At-Work Emotional Intelligence: Examples and Advice

We all have had difficult emotions in the workplace from time to time. It’s a tricky subject, but ultimately inevitable! Wondering how to tell a coworker that they need to improve their attitude? How do you improve your own? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll explore and help you understand all things self-management and emotional intelligence in the workplace.



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What is Emotional Intelligence?

So what is emotional intelligence anyway? Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” It’s an especially important topic when dealing with employee frustration in the workplace. Also known as EQ, emotional intelligence generally involves three core skills:

  1. The ability to identify and name your emotions
  2. The ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks
  3. The ability to regulate your emotions and help others do the same

Essentially, if you’re emotionally intelligent, you know what’s going on in your head and you can control and work with whatever you’ve got going on. See how this could be relevant to the workplace yet?



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    Why does it matter? 

    Is Emotional Intelligence really so important in the office? Some people think so. As the idea of EQ has caught on in recent years, some employers have started instituting Emotional Intelligence tests as part of their hiring process, as they believe more emotionally intelligent people make better workers. You can check out a free and easy EQ test here with great interpretations of your results.

    But beyond potentially getting you hired, being able to manage your emotions and the emotions of others could really get you ahead not just in your career, but life in general. Think back to the last time that you got angry at work and said something that you ended up regretting. Or maybe you got so upset about something you felt like you couldn’t work anymore. Don’t worry – it happens to all of us!

    The trick is to recognize and manage those emotions, whether they’re coming from you or someone else. Some of the most successful people around you are probably very emotionally intelligent, so take notes!



      Emotional Intelligence Examples

      How do you recognize EQ in the workplace? How do you deal with a frustrated employee? Here are some examples of emotional intelligence at work that you can keep an eye out for, along with their emotionally unintelligent counterparts for context!

      For the purpose of these examples, we’re going to look at Jack and Jill, who work for Mr. Boss at the Business Company.

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      1. Upset Employee in the Workplace

        Let’s say that while at work, Jill just got some upsetting personal news. Because of this, she is not participating in meetings and slow to turn in her work assignments. Her coworker, Jack, notices what’s going on. He can respond in one of two ways.

        Low EQ: Jack tells Jill to suck it up, they’ve got a lot of deadlines this week and she needs to check her emotions at the door.
        High EQ: Jack asks Jill if something is bothering her and if she would like to talk about it. He listens as she explains about her problems and assures her that everything will be ok, but he will support her while she works through it.
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        2. Open and honest expression

          Mr. Boss is holding a meeting at the Business Company. Both Jack and Jill have ideas they want to share. Here are two ways that this could go: 

          Low EQ:Mr. Boss talks on and on about his own ideas and how sure he is that he’s got everything figured out. Jack hesitantly shares his own idea, but Mr. Boss laughs at him and Jill interrupts him, not letting Jack get anything out. 
          High EQ: Mr. Boss sets the stage for the meeting, then opens the floor for ideas from any and all of his employees. Jack feels empowered to share his idea and Jill waits patiently until he is done before complimenting him and building off that idea.

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            3. Flexibility

              Mr. Boss is a rigid, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy. He strictly works 7 AM to 4 PM everyday and always responds to every email within 7.5 minutes of receiving it. Jill has two young kids, so she can’t make it into work that early and Jack is a more process-and-then-react kind of guy.

              Low EQ: Mr. Boss calls both Jack and Jill into his office to berate them for not adhering to his way of doing things and demand that they follow his example. Jack and Jill storm out angrily.
              High EQ: Mr. Boss understands that Jill has a different schedule than he does and so allows her to work from 9 AM to 5 PM. He has a talk with Jack about responding to emails and agrees that Jack can reply in the time frame of his choosing, as long as the clients’ needs are met. Jack and Jill thank him for his understanding.

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                4. Ability to Give and Accept feedback

                  Jill asks Jack what he thinks of the new folder organization system she designed for Mr. Boss.

                  Low EQ: Jack rolls his eyes and says that this system is never going to work because it’s too complicated. Jill doesn’t know how to take criticism without getting defensive.  Jill fires back that maybe Jack just can’t comprehend it with his tiny brain.
                  High EQ: Jack compliments Jill’s initiative and also gives some suggestions about how the system might be easier to navigate. Jill thanks Jack for his contribution. 

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                    5. A controlled sense of humor

                      Mr. Boss is trying to run a meeting, but his employees are making it difficult by the way they respond.

                      Low EQ: Jill makes a joke out of everything Mr. Boss says. Jack sits stoically in the corner, never even cracking a smile.
                      High EQ: Jack and Jill laugh when appropriate, picking up on Mr. Boss’s tone. They keep a good sense of humor about the conversation but don’t turn everything into a joke.



                        How to Deal with an Emotional Employee/CoWorker

                        Emotional intelligence for managers is paramount in a smoothly functional workplace! But it’s not always easy. If you’re wondering how to handle an upset employee or a grumpy co-worker, you’re not alone. This is a common issue in all modern workplaces. Luckily, there are some pretty easy go-to tips for dealing with this kind of situation. 

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                        Find ways to remove the emotion from the conversation and calm the other person down. They’re probably letting their emotions run rampant and get the better of them, but you can help calm them down and refocus the conversation. 

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                          Don’t take it personally

                          Again, when someone’s emotions get out of hand, or when they’re too focused on their own problems, they may say things they don’t mean. Don’t take it personally!

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                            Plan ahead

                            If you know ahead of time that you’re going to be dealing with an emotional employee, plan for what EQ skills you might need in your toolbox. Are there any potential triggers for this employee that you can avoid? Can you plan to have the emotional conversation somewhere private? Are you aware of what may be going on in this employee’s personal life? All of these are good things to consider beforehand rather than in the moment.

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                              Start with positive

                              Ever heard the leadership advice PCP? That stands for “Praise, Constructive Criticism, Praise.” Many successful leaders will advise to help others improve with the PCP method; start with something they’re doing well, offer constructive criticism to help them grown, then finish it off with another bit of praise! But arguably, the most important element of the PCP sandwich is the Praise to begin with. Start by telling your employee something they’re doing well and odds are, they’ll be more receptive to the rest of what you have to say.

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                                Focus on performance

                                In the workplace, it’s essential to keep the conversation focused on work-related matters, namely: performance. If Mr. Boss is trying to have a conversation with overly-emotional Jack about his slow customer response times, but suddenly throws in there that Jack’s taste in music is bad, that won’t work out well for anyone. Focus on performance.

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                                  Acknowledge and listen

                                  This is good advice no matter what the situation: acknowledge and listen. Let the other person feel heard. Make them feel as though you understand what they’re saying, 

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                                    This can be especially important if whatever your employee or coworker is upset about is outside of your purview. Do you need to refer them to HR to deal with another coworker? Do you need to refer them to accounting for a paycheck issue? This can really help de-escalate a problem, especially when you acknowledge and listen.


                                      Emotional Intelligence plays a key role in every aspect of our lives, but can be especially difficult to manage in the workplace. However, if you stay in control of your emotions, you can find that EQ is an invaluable tool to making your office run as smoothly as possible. 


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                                      ABOUT THE AUTHOR

                                      When Olivia West isn't writing theme park attractions for Universal and Disney, she's writing any other thing she can get her hands on! She loves writing novels, scripts, blog posts, bad jokes, and everything else. If you can't find her at her laptop, however, she might be chilling in the nearest speakeasy sipping a manhattan or screaming her head off on the nearest roller coaster. Check her out at!

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