Where Does EQ Belong In The Workplace?

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This blog was written by Hannah Gawlik, a Senior Executive Search Recruiter at Vanderbloemen.

Emotional awareness can be an essential tool for rebuilding after a wave of turnover, conflict, and burnout.  It has the ability to play a huge role in pushing your organization's mission forward by taking care of your people and nourishing your team's culture.

Emotions can be messy and confusing. They may not seem to have a place in a “professional” setting. Professionalism may even seem to downplay emotions for the sake of productivity. Could this be a dangerous mistake? Could unaddressed emotions be a major cause of exhaustion and frustration at work? Maybe this is where we need to focus in order to find our way to revitalization.

Why should we care about emotional awareness?

First and foremost, acknowledging emotions honors our condition as human beings. To put it simply, it is to be honest- first with ourselves and then with each other. Emotions are a part of our makeup as human beings whether we acknowledge them or not. A workplace culture that recognizes emotions and their ability to affect us reveals a greater degree of care for employees as people. We are not as invincible as we like to think we are, and sometimes the pressure to keep up such a lie pushes us beyond exhaustion. It’s no wonder we burn out. Let’s create work environments where people can be human first and employees second. Let’s not forget that we are weak and dependent creatures in the hands of a loving God. Let’s honor this truth by not pretending to be more powerful or less human than we are- or expecting that of our team members.

Emotions are not only a personal reality but a relevant professional matter- especially in settings where the mission is so closely tied to a person’s core values. This matter deserves proactive attention as an area of high vulnerability and high potential value in the workplace. Increased emotional awareness can not only protect your team from the damaging buildup of negative emotions but can also motivate the team through the renewal of positive emotions. It might be the key to reawakening the passion that drove us to our work initially. 

How do we increase emotional awareness in our workplace?

As a leader, it starts with you. Before you can tend to the emotional needs of your team, you must first work inwardly. Be careful not to think you have graduated and earned your EQ badge. Emotional awareness is not a “one and done” effort. The first hurdle is realizing that you will never be completely immune to the roller coaster ride of emotions that is common to the human experience. None of us are above a good old-fashioned breakdown when the circumstances are right. The goal is not to control or prevent emotions- but to recognize our inability to do so- and practice processing them in a way that invites others to do the same. Leaders play a crucial role in setting a tone of openness and safety that welcomes emotional transparency.

The next step is to create space for listening. The discerning step of emotional awareness can be challenging and unfruitful– especially when done in isolation. Space for listening allows team members to share emotions and solicit help to make sense of them. Help is not the same as fixing! Focus on understanding and asking questions, rather than providing answers and advice. When we resist jumping to solutions, we allow room for growth. It can feel messy and uncomfortable, but there is immense value in stepping into this space together.

Emotional awareness is something that must be practiced with consistency.  Designated spaces and communication channels should be integrated into normal routines and intentionally encouraged until they become a habit. Once team members experience the benefits of using such tools to work through emotions, the effort-reward cycle will reinforce itself. Hopefully, emotional awareness becomes a positive norm and is fully embraced as an element of the culture.

We hope you are inspired to imagine your team thriving again and to consider the important role that emotional awareness plays in this vision. We hope that you are able to deepen and restore connections within your team and find fresh energy to move your mission forward. When your team isn’t whole, it disrupts your mission. If we can help you further your ministry, contact us today.

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