What Is the Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Business World?

What Is the Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Business World?
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What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In the past two decades, the phrases Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) have been the latest buzz words when it comes to total acceptance and understanding of self-behavior and the acceptance of another’s behavior.

In a Psychology Today article, it’s clear that EI was first conceived in 1990 by Peter Salovey, Ph.D. and John Mayer, Ph.D., however in 1995 Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. took the terms further in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The acronym EQ was never used by Goleman but as schools began to teach emotional intelligence and discuss the emotional quotient, worlds collided and EQ and EI become interchangeable.

Beyond school children, teaching emotional intelligence in business and role-playing to succeed in this area has brought many companies to not only accept the method but use it as required training.

The emotional intelligence role in the business world has expanded, especially with workplace diversity, to sway both spoken and body language from those of a negative nature to a positive nature.

“You did a bad job, that’s why you’re so upset,” with EQ can now be, “I had to do that job when I first started and it was hard! What can I do to help?”

The Need for EQ at the Office

EQ Means Individuality Morgue File

Emotional Intelligence basically deals with emotions and how co-workers can intelligently deal with emotions of another without offending. For example, “You look awful today,” is better said, “Everyone has bad days, I had one last week. Is that why you’re frowning? What can I do to help?” The concept is not to accuse but to comfort. EQ is in and of itself a way to be supportive of another’s emotions without being hurtful.

Sounds easy right? It really isn’t and there are classes offered all over the world today that deal specifically with emotional intelligence in the business world.

Considering how many teachers utilize EQ in their dealings with student behaviors today, think how much better off we’d all be if we had learned EQ at an early age and it came naturally?

As a business owner and former HR manager, I have found myself in situations that to me seemed childish as far as accusations and harmful words. Not as much bullying as non-supportive, the untrained EQer is simply unaware that statements can hurt and mess up an entire day for a co-worker.

Words can hurt—we all remember that from our school days but those harmful words are ever-present in today’s business world.

Enter emotional intelligence. It’s a method and a practice that must be learned through role-playing in order to get it right.

A manager that tells a subordinate, “I could have finished the job in half the time,” has in effect placed a low value on the subordinate both professionally and personally. A manager can sway these feelings by considering the subordinate’s feelings by saying, “I remember way back when I did that job as a newbie. It was tough for me. Want me to show you some tricks?”

By using a supportive statement instead of a hurtful one, the subordinate doesn’t even feel they’ve done a bad job and have the acceptance of their supervisor.

While it sounds simple, the concept of EQ from both the giver and receiver when taught in an adult setting is often difficult, especially when one looks at the cultural diversity of the workforce.

Cultural Diversity & EQ

Flags of Many Cultures Morgue File

If one looks at emotional intelligence and its role in business, one must also look at cultural diversity and learned behaviors and beliefs. For an example, if we take a look at what the NFL fan world thought of convicted dog fighter and NFL player Michael Vick, everyone was appalled at his crimes.

On the other side of that coin, if a child is brought up to believe dog fighting is what one does and is widely practiced in their culture or family, although it is illegal, to Mr. Vick it may have been a learned behavior. Only through counseling and understanding of animal rights was Vick able to understand the consequences of his culture and change it.

An example in the business world may be a sales person who refuses to sell to people of a certain color because of the mindset placed upon him by family members or his culture. If he is taught to believe that people of color are all bad, as an adult they will remain all bad.

The presence of emotional intelligence in the business world, therefore, becomes a necessity to establish guidelines on both expressed and impressed behaviors. It teaches supportiveness and understanding and denies fear of expression without retribution.

Role Playing & Teaching EQ

Role Play With EQ Morgue File

George Garza in his article, Emotional Intelligence & Group Performance offers a free test that allows each of us to test our EQ scores when it comes to dealing with thoughts and behaviors. EQ works best in the business world through role-playing exercises much the same as school children utilize EQ to accept each other as is, without judgment.

Everyone has someone who has motivated them. It may have been a pastor, a teacher, or parent or role model. In their eyes, the mentor has done no wrong in life and they strive to be that person. In real world situations, however, the act of imitating the person doesn’t really work. Why not you ask? The mentor did indeed suffer failures but the wanna be is unable to see or accept those failures as realities; the mentor could not be where they are today with failure along the way.

Enter role playing to teach emotional intelligence in the business world. All types of personalities and traits can evolve through the teachings of EQ whether it is the less assertive or the very overpowering.

One role playing teaching tool may be a look at a customer service situation. To set the scene, a customer comes to your business and is told for $100 they will get A, B & C. Upon exiting, the customer realized they’ve only received A & B and no C. You can role play to determine what each person would do when the unhappy customer returned:

  • Person One – The customer should have checked before he left, not my fault.
  • Person Two – We strive on customer service and I apologize, let me take care of that for you.
  • Person Three – I really saved the company some money by cheating the customer!

Surprisingly, in today’s business world, most people will fall under answers one or three and not the correct answer—two. Bright Hub author Margo Dill in her article, Emotional Intelligence Classroom: Using EQ Activities and Conflict Resolution is a good place to start if your company desires EQ training.

The Emotional Intelligence Consortium also offers great steps to achieving the perfect EQ workplace.

EQ Is Not All Situational

Using EQ to Learn Morgue File

Lastly, when considering emotional intelligence in business or in a working environment, it’s not all situational. Feelings and behaviors play a big part in learning how to deal with tough situations.

Those who are less assertive or intimidated can benefit from EQ and those who intimidate can learn to change the way of supervising or working alongside a gentle, yet effective co-worker.

There is a school in the area where I live where parents, teachers, and children are required to attend EQ classes. Over the years I have lived here and watched these students and their parents grow from EQ, they are assertive in a positive way that doesn’t allow for discrimination, teasing, or blame.

Understanding the emotional intelligence role in business is a first step; engaging in the practice is a step that will benefit your organization a lifetime.


Psychology Today - https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199709/the-unconventional-wisdom-emotional-intelligence - Marian M Jones 9/1/97 (accessed 10/8/10).

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