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How to boost your emotional intelligence for career success

Last updated

2 March 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

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Most jobs require specific technical skills. However, companies also need people who can work alongside and with others. This is where emotional intelligence (EI) in the workplace comes into play. This form of intelligence is so important that 71% of employers value it more than technical skills in candidates.

But what is emotional intelligence?

In this post, we will define emotional intelligence in a workplace context, explore its importance, outline its benefits, and discuss its components. After reading it, you will understand this attribute and learn how to use it for career success.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), measures your ability to identify, understand, manage, and use your emotions and those of your colleagues. Due to its potential to enhance interpersonal communication and collaboration, it is one of the most sought-after qualities in the workplace.

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

According to a study published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, people with greater EQ are more likely to make sound decisions. They can also deal effectively with stress, grow and sustain collaborative relationships, and cope better with constant change.

In the workplace, this skill enables you to relate better with colleagues and influence them more easily, making you a great leader. You can diffuse tense situations by bringing disagreements into the open and offering solutions everyone can agree with.

Research also indicates that people with greater EQ have higher job satisfaction and are more innovative than those with lower EQ.

How is emotional intelligence measured?

There are four methods of measuring emotional intelligence:

  • Self-reporting. This involves answering questions about yourself on a scale of 1 to 5. However, some experts say it is biased because you’re likely to give answers based on how you view yourself rather than your actual skill level.

  • Other-reporting. This method is similar to self-reporting, but your colleagues answer the questions relating to your work behavior.

  • Ability tests. These questions directly assess your ability to identify and control emotions. This method deviates from the first two, which are opinion-based.

  • The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). This is the most popular method of assessing EQ. It consists of smaller sub-tests that evaluate your capability to identify, understand, and control your emotions.

Components of emotional intelligence

Four main attributes define emotional intelligence, as determined by American psychologist and author Daniel Goleman.


This aspect refers to how well you understand your emotions and their influence on your thoughts and behavior. Self-awareness increases your self-confidence since you know the full extent of your strengths and weaknesses.

According to research by Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, only 10%–15% of people are self-aware, while 95% think they are. This can cause problems, as people who do not possess this characteristic can cause a team to perform at half its potential and trigger decreased motivation and increased stress.

To inspire others, you must first bring out the best in yourself, which is why self-awareness is so important. A great way to assess this characteristic in yourself is by completing 360-degree feedback. This exercise evaluates your performance and compares it to the opinions of your peers, boss, and direct reports. It teaches you more about your behavior and how people in the organization perceive you.

Note that self-awareness is a trait that must be nurtured progressively. You could dedicate specific days of the week to reflect on and assess your progress. If you are doing this on your own, keep a journal to regularly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Take note of areas where you have improved with clear evidence of your progress.


This is about your potential to:

  • Healthily manage your emotions

  • Control impulsive behaviors and feelings

  • Adapt to changing circumstances

  • Take initiative

  • Fulfill your commitments

Leaders with poor self-management skills find it hard to keep their impulses under control. Although a reaction is automatic, having greater emotional intelligence allows you to easily transition from reaction to response.

You can learn self-management by doing whatever it takes to manage your emotions, for example, calling a friend or taking a walk. This will help you handle adversity and stress more appropriately and intentionally.

Social awareness

This characteristic is about being empathetic. It involves recognizing other people's needs, concerns, and emotions, feeling comfortable socially, and understanding emotional cues. People with social awareness can also pick up on the power dynamics within a group or organization.

Leaders with great social awareness are empathetic. They try to understand their colleagues' perspectives and feelings, enhancing their communication and collaboration capabilities at work.

Relationship management

This quality entails your capability to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships, inspire and influence others, communicate effectively, manage conflicts, and work well in a team.

While some prefer avoiding conflicts at work, people with greater emotional intelligence can address issues properly and on time. Studies show that unaddressed conflicts can strain morale and resources, as the unproductive activities they trigger, such as gossip, could waste up to eight business hours for every unaddressed conflict left open.

Signs of high emotional intelligence

Here are some signs of high EQ in the workplace:

  • Remaining calm under pressure

  • Solving problems and making better decisions

  • Resolving conflicts

  • Showing more empathy

  • Listening, reflecting, and responding to constructive criticism

High EQ can be shown in many areas of life. For example, high emotional intelligence could help a customer service representative handle a difficult customer who is upset about the company’s product or service. By remaining calm, acknowledging the customer’s frustrations, and offering an apology, they find a quick solution and assure the client their concerns are valued.

How to identify a lack of emotional intelligence

The workplace behaviors that signify someone has low EQ include:

  • Communicating in passive-aggressive styles

  • Avoiding taking responsibility for mistakes or always playing the victim

  • Refusing to cooperate with other team members

  • Dismissing the opinions of other people or being overly critical

Someone with low emotional intelligence always believes they’re right. As a result, they are constantly arguing with their peers and never want to consider alternative opinions. This happens because they find it hard to relate to other people’s feelings. They often focus on their shortcomings and find it impossible to learn from their mistakes and move on.

Benefits of having high EQ

Some of the main benefits of greater emotional intelligence in the workplace are:

  • Positive interactions with colleagues, potential clients, supervisors, and other stakeholders through excellent communication skills

  • Approaching interactions with a positive attitude allows you to understand others more and create more impactful connections

  • A greater EQ rubs off on other employees, and you can help them become more productive

  • Enhanced performance due to a higher EQ could expose you to promotions and better roles

How to increase your EQ

To improve your emotional intelligence and set yourself up for career success, work on the following skills.

Active listening

People who listen well and pay attention to nonverbal cues can improve their EQ. One common mistake of people with poor EQ is not taking time to understand what the other person is saying and only waiting for their turn to speak. This habit can quickly cause conflicts at work.

When you are an active listener, you show how much you respect the speaker and can respond appropriately, which helps prevent misunderstandings. Active listening is also a great way of improving your communication skills.


Being empathetic is about understanding and sharing other people's feelings. You can understand their perspective and see the world the way they do. When you’re empathetic, you listen with your heart, allowing you to connect with others fully. To improve this skill, always imagine how the speaker feels.


While active listening is essential, reflective listening is even more important. It involves showing you understand what the other person has said. Reflect on their statement and confirm whether you understood it. The habit of reflecting on your own emotions also helps you manage your emotions better and become more self-aware.

You can also view this as time to think. It’s a space that allows you to go over life’s complexities and evaluate how you approach thinking around a specific action. Introduce this space to allow yourself time to think before you act.

How EQ can make leaders more effective

Leaders are the culture instigators in any organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, the consequences can be far-reaching, including poor employee engagement and low retention rates.

While your technical qualities may be superb, you won’t be an effective leader if you can't communicate well with your team or if you have poor collaboration skills. Master the art of emotional intelligence to grow as an employee and leader, and climb the career ladder faster.


Is emotional intelligence a skill or an ability?

Emotional intelligence is both an ability and a skill. It is an ability because it involves innate traits, such as self-awareness and empathy. It is also a skill because it can be learned and developed over time through practice and experience.

How many abilities are involved with emotional intelligence?

The main abilities involved in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

What is the strongest aspect of emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence involves a combination of abilities and skills, meaning there is no sole "strongest" aspect. However, people who excel in social skills, empathy, and self-awareness tend to have high emotional intelligence.

What Is EQ vs. IQ?

Intelligence quotient (IQ) measures a person’s cognitive intelligence, evaluating aspects like logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. Emotional quotient (EQ) evaluates someone’s ability to recognize and regulate emotions.

Do men or women have higher EQ?

It’s often assumed that women score higher in EQ tests compared to men, presumably because women are more emotionally expressive. Contrary to this belief, among the millions of people who have taken EQ tests worldwide, men and women have shown equal levels of emotional intelligence.

Which cultures around the world lead with an EQ-focused lifestyle?

There are notable differences in EQ scores between cultures across the world. For example, members of individualist societies such as the United States, Australia, and France are more emotionally intelligent than people from collectivist cultures.

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