Emotional intelligence in the workplace

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The emotional intelligence of managers has an effect on the psychological health and safety of employees. It encompasses skill areas such as the ability to deal with other people’s negative emotions and reactions, to understand and manage our personal reactions, and to communicate effectively, including resolving conflict.
Managers and supervisors overall have a good understanding of the importance of emotional intelligence in their own roles, and many mistakenly believe they are quite strong in this area when in fact, the opposite is true.
A 2012 Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace measured the emotional intelligence of managers in Canada, specifically relating to how they may respond to the emotional distress of their employees.
Across all sectors, managers and supervisors were rated as having more challenges than strengths in all measured emotional intelligence skill areas. These included dealing with other people’s negative reactions and emotions, understanding and managing one’s own reactions, and communicating effectively, including resolving conflict. Almost half of respondents were rated as challenged in one or more of these skill areas and only one per cent was rated as strong across all measured areas.
The skill areas where respondents experience the most challenges in working with distressed employees are communicating effectively and understanding their own emotional reactions. Survey results showed that nearly one third of managers/supervisors had some challenges in these areas.
The good news is that 91 per cent of Canadian managers and supervisors recognize the importance of improving their emotional intelligence in the workplace and believe it is possible to do so. Additionally, two out of three respondents indicated that they could do their jobs more effectively if they could better manage distressed workers.
A key resource employers can use to help assess and improve emotional intelligence is Managing Emotions, one of the modules of the Centre’s Managing Mental Health Matters program.
While there are a number of emotional intelligence assessments available online, some are complex or must be purchased. Managing Emotions is unique in that it is a free, evidence-based resource developed by researchers in collaboration with leading experts in emotional intelligence.
In addition to emotional intelligence, the 2012 Ipsos Reid survey also looked at Depression in the Workplace and Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace. A total of 6,624 surveys were completed online, including 4,307 among non-management employees and 2,317 surveys among managers and supervisors. Among the largest of their kind in Canada, these surveys helped define workplace mental health issues facing employers and employees across major industry sectors in Canada and led to the development of free resources like Managing Mental Health Matters, among others.
All of the Centre's tools, resources and survey findings are available in English and French to anyone, anywhere, and at no charge at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com.
By Mary Ann Baynton, Program Director, Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace

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