EQ at work self-awareness

This article is part one of our EQ at Work series – make sure to check out part two on helping employees develop self-management, part three on social awareness, and part four on relationship management!

Do emotions matter?

Prior to the 1990s, employees’ emotional states were given very little weight in the matter of reaching success in business.

When psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990, they proposed that IQ was not the only form of intelligence that mattered.

When Daniel Goleman built upon their research with his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, the concept really took off, resulting in catalytic growth in research and making it a well-known term across the globe.

Unlike many new concepts that reach the business world, emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) has proven to be much more than a fad. Unfortunately, there are many organizations that still don’t put much weight in helping employees to improve their EQ.

Some argue that people are born with a fixed level of emotional intelligence that can’t be significantly changed throughout their lifetime. Loads of research prove that stance untrue.

There are a plethora of ways to practice improving EQ, but it takes exactly that practice.

The difficulty with organizational training on EQ is that it can’t be forced, and it can’t be completed passively.

If your employees are going to gain higher levels of EQ, they have to be intrinsically motivated to commit to it. They have to understand why it’s important not only for the organization, but for their personal and professional lives as well. (Actually, this is true for just about every training topic – learn more about training that meets employees’ expectations from this ebook).

Luckily, finding that intrinsic motivation goes hand-in-hand with the first step of developing self-awareness, which we’ll discuss more in a moment.

Embed EQ in Your Culture

When you provide emotional intelligence training, you’ll have some people who are excited for it, some who are indifferent or unsure, and some who are entirely averse to the idea that discussing emotions is acceptable at work.

“First we gotta get people on the bus: “Do you believe that emotions matter?”

– Marc Brackett, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Improving emotional intelligence holds the keys to increasing compassion, empathy, inclusion, and engagement. It’s the bedrock for a strong, positive company culture.

However, these ideals can often seem out of reach for training professionals who are steeped in compliance standards and measurable performance improvement day in and day out.

You have big goals and dreams for your work, and you know that creating a more emotionally engaged organization benefits every part of the business and its people. The research on that is plentiful.

Training professionals hold a powerful voice for positive change – we see it every day through close partnerships with our clients’ training programs.

If you’re ready to prove the difference that emotional intelligence can make in your workplace, let’s talk about practices for developing employees’ self-awareness as the first step.

Strengthening Self-Awareness

You’ll see low self-awareness manifest in many ways: frequently inappropriate or exaggerated reactions and behaviors, low self-confidence, difficulty making decisions, victim mentality, denial, intolerance to others’ views, and the list goes on.

“Self-aware people tend to act consciously rather than react passively, to be in good psychological health and have a positive outlook on life. They also have greater depth of life experience and are likely to be more compassionate to others.”

– Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

While there are a few different expert opinions on how to break down the facets of EQ, this blog series will follow the four domains that Goleman identified. In developmental order, they are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Management

Developing employees’ self-awareness forms the foundation for improving how they manage their behaviors and interactions with others. This is where your EQ training program needs to start.

It would be helpful to have employees take an emotional intelligence assessment, so you can later see whether their EQ is improving. Self-awareness training could be structured with some time spent in group discussion, but will mostly be done on individuals’ own throughout the day.

Here are a few practices to help your employees start improving self-awareness:

Using Online Training Videos

Microlearning videos are a great way to kick start your employees’ EQ training, since they can start with overviewing the basics and then move into deeper development with more specific aspects of EQ.

There are a wide variety of ways to provide online training to employees – at BizLibrary we offer a large library of training content that includes a swath of soft skills topics, such as EQ. These videos are typically in a microlearning format, so they take less than 10 minutes each, and they include follow up quizzes and materials to further engage in learning these skills.

Click the play button on this video to view a preview, and check out more soft skills videos from our library here.

Taking Notes

To start becoming more self-aware, encourage employees to record their emotions regularly throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be every time a new emotion comes up – just quick notes a few times daily. This will help them look back and recognize patterns in emotions and how they reacted to them.

Remind them to keep these notes private and make it completely optional to share. The point of this practice is not for you to assess their emotional state, but to help them be honest with themselves about the emotions they’re experiencing. 

Check-ins with Mood Meter

If they prefer note-taking with technology, have them download the free Mood Meter app, developed by the experts at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. They can set reminders to check in, choose from a grid which emotion they’re experiencing, add a note with it, and view past check-ins.

Monitoring Self-Talk

Ask your employees to start monitoring the way they talk to themselves (we all do it). Our internal voices have a huge influence over how we deal with emotions – behaviors often stem from whether we’re building ourselves up or beating ourselves down, so being self-aware in this way is an important step toward improving the next facet of EQ, self-management.

Learning Mindfulness

The term “mindfulness” is everywhere these days, and for good reason. It encompasses a lot of things involving emotional health and behavior.

In the ebook Practical Mindfulness, author Jean Gilhead says, “Mindfulness is about learning to co-exist gently and peacefully with what is present in our lives at all times. When we can learn to allow, without judgement, what is there, rather than fighting, denying, or controlling it, we automatically reduce our stress. We no longer struggle against the thoughts, feelings, or drama of what is happening around us.”

Many practices in mindfulness go hand-in-hand with developing self-awareness, so providing employees with credible resources on this topic is another way to bolster self-awareness training.

Encouraging your employees to commit to at least one of these practices will open the door to improving their self-awareness and pave the way for higher emotional intelligence within your organization.

To help your employees develop EQ, check out our free handbook with simple practices and reflection questions:

Read part two: EQ at Work: Self-Management Skills for Your Employees

Read part three: EQ at Work: Amplify Empathy for Higher Social Awareness

Read part four: EQ at Work: Relationship Management Fundamentals