressure. Knowing how you show up in times of stress and pressure is critical to a leader’s consistent effectiveness – and their personal brand. To handle derailers:

  • Prepare: Anticipate stress and set clear intentions for outcomes.
  • Acknowledge: Recognize your derailers and apologize without using them as an excuse.
  • Pause: Take a moment to count to 10 before responding to stress to ensure you respond in a way that reflects your intentions.
  • Nurture: Continuously work on maintaining your physical and emotional health.

When it comes to recognizing stress, HR and leadership coaches can support leaders by helping them manage derailers and plan for challenges.

Step 2: Practice Empathy

Every team member is different, and how they uniquely respond to the same situation varies dramatically. Leaders must recognize and understand others’ emotions, practicing empathy rather than sympathy. Empathy is acknowledging others’ feelings without necessarily agreeing with their perspective. To do this, leaders can focus on active listening, capturing emotions, and understanding perspectives. This builds trust and engages team members, motivating them to contribute to solutions.

Step 3: Collaborate on Solutions

Once leaders understand their own emotions and their team’s, they can work together to achieve goals. Leaders mobilize teams effectively by:

  • Seeking perspectives
  • Asking for help
  • Gathering ideas
  • Helping others

The key is to listen to and act on feedback. Although not all suggestions will be feasible, acknowledging and explaining decisions builds trust and enhances collaboration.


Developing EQ is a crucial investment in organizational success. Leaders who foster EQ within your organization create a positive, inclusive work environment that not only promotes teamwork, communication, and productivity but also your organization’s long-term success. When evaluating your development budgets, check – are you appropriately balancing the tech skills and the soft skills? Are you helping your leaders with IQ and EQ?

Verity Creedy is Vice President of DDI’s Product Management team. She is obsessed with building powerful development experiences for leaders.

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