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How to Promote Emotional Intelligence Across Teams

In the early 2000s, Xerox Corporation teetered on the brink of collapse. This technology company, best known for its photocopiers and printers, was in trouble.

Amidst financial turmoil and dwindling morale, Anne Mulcahy ascended as CEO, inheriting a company gasping for air.

Her strategy?

An unconventional focus on empathy and emotional intelligence.

Mulcahy believed in the collective power of Xerox's employees. She embarked on a journey to rejuvenate the company's spirit, initiating town hall meetings, encouraging transparent communication, and actively listening to the concerns and ideas of her workforce.

This approach, rooted in understanding and addressing emotional needs, gradually transformed the company's culture. Employees, once disheartened, began to feel valued and heard. The atmosphere in the office shifted from one of despair to one of collaborative optimism.

As Mulcahy's empathetic leadership steered Xerox through its darkest hours, the company not only survived but emerged stronger, a testament to the power of emotional intelligence in corporate leadership.

Xerox is currently worth more than $2 billion.


  1. Emotional Intelligence enhances team communication, boosting overall performance
  2. Emotional Intelligence is about self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and social skills
  3. Active listening and shared experiences improve team understanding and cohesion
  4. Calming emotions and empathetic communication lead to constructive solutions

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Emotions in the Workplace

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, both in oneself and in others. It's not just about recognising how we feel but also understanding the impact of these emotions on our interactions and decisions.

To illustrate how Emotional Intelligence manifests in a workplace, consider these examples that highlight the significance of perceiving, controlling, and evaluating emotions:

Conflict Resolution: Imagine a scenario where two team members, Alex and Jordan, disagree with project priorities. Alex, feeling frustrated, initially responds sharply. However, recognising their emotional reaction, Alex takes a moment to calm down and then approaches Jordan for a calm discussion. He acknowledges their frustration but also wants to understand Jordan's perspective. This open communication, a product of emotional intelligence, allows them to reach a mutually agreeable solution, avoiding escalation and maintaining team harmony.

Empathy in Leadership: Sarah, a team leader, notices that one of her team members, Mike, has been unusually quiet in meetings and missing deadlines. Instead of immediately reprimanding him, Sarah privately asks Mike if everything is okay. Through this conversation, she learns that Mike is dealing with a family issue. Sarah's empathy and emotional awareness allow her to temporarily provide the necessary support and adjust Mike’s workload. This not only helps Mike cope with his situation but also fosters loyalty and trust within the team.

Adapting to Change: A company undergoes a significant organisational change, leading to employee uncertainty and anxiety. The management, aware of the emotional impact, holds open forums and one-on-one meetings to address concerns and communicate the reasons behind the changes. By acknowledging and managing the team's emotions, the management helps ease the transition, maintain morale, and ensure continued productivity.

Celebrating Successes: In a sales team, the manager, Emma, makes it a point to celebrate both team and individual successes. She understands that recognising achievements boosts morale and motivates the team. Emma's emotional intelligence allows her to gauge when her team needs a morale boost, and she organises small celebrations or acknowledgments that make the team feel valued and appreciated.

Handling Stressful Situations: During a high-pressure project, the team leader, Tom, remains calm and composed, setting a positive tone for the team. His ability to manage his emotions under stress influences the team’s atmosphere, helping the members to stay focused and efficient despite the high stakes.

These examples demonstrate how emotional intelligence in the workplace goes beyond mere recognition of emotions. It involves understanding the impact of these emotions on oneself and others, leading to better communication, empathy, conflict resolution, and overall team cohesion and effectiveness.

The Heart of Teamwork

The core components of emotional intelligence in teamwork include self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and social skills.

  • Self-awareness allows team members to understand their emotions and how they affect others
  • Self-regulation involves managing emotions for constructive responses
  • Empathy enables understanding and valuing colleagues' perspectives
  • While motivation drives individuals to work towards common goals
  • Finally, social skills facilitate effective communication and conflict resolution

Collectively, these components significantly impact team performance and collaboration. Teams with high EI tend to have better communication, stronger relationships, and a more supportive atmosphere, leading to increased productivity, creativity, and a positive workplace environment.

EI-Driven Communication

Improving how you talk to others by using emotional intelligence is all about being aware of how you're feeling and how others might be feeling during a conversation.

It's about sharing your thoughts in a clear, kind way so that people understand your feelings and intentions.

When you do this, you're less likely to be misunderstood, and it's easier to connect with people. It's like making sure you're on the same wavelength in your chats, which helps everyone get along better.

The EI Approach to Conflict

Handling conflicts with emotional intelligence means staying cool-headed, really listening to each other, and teaming up to find solutions that make everyone feel heard and respected.


At a healthcare clinic, Susan, a receptionist in her 60s, and Emily, a receptionist in her early 20s, disagree with managing patient records.

Susan prefers the traditional paper-based system, highlighting its reliability, especially since the clinic's new digital system often goes offline for hours, causing disruptions. Emily, however, advocates for the digital system for its efficiency and accessibility.

Response Without Emotional Intelligence

Emily, visibly frustrated, says, “Your paper filing is ancient! We can’t keep living in the past. Yes, the digital system has issues, but they’re temporary. We can’t be afraid of change.”

Susan, feeling disrespected, sharply replies, “Well, at least with my paper files, I know I can access them anytime. We can’t risk patient care with an unreliable system. I’ve been here long enough to know what works best.”

Response With Emotional Intelligence

Emily takes a moment, her frustration simmering beneath the surface. She then carefully says, “Look, Susan, I get where you’re coming from with the digital system's glitches. It’s a pain when it goes down. But don’t you think it's worth trying to work it out? Maybe there’s a middle ground?”

Leaning back in her chair, Susan sighs, “I hear you, Emily. It’s just... every time that system crashes, it’s chaos here. I can’t deny that it’s faster when it works, but we can’t have patient care hanging by a thread. How about we keep the paper as a solid backup? I’m not ready to throw it out just yet.”

In this emotionally intelligent response, Emily acknowledges the validity of Susan's concerns and is willing to compromise. Susan, in turn, is open to considering the benefits of the digital system while ensuring patient care isn’t compromised.

This approach fosters a cooperative environment, where both receptionists work together to find a solution that provides efficiency and reliability in patient care.

A Future of Emotionally Intelligent Teams

Turning your workplace into one where Emotional Intelligence (EI) is key means switching from just focusing on skills to really understanding and managing emotions. Here's how it works:

  • Recognise Emotions in Work: Start by seeing how important feelings are in teamwork, chats, and leading others.
  • Grow an Empathetic Team: Focus on EI to make a team that gets each other, sticks together, and works better.
  • Keep Learning EI: Commit to getting better at EI. This means having regular training, workshops, and time to think about how you use EI.
  • Make EI a Priority: By putting time and resources into EI, you're setting up for a future with teams that really click, work well together, and enjoy their jobs more.

Basically, it's about making emotions a big part of work life, learning how to handle them, and using this understanding to build a happier, more effective team.

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