Why emotional intelligence in managers matters—and how to boost it
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become one of the most talked-about skills to hire for over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. There are countless benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace, from being able to communicate more effectively to dealing with stress better.
But one aspect of EQ that’s not talked about often enough is its role in effective management. The truth is, EQ is a determining factor in a manager’s ability to successfully lead their team. And while some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, anyone can enhance and supplement their EQ skills with a little help from modern technology. Here’s why this strategy is worth considering:
The business case for high EQ in managers
A 2018 survey found that 79% of UK employees believe their boss doesn’t care about their happiness at work. And the UK is far from the only country dealing with disaffected workers. Around the world, countless employees feel like their managers don’t set them up for success—hurting their performance, driving morale down, and, eventually, prompting them to leave.
Helping managers to be more emotionally intelligent can turn all this around. Managers with high EQ can build stronger relationships with their employees that, in turn, make them more engaged and productive in their work. And this can have a ripple effect on retention. Recent research found that as many as 70% of employees are encouraged to stay at their company for five years or longer when their manager leads with emotional intelligence.
It’s not about becoming the employee’s best friend. It’s about establishing trust and showing employees that your company wants to support them—making them want to stick around for the long haul.
This all contributes to a better employee experience, which can do wonders for your company’s employer brand. When employees have a good experience at work, they’re more likely to make referrals and spread a positive message about the company online. Strained employee-manager relations, on the other hand, tend to lead to a bad reputation for the whole company—making it take longer and be more costly to hire.
What’s more, a manager’s EQ may help them make better decisions and lead their company to greater financial success. It’s no surprise that 90% of top performers have high EQs. Equipping managers with the tools they need to boost their EQ is a strategy that can rapidly pay off in spades.
How to help managers become more in tune with their emotional intelligence
There are lots of ways to train for EQ, both through formal courses and simple exercises that managers can practice every day. For example, some coaches recommend telling managers to take a step back and consider the “why” in every situation before reacting. This can avoid the so-called perspective gap, which occurs when people just assume they understand someone’s perspective and motives, rather than taking a moment to truly empathize with them.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to understand how an employee is feeling is simply to ask them. But asking employees one-on-one how they’re feeling may not produce the candid answers you really need to hear. Some people are naturally more hesitant to speak up about what’s bothering them, while others may not feel they have a strong enough rapport with their manager to give totally honest feedback.
Putting people on the spot is not effective. Instead, companies should consider investing in tools that boost the effectiveness of EQ training and augment a manager’s existing skills. Surveys are a great way to do this. Not only will many employees feel more comfortable filling out a survey than speaking directly to their manager, but this solution can also be easily rolled out at scale.
That said, a multiple choice questionnaire won’t get to the heart of a problem. But surveys that use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze open-ended text responses allow you to gather deeper insights into the sentiment behind an employee’s words—helping managers validate or disprove their assumptions and feel confident in the course of action they take.
Even as managers get better at reading emotions, artificial intelligence can help ensure they’re not overlooking anything important. Nobody can catch every emotion all the time, but gathering more information from AI can make managers even more attuned to their team members’ feelings and needs.
It’s essentially a way to bolster instinct with science—leading to a more empathetic, happier workplace.
EQ will never go out of style
At the pace technology is moving, technical skills can become outdated in a month. But as technology fundamentally changes the workplace, “human” skills like emotional intelligence will only grow more important. Investing in EQ training and supplementary tools can pay dividends for years or even decades to come.
Want to test your managers’ EQ today? Ask them to play our engaging and eye-opening Emotional Intelligence Blackjack game to see how good they are at detecting the emotion behind an employee’s words. It only takes a few minutes to complete—and they might be surprised by what they learn.