Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Finding time to observe, reflect, show humility, and be empathetic

By Brandon Pejskar, PMP, Project Manager

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say” – Andy Stanley

How many times have you seen quotes like this while scrolling through Facebook? Or maybe you have some of them posted at your desk? These quotes are meant to motivate us or help us get through stressful days. When managing a project, it’s important to create a positive and productive environment, which isn’t always easy. One way to do this is through the culture of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships in a thoughtful and appropriate manner. Sometimes our emotions can get the best of us. It doesn’t take much to get frustrated, stressed, or anxious. It’s important to know how to handle these feelings when managing a project in a way that promotes a positive environment.

While emotional intelligence in the workplace includes several domains – self-management, relationship management, and social awareness – its cornerstone is self-awareness. During the daily hustle and bustle on a project site, it’s easy to act first and think later. Whether we realize it or not, our behavior can have a negative impact on others and our surroundings. But with patience and a little bit of practice, you can improve your self-awareness. Here are four things to remember about self-awareness.

Be Observant

Managing a project requires so much of your attention it’s easy to tune out your surroundings. 24/7 access to our phones makes the problem even worse. But taking the time to observe interactions, both positive and negative, can help improve the way you interact with others. Pay attention to how people respond to positive and negative interactions. What’s the aftermath? Look for examples in emails, over the phone, or at the grocery store. Then find ways to model positive behavior. But don’t just look for positive examples. Observing negative interactions is a great reminder of what not to do.

Have Some Empathy

You’ve probably heard the old saying put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s cliché yet is key to being empathetic. Being a project manager means working with a lot of people and dealing with different personalities on a daily basis. And not everyone responds to certain interactions the same way. An approach that works for one person, may not be ideal for someone else. Paying attention to daily interactions can help you learn the best ways to interact with people in your life.

Take Time To Reflect

Ever send out a poorly worded email you later regretted? Or contributed a negative comment during an annoying meeting? Sometimes we don’t think about our actions until they’ve already happened. This is especially easy to do on a project site where you have different tasks to take care of in a short amount of time. Taking the time to reflect on your interactions can help you prepare for the next time the situation arises. Consider how your actions or the way you speak to someone makes them feel. How do you feel afterward? What did you get out of it? Thinking about your interactions – both positive and negative – can improve your awareness and prepare you for the future. And, it can eliminate that dreaded feeling of regret.

Learn From Reflection

Reflection not only helps us rethink our interactions, but it can also help us learn more about ourselves. Considering your style of interaction can identify your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself if there any skills you need to improve? Then, find ways to work on these skills, such as taking a course or meeting with a mentor. Even something as simple as asking for feedback can help identify areas that need improvement.

Also, take time to reflect on your life experiences. Sometimes the best lessons are learned just by living. You grow up and learn from past mistakes. Eric Church says it best in his song “Some of It”: “Some of it you learn the hard way. Some of it you read on a page. Some of it comes from heartbreak. Most of it comes from age and none of it ever comes easy.”

Cultivate Humility

As Kendrick Lamar says, sit down and be humble. Situations may come up on a project site you may not be familiar with or you’re not sure how to handle. And that’s okay. You’re not always going to have all the answers. Make peace with the fact that you don’t know everything. Instead of being embarrassed, use it as a learning opportunity. Ask your peers for help or advice. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn from them. Your peers are great resources. Asking for their help not only helps you learn, but also promotes emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Self-awareness is just one aspect of emotional intelligence, but it’s one of the most important. Taking the time to observe, reflect, show humility, and be empathetic not only improves your daily interactions, but is a step towards creating a positive workspace that is considerate of the people working there.

Connect with Brandon Pejskar on LinkedIn and learn more about Cotter’s Project Controls services here