What part does emotional intelligence play in organisational success?

It’s been interesting watching the Twitter feed of the CIPD Future of Work conference today. In particular, the message that the ability to build and maintain relationships will be an even bigger commodity. (Note: check out the hashtag #CIPDFoW17)


I still come across managers and leaders who see emotional intelligence as ‘soft and fluffy stuff’.

Yes. Even in 2017.

This, despite there being a wealth of literature on the value of emotional intelligence (EI), both in helping individuals thrive and organisations perform well.

Emotionally intelligent people tend to have higher levels of resilience. They are able to manage their emotions, meaning they can weather shocks in the work place more effectively than less emotionally intelligent people.

Emotionally intelligent people also tend to have better workplace relationships – up, down and across an organisation. This makes them a valuable asset for projects and programmes requiring collaboration.

In short, the more emotionally intelligent your leadership and workforce, the more successful your organisation is likely to be – something which is reiterated by new research.

The research


Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (June 2017) has explored the extent to which emotional intelligence (EI) impacts on job satisfaction and performance.

Chao Miao, Ronald H Humphrey and Shanshan Qian analysed over 1,000 articles and studies relating to three types of emotional intelligence. These are ability (EI as a type of intelligence); self-report (self-assessment of level of EI); and mixed (EI mixture of personality and cognitive ability).

The researchers tested the extent to which these three types of EI:

  • Impacted on job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation; and
  • Reduced intent to leave an organisation (turnover intention)

They also explored the relationship between EI and job satisfaction and the extent to which this is impacted by job performance.

The findings

Following their analysis, the researchers found that:

  • People with higher levels of EI tend to be more satisfied with their job, more committed to their organisation and are less likely to leave;
  • EI can improve satisfaction with a job by reducing negative feelings, increasing positive feelings and/or by improving performance; and
  • The relationship between self-report EI and job satisfaction is higher when emotional labour is high (i.e. in jobs that require people to regulate their emotions, such as dealing with angry customers).

Or, as the researchers state,

“Emotionally savvy individuals are not only high-performing but are also more satisfied with their jobs”

What it means for organisations

  • Recruitment: Organisations can review how they are test for EI during the selection process. Bearing in mind the difference between EI, IQ and personality, it’s important not to confuse personality testing with testing for EI. There are various EI tests on the market. Check out Daniel Goleman’s website for a summary of the best products. 
  • Training and development: Organisations can (and should) incorporate various workshops and courses on EI as part of a corporate programme. These can be broken down in to modules covering topics such as resilience, how to collaborate, how to influence etc.
  • Management and leadership development: The impact a manager’s emotions can have on their team should not be underestimated. How a manager responds to various situations can impact performance and morale.  This makes EI development vital for anyone in a management or leadership role. Using tools like 360, geared specifically around EI measures, can help focus attention on areas that need improving.
  • Performance management: Goals are an important aspect of job satisfaction and the researchers talk about how the achievement of goals produces satisfaction. So, the more goals a person achieves, the higher their satisfaction is likely to be. This means that the ability to set challenging and attainable goals is crucial. Training managers and employees in effective goal-setting could make a massive difference to performance and satisfaction. (See the first two tips in my post on increasing influence and improving performance).

What it means for individuals

Whilst there are things that organisations do, there is also a responsibility on the part of the individual to develop themselves.

Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Read about EI: There are some very readable books out there on the subject of EI. Here’s a few I’d suggest:

2. Get a coach: I can’t say this enough. A coach can be a powerful way for you to tackle and overcome work-related issues. When I work with managers, the issues are normally around their resilience and ability to bounce back from failure; or improving relationships with peers or staff.A good coach will provide a balance of challenge and support. They’ll help you assess where you’re starting from in order to better understand where you want to get to.

3. Ask for feedback: In lieu of your organisation having some kind of formal feedback system in place, there is absolutely nothing stopping you asking for it yourself. Be proactive. And make sure you ask a good mix of people – i.e. don’t just ask your friends who you think are going to be gentle with you. This can be done in tandem with your coach (because you have one now, don’t you?)

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for not only improving your own emotional intelligence but also how to incorporate it in to your organisation’s processes and systems.


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