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Blog | 5 Nov 2020

Emotional Intelligence as an Essential Skill for Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

This opinion piece forms part of our IMPACTxAsia blog series

Emotional Intelligence as an Essential Skill for Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives in corporates in Asia have been viewed in the past as a nice to have. However, things have changed in 2020. Spurred by the racial justice movement in the United States, increasing numbers of companies in Asia are starting to realise the importance and benefits of a diverse workforce to a sustainable business.  

Despite this realisation, a diverse workforce is just one part of the equation; inclusivity is just as critical. Without inclusion, a diverse workforce could become multiple cliques that could potentially hurt team dynamics. To facilitate successful diverse and inclusive team dynamics, emotional intelligence is a key skill to build.  

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional intelligence is defined as “...the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth”. The concept of emotional intelligence gained traction within the scientific community when psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer published an article on the topic in 1990. However, it was Daniel Goleman who popularised the topic among the general public and business community through his popular press in 1995. 

There are many different models of emotional intelligence, but all of them can be summarised by the combination of categories below, including: 

  • Self-Awareness, that is being aware of the way you feel, and how your feelings could influence your decisions, behaviors, and performances. When people are aware of their feelings and their effects on their life, they are being present. On the other hand, individuals who are not aware of their feelings are usually seen as disconnected from their influence.    

  • Awareness of others, or the ability to perceive, interpret, and acknowledge the way others feel. Those who demonstrate this skill effectively are often viewed as empathetic, while those who do not demonstrate this skill can come across as insensitive to how other people feel.  

  • Authenticity, as in being open and effective in expressing oneself, both negatively and positively. This involves providing feedback to colleagues about the way you feel and sharing the way you feel at the right time with the right intensity. People who are high in authenticity are described as genuine, and people low in this skill are being described as insincere.  

  • Emotional Reasoning, which is related to how people use feelings as a source of information to assist them in making decisions. When people could successfully leverage feelings as information, they make expansive and creative decisions; when people do not use feelings as information, they tend to be limited in their decision making.  

  • Self-Management, or the ability to regulate feelings and emotions. Some people might use maladaptive ways to regulate and cope and might be described as temperamental. Others who use more productive coping mechanisms could be described as resilient.  

  • Positive Influence, or the ability to support others through problem solving, feedback provision, and creating a helpful work environment. Individuals who positively influence other’s feelings are empowering to work with, versus those who are indifferent and aloof.  

Emotional Intelligence in Practice 

Previous research by Capgemini found that out of a survey of 750 executives and 1,500 employees, 61% of executives and 41% of employees believe that emotional intelligence will become a must-have skill within the next one to five years. Recently, the World Economic Forum posited two broad themes when positioning essential skills for 2025, including self-management and working with people. These map perfectly onto the key indicators of emotional intelligence. As our workforces become more diverse and reflective of what society really looks like, it is not surprising that differing opinions are on the rise. If not managed properly, instances of workplace conflicts could also increase.  Emotional intelligence will work as a lubricant to help people work together smoothly, not only facilitating the better management of feelings, but also an acute perception and acknowledgement of other’s feelings.  

Recommendations 

As companies consider their criterion for new talent, they should ensure emotional intelligence is flagged as a key skill. Hiring managers should leverage specific behavioral questions to better understand emotional intelligence as a skillset among potential candidates.  

Leadership teams that aim to incorporate diversity, inclusion and wellbeing as part of their corporate strategy should prioritise emotional intelligence as a skillset to help facilitate this goal. A group of staff members who are aware of their own emotions and behave empathetically and authentically towards each other, will reduce friction between teams and nourish an inclusive work environment. 

Companies that are interested in promoting emotional intelligence among their general staff to build resilience and improve wellbeing, should engage with our consulting and training team to learn more about the options available to them. Community Business offer a wider range of bespoke consulting, training and facilitation options. Find out more on our website.  

 

About the Author: Michael Chan, Programme Manager, Responsible Business