Understanding the benefits of using emotional intelligence in the workplace


Rachita Jain


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Using emotional intelligence at work plays a pivotal role in leading remote teams effectively by allowing leaders to connect on a deeper, more empathetic level with their team members. Understanding and managing the emotions of people on a remote team becomes crucial when there is no physical presence or face-to-face communication. Leaders with high EQ can decode the subtle emotional nuances of virtual communication, fostering clearer and more empathetic interactions. Such leaders can detect signs of stress, frustration, or disengagement early, offering timely support and motivation. Moreover, emotional intelligence in the workplace enables leaders to build trust, resolve conflicts, and adapt to the evolving challenges of remote work, ultimately creating a cohesive and resilient remote team that thrives in the face of adversity.

Understanding emotional intelligence in the workplace

Emotional intelligence is the ability to comprehend, understand, and manage your own as well as other people's emotions. It is sometimes referred to as an emotional quotient (EQ) and is most often used to measure leadership potential or success in a workplace. It has become increasingly popular as a measure of competency, and employers now commonly test for Emotional Intelligence (EI) when recruiting new staff.
The core components of emotional intelligence are:
  • Self-awareness or the ability to understand and acknowledge one's emotions. This requires self-reflection and insight to recognize how our emotions influence our behavior in various situations.
  • Emotional intelligence in the workplace includes self-regulation, which is the ability to control and regulate our emotions. This involves managing our reactions to the emotions we feel and navigating our internal states in an adaptive manner.
  • Empathy is the ability to be sensitive to the emotional states of others. This includes the ability to perceive and pay attention to the emotions of people around us and being open to understanding how a person's feelings and experiences may differ from ours.
  • Social skills are the ability to collaborate and interact with others. This includes expressing our feelings in a constructive way, being able to read social cues from others, and understanding how to build relationships with others.
  • Motivation is the capability to stay focused on a goal and continue to move towards it even in the face of setbacks or obstacles. Self-motivation is especially important when it comes to emotional intelligence, as it empowers us to pursue our goals instead of giving up.

The unique challenges of remote leadership

Although this shift from traditional office-based settings to home-based ones is a blessing for some, it poses numerous new challenges for successful remote leadership. With this in mind, let's explore the unique challenges of leading and managing a remote workforce.

1. Trust building

One of the biggest challenges of remote leadership is establishing trust between management and their remote workforce. Remote employees generally feel a disconnect from their employers and are less likely to trust them. To address this issue, remote leaders need to create a culture of trust and transparency, allowing employees to express themselves freely and speak up for any issues they may have. They must also ensure that any rules and regulations are followed while offering support and guidance to remote employees.

2. Clear communication

Another key challenge for successful remote leadership is establishing clear communication. Due to their remote status, remote employees cannot access managers and team members in person. Therefore, it is important to ensure clear communication channels are open so that remote teams can keep in touch with each other. This includes communication channels such as Slack, video conferencing, and Zoom. Additionally, remote leaders should prioritize regular video meetings and check-ins to ensure employees feel connected and part of the team.

3. Managing performance

Another main challenge of remote leadership is managing the performance of remote team members. Managing performance is more difficult for remote leaders as they cannot physically observe their team members' work performance. Instead, remote leaders must have systems in place to monitor performances and ensure that employees are meeting their goals. This includes setting measurable objective goals, having regular check-ins, and using performance assessment tools, such as performance tracking software.
According to Daniel Goleman, "CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise – and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence."

4. Maintaining morale

Maintaining morale is another key challenge for remote leaders. Remote working can be isolating and monotonous, which can lead to lower morale and higher stress levels. To combat this, remote leaders need to have a plan in place to keep morale high. This includes having regular virtual team-building exercises, providing emotional support for employees, and using rewards and recognition systems to recognize employees' successes.

Practical strategies for enhancing and using emotional intelligence in remote leadership

1. Cultivate self-awareness

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence in the workplace. Take time to regularly reflect on your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and personal values. By understanding your emotional landscape, you can more effectively manage your own reactions and support the emotional well-being of your team.
  • Think about utilizing a 360-degree feedback method, in which you get feedback from a number of people, such as supervisors, peers, and subordinates. This will help you get a comprehensive understanding of your leadership style.
  • Be open to acknowledging your mistakes and limitations. Vulnerability fosters trust and authenticity in your leadership.
  • Enroll in coaching sessions, workshops, or leadership development programs that emphasize self-awareness and personal development.

2. Improve active listening skills

Active listening is a crucial component of EI or emotional intelligence in the workplace, particularly in remote leadership, where face-to-face communication is limited. Make a concerted effort to truly hear and understand your team members' concerns and feelings by giving them your undivided attention during virtual meetings, asking open-ended questions, and showing empathy in your responses.
  • Resist the urge to interrupt between the sentences of the speaker. Let them express their thoughts fully before responding.
  • Provide feedback to the speaker to show that you're actively listening. Use verbal cues such as "I see," "I understand," or "Tell me more" to encourage them to share more information.
  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions regarding what the speaker is saying. Keep an open mind and be willing to consider different viewpoints.
  • Summarize the key points of what the speaker said to ensure that you understood them correctly. This also helps the speaker feel heard and valued.

3. Foster open communication

Create an open and supportive communication environment that encourages your team members to share their feelings without fear of judgment or reprisal. This can be achieved by regularly checking in on individual team members, providing opportunities for group discussions, and using collaborative tools such as instant messaging or video conferencing for more informal interactions.
  • Establish a psychologically safe environment where your team members feel easy and comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without any fear of judgment or reprisal.
  • Schedule regular one-on-one and team meetings to check in with team members.
  • Empower team members to make decisions and contribute to problem-solving. When they feel ownership over their work and decisions, they are more likely to communicate openly and take initiative.

4. Adapt your leadership style

Recognize that each team member may have different communication styles or preferences, and emotional intelligence in the workplace is crucial in this regard. This may involve adjusting your tone during conversations, varying the methods you use to deliver feedback, or implementing different platforms to connect with team members depending on their preferences.
  • Understand your team members' strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and needs. Tailor your leadership approach to align with their individual and collective characteristics.
  • Be willing to adapt and flex your leadership style as needed. Avoid rigidly adhering to one approach, as it may not be suitable for every situation or team.
  • Be culturally sensitive and aware of cultural differences in leadership expectations and communication styles. Adjust your approach to respect and accommodate diverse cultural backgrounds within your team.
  • Regularly reflect on your leadership experiences and outcomes. Consider what worked well and what didn't, and use these reflections to refine your leadership approach over time.
According to Dean Koontz, "Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy."

5. Demonstrate empathy

Empathy is a critical factor in building strong relationships and trust within a remote team. To demonstrate empathy, try putting yourself in your team member's shoes and considering how they might feel in a given situation. Be responsive to their needs by offering understanding, support, and encouragement when they encounter challenges.
  • Ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into team members' thoughts and feelings. Avoid judgment and be curious to understand their perspectives fully.
  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of your team members and see situations from their perspective. This helps you understand their motivations, challenges, and emotions better.
  • Allow team members to express themselves fully, even if they take time to articulate their thoughts and emotions. Be patient and avoid rushing them.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues of the speaker, such as body language and facial expressions.

6. Encourage work-life balance

Remote work can sometimes blur the line between personal and professional life. Encourage your team to maintain boundaries and practice self-care to ensure mental and emotional well-being. This includes recognizing the importance of breaks, leisure activities, and flexible schedules wherever possible.
  • Recognize the importance of self-care and prioritize activities that promote your physical and mental well-being.
  • Use effective time management techniques to prioritize your tasks and responsibilities. Focus more on activities that align with your goals and avoid getting bogged down in unproductive work.
  • Take regular breaks from technology and work-related communication when you are off the clock. Create periods of digital detox to fully disconnect from work and recharge.
  • Periodically reflect on your work-life balance and adjust as needed. Be open to making changes based on your evolving needs and circumstances.

7. Invest in your own EI development

Building and using your emotional intelligence is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and learning. Seek out resources such as books, articles, online courses, or workshops specifically geared toward enhancing EI in leadership roles. This investment will not only benefit your own growth but will have positive ripple effects on your remote team's success.
  • Explore books, articles, courses, and online resources related to EI. There are many books by experts in the field of emotional intelligence that can provide valuable insights and strategies for development.
  • Solicit feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors regarding your EI. Ask for specific examples of situations where you exhibited emotional intelligence or where there is room for improvement.
  • Consider working with a guide or therapist who specializes in EI. They can provide personalized guidance, strategies, and support for your EI development journey.

8. Conflict resolution skills

Conflict resolution skills are essential for enhancing Emotional Intelligence (EI) in remote leadership. Effective conflict resolution not only resolves immediate issues but also demonstrates emotional intelligence by promoting understanding, empathy, and collaboration among team members.
  • Just use your Emotional Intelligence to analyze the underlying causes of conflicts. Understanding the emotions and motivations behind the dispute can lead to more effective resolutions.
  • Maintain your own emotional composure during conflicts. Emotionally intelligent leaders stay calm under pressure, setting an example for their team and helping de-escalate tense situations.
  • Approach conflicts with a problem-solving mindset. Emotional Intelligence helps you frame conflicts as opportunities to find mutually beneficial solutions rather than as battles to be won.
  • Develop strategies for regulating your own emotions during conflicts. Techniques like deep breathing or short breaks can help you stay composed and focused on productive resolutions.

9. Stress management

Remote leaders often face unique stressors in the workplace, and emotional intelligence in the workplace becomes especially vital in addressing these challenges. One way to combat it is through stress management.
  • Practice emotional regulation techniques to manage stress. This may involve deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or other relaxation methods.
  • Prioritize tasks, set realistic deadlines, and avoid over-committing to prevent feeling overwhelmed. This demonstrates your ability to manage stressors and maintain composure.
  • Delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members, trusting in their abilities. Empowering your team demonstrates your confidence in them, reducing the stress of controlling every aspect of remote work.
  • Implement policies that support stress reduction within your team, such as flexible working hours, mental health resources, or wellness programs.

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