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How Good Is Your Emotional Intelligence?


A manager helps colleagues work through a disagreement

SHRM has partnered with Security Management Magazine to bring you relevant articles on key workplace topics and strategies.

Successful HR professionals often have a high emotional intelligence (EQ). When combined with other soft skills, such as empathy and self-awareness, these HR pros ensure that their employees feel appreciated and valued, making them a more productive team.

EQ is simply the ability to understand and manage your own and others’ emotions and grasping how emotions drive behaviors. However, when it comes to feelings, things aren’t always so simple. Have you ever lost your temper? Or felt at a loss why someone else behaved seemingly irrationally? While a lower EQ can strain personal relationships, it can have even larger repercussions on your career. For example, company leaders set the tone for their organization. If they lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, such as lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.

Thankfully, this is a skill that every HR professional can improve upon. And if you already have a high EQ, it can’t hurt to try to increase it or recognize where you could help up-and-coming leaders to improve.

There are four key elements that make up a person’s emotional intelligence:

Self-Awareness

This element includes having a clear understanding of your strengths, limitations, emotions, beliefs and motivations. This is less common than you might assume. A study by Korn Ferry found that 79 percent of executives had at least one blind spot—a skill they ranked as one of their strongest while their coworkers said it was a weakness.

Those blind spots can add up to notable business challenges. Team success is cut by 50 percent when they are made up of significant over-raters—someone who believes they are contributing more than what their team members perceive—according to data published in the Harvard Business Review.  

Self-Management

This is the ability to manage one’s own emotions, regardless of how stressful a situation may be. Although reactions can be automatic or reflexive, there are ways to control your reactions to external factors, such as:

  • Pause and take a deep breath.
  • Collect yourself and do what you need to in order to manage your emotions. Vent to a trusted friend or go for a walk (or run).
  • Get back to a positive mood—your emotional state is often infectious.
  • Practice makes perfect. New habits, like replacing destructive reactions with productive ones, don’t happen overnight. Be kind to yourself and keep putting in the work.

Beyond emotional self-control, other aspects of self-management include adaptability, a positive outlook and an achievement orientation.

Social Awareness

As important as it is to know yourself, it’s just as important to know how to take the temperature of a room. This is the ability to understand others’ emotions.

HR pros who are adept in this skill will also practice empathy, which can help them connect with their peers. Empathetic executives perform more than 40 percent better than those with lower empathy when it comes to coaching, engaging employees and making decisions, according to global leadership development firm DDI.

Besides empathy, social awareness also involves an awareness of the organization and the politics and relationships between staff.

Relationship Management

This isn’t just about conflict management. It is also about a leader’s ability to coach, influence and mentor others. In a SHRM survey, 72 percent of employees said that “respectful treatment” of the entire workforce was a top factor in job satisfaction. An emphasis on teamwork and inspirational leadership are other strengths that support this aspect of EQ. 

Sara Mosqueda is associate editor for Security Management.

This article is adapted from Security Management Magazine with permission from ASIS © 2024. All rights reserved.

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