Brian Underwood: Q-tip for workplace health

Here’s your Q tip for the day.

No, not the cottony swab used for your ears, but rather personal insight to what lies between them.

The Q tip I’m referring to pertains to one’s Emotional Quotient, or EQ, which is also known as Emotional Intelligence. EQ is a worthy companion to IQ that, in tandem, makes each of us the masterpiece we were created to be.

More specifically, EQ is a theory formed by psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey that, “just as people have a wide range of intellectual abilities, they also have a wide range of emotional skills that profoundly affect their thinking and actions.” (Bariso, J., Time Online, June 5, 2018).

According to experts, one’s ability to truly understand, apply, and grow his/her emotional intelligence can actually affect one’s trajectory in life more so than IQ, or intellectual quotient.

Having worked with hundreds of students in my career, including some exceptionally brilliant ones, I’ve time and again seen examples of where highly developed emotional intelligence proves to be the divider in one’s educational and professional aspirations. Unfortunately, I’m dubious about whether or not enough young people understand this domain and how critical it is to cultivating successful relationships, and the impact it can have on one’s career.

The theory of emotional quotient was popularized in Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, in 1995, which applied the concept to the workplace. Now, almost 25 years later, continued research and discovery of this new science has yielded strong correlation between strong emotional intelligence and success in the workplace.

Last Fall, Business News Daily published an article on the topic and cited the work of Joseph C. Rode, professor of management at Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio, and his co-authors, who found developed emotional intelligence is linked to higher salaries and increased job satisfaction.

Rode’s time-lagged study, which was first released in 2017, followed 126 college students 10 to 12 years after entering the workforce, controlling for personality, general mental ability, gender, and college GPA. It found “emotional intelligence has a significant, positive effect on subsequent salary levels,” particularly when a mentor is present. It also found this result to be especially be “stronger at higher organizational levels.”

“Our results suggest that emotional intelligence helps individuals to acquire the social capital needed to be successful in their careers,” the report concluded.

So, it’s one thing to know strong emotional intelligence sometimes lumped in with “soft skill development” is a difference maker in life, but knowing how to develop it is what really matters.

Author Ashley Stahl, a career writer for Forbes Online, wrote an excellent article last May that offered Five Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence. It centered not only on the ability to “identify and manage your own emotions, but also the ability to recognize the emotions of others.”

The first area of awareness for greater emotional intelligence is How to Manage Negative Emotions. This is certainly a lot easier to say than to do sometimes, but the point stresses not jumping to conclusions.

“Try to look at things objectively,” Stahl cautions, “so you don’t get riled up as easily.”

Placing a positive construction on matters (e.g. placing yourself on the other side of an issue) can be helpful to gaining perspective. It’s easy to make things about us, when they may have absolutely nothing to do with us. And, if after all this, you just have to get to the bottom of something, remember the importance of right time, right place, and right spirit.

Secondly, Be Mindful of Your Vocabulary. This begins with a commitment to intentional communication, and then using precise wording when communicating with others.

“Emotionally intelligent people tend to use more specific words that can help communicate deficiencies,” Stahl points out. “And then they immediately work to address them.”

Words matter, and when you take the extra time to use them, and use them well, it subconsciously conveys your interest in the other party.

Additionally, it’s a good practice for young professionals to implement the practice of communicating up. Those who supervise others are busy people who can easily get involved with their own work plan. Accordingly, learning to provide unprompted periodic progress reports and other relevant information conveys care, and emotional intelligence.

Thirdly, Practice Empathy. Some of this goes back to How to Handle Negative Emotions, but it goes beyond this.

“Centering on verbal and non-verbal cues can give you invaluable insight into the feelings of your colleagues or clients,” Stahl offers. “Practice focusing on others and walking in their shoes, even if just for a moment.”

One relevant truth that resonates for me here is you can never underestimate how much pain there is in this world, and in everyone’s daily life. Some seasons are better than others, but we all go through stuff. Recognizing this by practicing empathy is important, in and out of the workplace.

The fourth tool is Know Your Stressors. Insight to our individual personalities, our gifts, our shortcomings, and what stresses us demonstrates healthy emotional intelligence.

“Take stock of what stresses you out, and be proactive to have less of it in your life,” Stahl encourages. “If you know that checking your work email before bed will send you into a tailspin, leave it for the morning.”

Self awareness is so important. It speaks to honesty, which, in and of itself, is a trait of the emotionally intelligent.

Finally, Bouncing Back From Adversity is an extremely important EQ quality since we all experience adversity and failure.

“It’s how you react to these challenges that either sets you up for success or puts you on the track to full on meltdown mode,” Stahl reasons.

If we can come to terms we’re going to experience tough times, and, yes, even cause them, we can then take the next step to growing from them. To do otherwise stunts our growth.

It may not be so much what we know that matters, but how much we care about it — and how much we use it to make ourselves and others better. And the start might just begin with using a Q-Tip to clear the way for an emotional Q tip.

Brian Underwood is the Sierra Lutheran High School Director of School Development.


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