Heltti | 24.5.2023

A behavioral scientist states: emotional intelligence has tremendous power in the workplace.


You may have come across the saying, “Emotions don’t belong in the workplace.” However, this is a misleading statement because where there are people, there are also emotions.

Humans are social beings who want to understand others, perceive nonverbal communication happening around them, and need a channel to articulate and express their own emotions.

Emotional intelligence helps us understand, name and recognize our feelings and manage our reactions and behavior. It also helps better understand ourselves and others as well as act more empathetically toward self and others. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in the workplace as well, as it promotes good communication and coworking and enables more successful teamwork and leadership. 

According to Susanna Forsman, an organizational developer and behavioral scientist specializing in emotional intelligence at Heltti, emotional intelligence has immense power in today’s workplace, but only a few organizations have harnessed its potential.

What is emotional intelligence, and what makes a person emotionally intelligent?

Emotional intelligence is made up of different parts, underpinned by our attitudes that fuel our feelings that drive our behavior. Emotionally intelligent individuals can recognize their own attitudes and emotions, as well as utilize this information in themselves and others,” says Forsman. 

Understanding our attitudes and feelings gives us greater choice over how we behave.  The same applies to people around you: through emotional intelligence, you can utilize the information you receive from others. You can better perceive and interpret nonverbal communication and empathize with others’ perspectives and experiences.

“That’s why emotional intelligence has such immense power in today’s workplace. It provides important information not only for yourself but also at an organizational level, data that is worth utilizing,” Forsman points out.

Bringing emotional intelligence into the workplace

Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the workplace. It is closely linked to better physical and psychological well-being, higher job performance, greater job satisfaction and organizational commitment and positive leadership impact (Talogy; Book of EI An introduction to Emotional Intelligence 2018, 2020). An emotionally intelligent work environment can promote better interaction, teamwork, leadership, and work atmosphere, which, in turn, positively impacts organizational outcomes. We make a significant portion of our decisions purely based on emotions.

Emotional intelligence can help reduce conflicts, improve teamwork, increase employee engagement, and enhance collaboration among all stakeholders. Emotionally intelligent employees can also adapt better to changes and setbacks, which is crucial in today’s rapidly changing work environment.

“We are accustomed to a very task- and performance-oriented work culture, where our attention is often focused more on things than on people. It would be wise for us to shift our focus more towards people and take a genuine interest in them,” reflects Forsman. People often do not remember what someone said, but they remember the emotional experience those individuals left behind.

“For example, meetings and encounters can start with a simple exercise by asking participants: “How are you feeling?'”

Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill, especially in leadership positions.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence can identify employees’ needs, motivate them, and provide support during difficult times. They are also better at listening and addressing employee concerns and conflicts.

Leaders in management positions are constantly under scrutiny as employees unconsciously observe and interpret their actions. Therefore, how leaders behave in different situations and the emotions they convey are significant. Moreover, emotions are highly contagious.

A leader sets an example, and their actions, reactions, and behavior affect the overall atmosphere in the workplace. People tend to follow behavior and the associated “vibe” rather than just strategies. Additionally, a vital skill for leaders is the ability to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors and bring about change at these levels. Emotions play a significant role in all of this.

In addition to managing their own emotional range, emotionally intelligent leaders gather useful information from others in various situations. This data is crucial for leadership work, as it can be utilized for developing the work culture and making important decisions.

By observing the workforce and the entire work community with emotional intelligence, leaders can identify what is left unsaid and how different situations are being handled. What resonates? What is desired? What should be done?

Self-reflection as a tool for developing emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is related to overall well-being, and emotions are strongly tied to needs. Often, we are so busy that we don’t take the time to stop and understand what a particular emotion is trying to communicate. Negative emotions often indicate unfulfilled physiological or psychological needs.

One way to organize and understand emotions is through self-reflection, which is beneficial for holistic well-being. However, self-reflection does not mean indulging in emotions or self-pity, as research shows that it increases suffering. Instead, it involves reflecting on emotions and considering what they are trying to communicate.

Developing emotional intelligence and exploring one’s own emotions also facilitates stress management. When you can anticipate and manage your emotions and triggering factors, you can better handle stress. Resilience, which is closely linked to a sense of internal capability, is one aspect of emotional intelligence.

However, it is important to remember that emotional intelligence does not eliminate stress entirely, rather it can help in effectively managing it. Additionally, it is important to recognize that stress is needed to a certain extent and has a performance-enhancing effect.

Developing Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Developing emotional intelligence can begin with practicing self-reflection. Regularly identifying the emotions, attitudes, and beliefs that underlie one’s actions is beneficial. Emotional skills can be developed through various methods depending on the current situation, strengths, areas for improvement, and what works best for oneself.

In the workplace, the development of emotional intelligence can be supported by providing emotional intelligence training and techniques for self-management, allowing employees to develop and apply their emotional intelligence skills to their best extent in the work environment.