As many as one in five Australian workers suffers from a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or substance abuse. And it’s not surprising that the majority are reluctant to tell their co-workers for fear of being treated differently. Which is why it’s critical that managers promote workplace mental health by mitigating factors that could trigger someone’s symptoms and propel him or her into ill health.

The Detrimental Impact of a Lack of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Fortunately, most people interact professionally with their colleagues, even if they don’t always understand their motivations or moods. However, there’s one type of team member that isn’t likely to respond in a mature manner: someone who has a lack of emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ). While people like this can be talented and productive, their inability to empathise with others can create uncomfortable working relationships and sometimes escalate into full-blown conflicts. This in turn results in damaged relationships, a stressful work environment, compromised performance, and even high turnover.

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The Benefits of Developing Emotional Intelligence

Instead of leaders having to deal with the fallout of these kinds of situations (fighting fires), it’s much more conducive in the long run to develop emotional intelligence in those team members who have a low EQ. This offers the following benefits:

  • Better interactions with co-workers (not only those suffering from mental illness) resulting in a more productive work environment, enhanced performance, increased productivity—and ultimately reduced turnover.
  • Better people skills on the part of the formerly immature workers, which provides them with the essential soft skills to advance their careers. In the long term, this justifies the company’s investment of time and resources in them.

3 Tips for Developing a Team Member’s EQ

Admittedly, developing a team member’s EQ is easier said than done. The individual has to want to change in order to truly develop. Even so, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Integrate EQ development with the employee’s career coaching. This provides you with a relevant framework to address the issue.
  • Determine the team member’s career objective. Find out which goals are important to him or her.
  • Explain why positive relationships are crucial to achieving his or her goals. Focus on how mutual respect and strong network connections play an essential role in advancing.
  • Provide a factual analysis of what the team member needs to learn and how it will benefit him or her. This can include empathy, non-verbal cues, and self-assessment. For example, if the worker has previously sparked conflict by being rude to, or appearing to ‘ride’ a colleague, explain how this behaviour is damaging to the colleague and reflects poorly on the leadership credibility (current or future) of the offending team member. Then brainstorm alternative ways to respond and how that would benefit the team member. For example, offering to assist the colleague would get the job done while simultaneously building the team member’s reputation as a supportive team player.

Our Building Resilience at Work course is something to consider for building the EQ of your team. It’s designed to build mental strength, stamina and emotional mastery so you can get on with business.

Developing a team member’s EQ isn’t easy—but it can be done. And in the long run, creating an emotionally intelligent workforce will benefit both your team members and your organisation.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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