Productivity is generally talked about using cold, unfeeling data, but it might help to get a little mushy now and then.
Emotional intelligence, or EI, is a concept that thought leaders and hiring managers love to talk about. But does it have a place in the discourse of productivity-minded leaders? It’s not that some managers don’t care about their employees’ feelings; they would just prefer to focus on aspects of the work environment that can be easily controlled.
So why dwell on feelings? Managers who nurture and support emotional growth for themselves and their staff are likely to see higher levels of productivity, less conflict, and better collaboration. This is why employers often value EI more than IQ. According to various studies, those with higher EI are:
- More employable. 71% of managers believe that EI is more valuable than IQ.
- Better performers. While IQ can account for up to 25% of variances in job performance, EI may be responsible for up to 58%.
- A positive impact. Companies with high-EI managers have 34% higher profit growth compared to others.
In this post, I’ll examine the relationship between productivity and emotional intelligence while providing some thoughts on why managers should promote an emotionally supportive environment.
Higher EI means avoiding distractions
One of the greatest perks of high-EI employees is that they’re able to remain calm under stress by avoiding negative moods, which are associated with reduced cognitive performance and cognitive flexibility.
In plain English, a poor mood makes it harder to retain and use new knowledge, in addition to making it more difficult to juggle different concepts. In even plainer words, EI makes it easier to avoid getting distracted because you’re in a lousy mood.
The secret as to why higher EI gives us this power is that it enables us to respond to our emotions rather than simply react to them – and there’s a huge difference between the two. When we react to stress, we don’t take time to process our emotions. Meanwhile, a response entails assessing your reaction, considering potential outcomes, and seeking a solution.
While a response might take longer to process, employees able to cope with stressors are more likely to be productive than those who only react to negative situations.
Managers should encourage employees to be self-aware of their emotional reactions to bad experiences by creating a culture of emotional support. When workers are encouraged to discover solution-oriented ways to cope with that stress, they have a much better shot of overcoming bad moods that might otherwise serve as a distraction.
Cut down on misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict
A higher EI also means a better capacity for demonstrating empathy towards coworkers. This means more effective communication skills – which can save time during collaboration – but it also comes with an ability to avoid and resolve conflict more effectively.
Conflict between employees is much more than a personal issue since it can impact the bottom line of an entire organization. Surveys estimate that an average U.S. employee wastes between two to three hours every week dealing with conflict at work, and around 25% of employees said that conflict has led to illness or absence from work.
Try to multiply these figures for each member of your workforce and you’ll have a rough idea of how much of a time sink workplace conflict can be when left unchecked.
In one survey, employees polled said that the top thing managers could do to better address conflict at work is address underlying tensions before things go wrong. While just about every workplace has a policy for conflict resolution, the best way to nip problems is to identify sources of conflict before they become an issue.
Everyone on a team can benefit from better understanding the perspectives and beliefs of their peers. It not only makes for a great company culture, but it also makes for better collaboration, less conflict, and consequently less wasted time.
Of course, it would be cynical to say that wringing every second out of the workday were the only motive for valuing EI in the workplace. A culture of support is crucial in encouraging innovation. Employees need to be comfortable with their emotions, and those of their peers, to allow an open exchange of ideas and constructive criticism.
However, it doesn’t hurt to note that being emotionally intelligent can be a huge time saver.