How to use emotional intelligence to resolve conflict at work
- Recognizing, understanding and managing emotions is particularly important in a leader’s ability to resolve conflict
- Emotional intelligence at work, often seen as more valuable than IQ, is a skill that anyone can improve with training and practice
- 6 steps to resolving conflict quickly and effectively
Emotional intelligence and conflict resolution in the workplace
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a set of abilities that enables us to recognize and understand our own feelings and those of others around us. EQ is thus a kind of social intelligence which enables us to act wisely in our relationships with others.
The ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions is an important skill for our interactions with other people, but it is especially important in conflict resolution in the workplace. Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, the creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration, and even loss of top talent; but recognizing our and others’ emotions is fundamental to resolving conflict.
The concept of emotional intelligence first appeared in business literature in the early 1990s. The premise is that it is EQ and not IQ that determines success in the workplace. As Daniel Goleman, the leading authority on emotional intelligence writes in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence: “IQ takes second place to emotional intelligence in determining outstanding job performance”.
Emotional intelligence influences how well employees interact with each other, and their ability to solve problems and manage stress. According to recent research by Frontiers in Psychology, employees with higher scores on measures of EQ tend to be rated higher on measures of interpersonal functioning, leadership abilities and stress management.
The four major skills that make up EQ
Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill that anyone can improve with training and practice – much like lifting weights to develop stronger muscles.
EQ encompasses these key competencies:
|The key to emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness is the consciousness of what you’re experiencing. It’s the ability to read your emotions and understand how others influence your emotional state. By understanding your own feelings and motivations, you can better understand the feelings and motivations of others. This understanding allows you to respond to situations – such as conflict – in a more constructive manner, rather than reacting in a defensive or aggressive way.|
|Self-awareness is therefore the foundational element on which all other emotional competencies are built.|
|Self-aware leaders are:
|This involves controlling your emotions and impulses as well as adapting to change. Awareness of your emotions isn’t enough. You also need to be able to manage those emotions by not making rash decisions or overreacting to a situation. This allows you to pursue goals and opportunities despite obstacles, and make balanced decisions based on what’s really important and not just how you feel at the time.|
|3. Social awareness|
|Emotional intelligence competencies include not only dealing effectively with oneself, but also dealing effectively with others. This cluster of competencies includes the ability to really hear what someone else is saying, sensing others’ moods and being empathetic. Empathy allows you to see things from the other person’s point of view and understand their motivations and feelings. This understanding can help you to find common ground and work toward a resolution.|
|Mindful leaders are highly skilled at understanding what makes others tick, and they’re able to use this understanding to respond to their teams in ways that bring out the best in people.|
|Social awareness also includes the ability to understand corporate politics, and to be service-minded.|
|4. Relationship management|
|This is the aspect of your EQ that enables you to succeed in motivating and inspiring other people, and helping them to reach their full potential. It is also vital for negotiating successfully, compromising when necessary, working with others toward a shared goal and resolving conflict. A key attribute here is the skill to resolve conflicts without jeopardizing interpersonal relationships.|
|Your success in this final area is directly correlated to your success in the other three areas because management is all about getting work done through other people, some of whom you have no direct authority over.|
Once you’ve mastered the above four competencies, you’ll easily manage conflict by working through the six steps below.
6 steps to resolving conflict
Some conflicts energize employees and encourage creative thinking. However, destructive conflict that decreases morale and cooperation must be addressed as soon as you become aware of it.
Following are some guidelines for conflict resolution in the workplace:
|1. Recognize the conflict|
|2. Agree on a code of conduct|
|3. Discuss and listen to both sides of the story|
|4. Define and summarize the problem|
|5. Discuss and agree on a workable solution|
|6. Follow up|
What Goleman and others have established quite clearly is that our interpersonal skills are as important, if not more important, than our qualifications and expertise. So the ability to recognize and understand emotions and workplace conflict, and bring swift and just resolution to the conflict, will serve you well on your leadership journey.