5 Reasons You Need Emotionally Intelligent Employees (and How to Find Them)

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

When most entrepreneurs begin the search for employees, they look at their prior experience, their skills, and their long-term goals. Obviously, these factors are important, but they overlook a key factor for employee success: emotional intelligence.

You won’t see it listed on many job interview templates or hear it discussed as the main reason to hire someone, but building a team of emotionally intelligent employees can have a surprisingly powerful impact on your company’s overall performance.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

First, let’s define what I mean by “emotional intelligence,” as it’s a phrase that could have multiple interpretations. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” In a practical sense, that means an emotionally intelligent person is someone who’s able to recognize their own emotions and keep them in check, and someone who can easily sympathize with others and understand how their emotions will impact their work.

How It Affects Your Workers

Why is this such an important trait for your employees to have?

1. Better communication. Though it’s usually taken out of context, a famous collection of studies from the University of California in the 1960s led to the calculation that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal — either related to tone of voice or body language. Though such a number undermines the importance of word selection, it’s true that our tone and body language — which are dictated by emotion — have a huge bearing in how we understand and talk to one another. An emotionally intelligent employee will have an easier time understanding the meaning and motivations of their coworkers, and will do a better job of expressing themselves at the same time.

2. Even temperament. Work can be stressful, but that stress only multiplies when someone loses their cool. Remaining calm helps you think with more clarity and focus, enabling you to find better, optimal solutions for the problem at hand, while losing your temper could result in damaged relationships, poorly informed decisions, and broken lines of communication. Emotionally intelligent employees aren’t miraculously calm all the time, but they know how to recognize when they’re experiencing high stress or feeling anger coming on, and they’re better at processing those feelings in healthy ways.

3. Co-worker rapport. It’s easy for emotionally intelligent people to make new social connections, because they can relate to others and communicate effectively. As members of your team, you’ll find this quality indispensable; your most emotionally intelligent workers will be able to unite your team. They’ll serve as inspirational leaders, they’ll be more willing to help in times of need, and they’ll add a sense of camaraderie to the group.

4. Client needs. It’s always painful when a client leaves, and sometimes, you’ll have no idea what went wrong. Clients aren’t always skilled at explaining their wants and needs, but they’ll still be inclined to move on when they find they aren’t being met. An emotionally intelligent employee can’t read your clients’ minds, but they will be able to read between the lines, gauge your clients’ emotions, and better manage difficult or especially strenuous situations. They’re going to serve as the last lifeline for your business’s relationship, so it’s important to have them in your corner.

5. Proactivity and foresight. Finally, emotionally intelligent employees are better at predicting behaviors and understanding why people do things the way they do. They can assess the strengths and weaknesses of others and make judgment calls based on those assessments; for example, if they see one coworker exhibiting strange behavior, they may intervene to see if their workload is too much, or if they need a break. They’ll also be more self-aware; they can tell you when they’re experiencing too much stress, or if work isn’t challenging enough for them, making your job as a manager easier.

How to Find Them

So how can you find emotionally intelligent employees?

· Ask about the past. Ask your employees about how they’ve worked with coworkers in the past. Did they manage healthy relationships? Are they able to acknowledge and describe their own feelings? You’ll have to deal with a bit of self-reporting bias here, but the answers should speak volumes about their emotional abilities.

· Gauge their reactions. As you ask stressful or thought-provoking questions, pay attention to how your candidate responds. Their tone and expressions will likely change with the tone of the interview, and they’ll likely mimic your body language subconsciously. They know how to read a room.

· Offer hypotheticals. Finally, consider throwing out hypothetical scenarios, such as “imagine a client is upset at something that isn’t the company’s fault. How would you respond?” Emotionally intelligent people will be able to respond calmly, and will likely investigate with questions to better understand where the client is coming from.

With these strategies, you can indirectly measure how much emotional intelligence your job candidate has. It’s somewhat subjective, so don’t expect a “black and white” answer, but these criteria should be able to guide you in selecting more emotionally aware candidates for your business.

For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!

CEO of EmailAnalytics (emailanalytics.com), a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!

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