Though it isn’t always obvious, our working lives are governed by emotions. How we feel about our coworkers, how our boss makes us feel, how we feel about the power relations at the office — all of these and many other emotional factors play a huge role in our performance and enjoyment of our work.

As Jack Mayer, one of the psychologists who coined the term “emotional intelligence,” put it: “Emotional information plays a critical role in our working lives since the relationships we form are governed by rules of behavior – of cooperation and dominance, among others – that are triggered by our emotions.”

When it comes to work performance, research shows emotional intelligence can trump IQ and experience. Emotionally intelligent people are more successful. If your company hasn’t considered emotional intelligence when evaluating employees and new hires, it has an incomplete picture of what makes employees productive.

Copyright: vgstudio / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: vgstudio / 123RF Stock Photo

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence “refers to the capacity to understand and explain emotions, on the one hand, and of emotions to enhance thought, on the other.”

The Mayer-Salovey model identifies four branches of emotional intelligence:

  • Perceiving emotions: The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others as well as in objects, art, stories, music, and other stimuli
  • Facilitating thought: The ability to generate, use, and feel emotion as necessary to communicate feelings or employ them in other cognitive processes
  • Understanding emotions: The ability to understand emotional information, to understand how emotions combine and progress through relationship transitions, and to appreciate such emotional meanings
  • Managing emotions: The ability to be open to feelings, and to modulate them in oneself and others so as to promote personal understanding and growth

Emotional Intelligence is complex; thinking about emotions accurately and clearly is no small task. Yet it is necessary to anticipate, cope with, and manage change, which is very important in a workplace setting.

Emotional Intelligence on the Job

For some, it may seem odd to discuss emotional intelligence and emotions at work. Emotions are part of personal lives, not work lives, right? Or emotional intelligence may seem more suited to workplaces that revolve around interpersonal relationships, like hospitals and schools, and less appropriate to other contexts, like manufacturing plants and construction sites.

The truth is that at work, something that looks technical can become emotional, and something that seems emotional can become technical. The emotional and the technical aspects of situations are closely linked, regardless of industry. It is worth investing in ensuring employees develop their emotional intelligence to be able to understand these links.

The numbers prove this out. As FastCompany reported, “… a study by McClelland showed that after supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better, lost-time accidents decreased by 50% and grievances went down from 15 per year to three. The plant itself exceeded productivity goals by $250,000.”

If your company wants to increase its productivity and improve its bottom line, it cannot afford to neglect its employees’ emotional intelligence. Just as your company hires for skills and experience, it should also hire for emotional intelligence.

Copyright: kurhan / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: kurhan / 123RF Stock Photo

Interview Questions to Assess Emotional Intelligence

Your hiring practices may be designed to determine whether the civil engineer sitting in front of you understands hydrology and earthquake effects on buildings, but it doesn’t assess if she can perceive the emotions of those around her.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can structure interviews to determine if candidates have the following four traits, each important aspects of emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness. A self-aware person understands his strengths and weaknesses, and is able to handle constructive criticism better than someone who is not self-aware. Ask candidates to tell you about a time they got carried away with their emotions and did something they regret. A self-aware person will be honest, rather than evasive or irritated, when answering the question.

Ability to regulate emotions. If you’ve ever seen a colleague lose their cool in an important meeting, you know how damaging it can be when employees aren’t able to regulate their emotions. People who cannot regulate their emotions are reactive rather than reflective. They act before they think. Look for candidates who take time to reflect and provide a thoughtful answer, rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind.

Empathy. Empathy is an important part of emotional intelligence. It demonstrates an ability to both perceive and understand emotions, an essential trait for a manager and a desirable one in anyone working with others. Ask candidates about a time a co-worker was upset with them. As they respond, listen to see if they put themselves in the co-worker’s shoes to understand their co-workers reaction.

Social skills. This is the trait most hiring managers know to look for, because it is an important part of working in a team. To assess social skills, ask candidates about a time they were able to get people to buy into a project despite different agendas and personalities.

If your company wants employees who can adapt to change, work well with others, and reflect on constructive criticism, it wants employees with high emotional intelligence. Invest in hiring emotionally intelligent employees and you’ll soon see returns.

The post Emotional Intelligence: What It Is and How to Hire For It appeared first on Home Business Magazine.

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