Unknown and unrealized by many, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the foundation for most types of career advancement: pay raises, promotions, and new opportunities outside of your current company. EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships with others. Very simply, if you don’t know what you are feeling and why you are feeling it, if you can’t control your feelings and corresponding behavior, if you can’t “read” people’s feelings, if you don’t interact appropriately with others, then be prepared to pay a big price. Studies show that, in general, persons with low EQ tend to be more stagnant in their careers.
Specifically, the quality of your relationships with others has the most significant impact upon career advancement. One way you can create high quality relationships is by bonding with people. Find a common denominator such as an interest, goal, or concern to both initiate and sustain a meaningful relationship with your boss, peers, and subordinates. Avoid being viewed as aloof. Separating yourself from others earns you a reputation of being a snob or antisocial. Keep in mind that folks find it difficult to relate to loners or individuals who appear to dismiss them.
You can enjoy quality relationships when you learn to make the most of all situations, no matter how challenging. Demonstrate that you are somebody others can count on to roll up your sleeves, dig in, and turn lemons into lemonade. Steer clear of chronic complaining. Instead, become a problem solver and a stress reliever. People notice this behavior and want to be around you. They view you as an asset rather than a liability.
Choosing to work with a colleague who annoys you shows that you are someone who can acknowledge your feelings but move beyond them for the sake of your company and the work that needs to get done. Prove to yourself and others that your priority is making excellent contributions, not serving as a slave to your emotions. Get in touch with what you need to do to manage your personal response to this colleague-and then do it. The point here is not to ignore your feelings but rather to control them. Try focusing on the talents and skills the other person brings to the table.
Quality relationships are also built by paying close attention to what you say and how you say it. Demeaning an employee who makes a mistake in front of a group of her peers is a quick way to kill several relationships all at once. While you may think you are right to correct someone, you are perceived as insensitive, rude, and pathetic by everybody watching the chastisement. Harsh words, profanity, verbal abuse, and an ugly tone generally sever whatever reasonable relationship you may have had prior to the incident.
If you navigate sticky interactions artfully, you are likely to strengthen the relationships you have with everyone in your work environment. Pause before responding to the other person’s remarks. Take time to understand the whole situation. Clarify what is still fuzzy. Ask appropriate questions. Express your own opinions with tact. Consider speaking more slowly, more softly, more evenly than usual. Be authentic, but respect the other individual whether or not you feel he deserves it.
It’s important to know that extreme outbursts of anger, envy, and frustration lessen your chances of any sort of career advancement. Learn to manage your fear, rage, stress and feelings of inadequacy. If you cannot do it on your own, then get the professional help you need. Inappropriate displays of strong emotion bring you nothing but pain and disappointment. Telling yourself that you will feel better if you “get it out of your system” is a message you ought to rethink. You may erupt and feel better, but those around you regard you as “out of control”. As a result, you lose their trust.
Another effective way to develop quality relationships is to communicate clearly and genuinely. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be true to yourself while considering the other person at the same time. Avoid talking in circles. Avoid omitting necessary information. Avoid interjections of hurtful, unprofessional gossip. Remember that your communication represents YOU. What do you want it to say about you? What do you want others to think about you as they hear you talk all day long?
Finally, make a conscious effort to demonstrate empathy for the people around you. It’s not enough to care inwardly about their struggles, worries, and failures. You have to show them that you care. You have to tell them that their concerns matter to you. In short, let others see your humanity openly. A word of caution here: empathizing does not mean discussing a peer’s head cold for an hour in your office. It means acknowledging that the person doesn’t feel well today and perhaps asking how you may help to lighten her load until she recovers.
Employers are attracted to more than your technical skills and talents. Employers are attracted to your ability to establish rapport and build relationships that work. If you really think about it, quality relationships with people get your job done faster, easier, better in the long run. And when you can do that, you can bet that your career is on a track that moves you forward.
By Sylvia D. Hepler