A Guide to Emotional Intelligence for Office Managers

Kayla Naab
August 5, 2019

Emotional intelligence is defined as a having a skill in perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions or feelings. For many, emotional intelligence begins with oneself and the ability to control your emotional responses, accept your emotions, and develop self awareness. Your mind might jump to someone who is calm, happy, or who never loses their temper. 

Emotional intelligence can also apply to the way we perceive and interact with other people, too. In this way, you might think of a particularly nurturing parent, therapist, or natural helper as having high emotional intelligence, too. 

But what about in business? Who do you work with who makes you think of emotional intelligence? Perhaps someone who is always mitigating conflict, supporting frustrated or worried colleagues, or leading with stability comes to mind. In the inverse, you may also have colleagues who could use a little bit more emotional intelligence - someone who leads with anger or has difficulty coping with challenges. In what ways do these individuals impact the ethos of your office?

Myth: Emotion and Business are Mutually Exclusive

The belief that emotion and business are mutually exclusive is a false myth. We’ve historically been taught to assume that we should leave our feelings at the door. If we’ve had a tough day outside of work, we have no business bringing it into the office. If we have a tough day at work, we have no business expressing it. Unfortunately, though, this expectation doesn’t account for the humanity that powers your workplace. We are emotionally motivated, powered by how things make us feel, and largely unable to just “turn it off” during the workday. 

If your ideal office is one where everyone is always happy, productive, and getting along, it makes more sense to work on emotional intelligence than emotionlessness. While the former equips us to handle anything, the latter is impossible. 

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters for Office Managers

As the office manager, you’re the hub to every spoke in the wheel. You drive the culture and atmosphere of the office, impact the way your teams collaborate, and help to resolve conflict. You have a large stake in whether your workplace is one built from trust, confidence, and kindness or… not. Of course, the onus of workplace culture is not yours alone. Other leaders in the organization and the employees must be accountablel for their actions, emotions, and the way they treat each other. An office manager’s ability to model, teach, and foster emotional intelligence could make all the difference.

Signs of Emotional Intelligence at Work

Emotional intelligence isn’t just one of those “in theory” elements of workplace culture - it requires action. Without being seen in action, worked on, and encouraged company-wide, emotional intelligence has no value. Here’s what you would see and hear every day at work, if emotional intelligence was made a priority:

1. Self Awareness

Employees know what triggers their good and bad emotions, how they’re likely to respond to those triggers, and which strategies will help guide their reactions and behaviors when emotions run high. 

2. Self Regulation

Employees demonstrate self-control when frustrated, stressed, rejected, or challenged. They try to avoid reacting out of anger or defensiveness and understand how to productively reflect when they do react poorly. 

3. Motivation

Employees have a healthy relationship toward their work and understand how to manage their emotions to get the most done. They demonstrate interest, intent, and self-reflection where productivity is concerned.

4. Social Skills

Employees know how to speak to their colleagues, junior employees, and leaders appropriately. They wage EQ during conflict or disagreement, respond thoughtfully to the needs of others, and generally get along well. 

5. Empathy

Employees can see from the perspectives of their teammates, routinely making efforts to modify their own behaviors or actions to suit the needs of others. Boundaries, preferences, and proclivities are respected and respectful. 

How to Increase Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

To benefit from the positive impact of emotional intelligence in the workplace, office managers can do a lot to foster the skill among their colleagues. Here’s how: 

1. Create a Locus of Trust

Emotions are suppressed at work because people don’t feel safe to say how they feel. As humans, we tie our identity to our work. Fear of being chastised at work for sharing a frustration - or worse, being penalized for it - keeps us quiet. Create a safe space for employees to vent, to challenge norms, to air conflicts, without threat of punishment or reprimand.

Once they do, offer healthy ways for them to process those emotions and distill them into emotionally intelligent reactions. This might look like mediating a conflict between two employees, advocating for an employee having a tough conversation with her boss, or implementing anonymous opportunities for employee feedback. 

2. Prioritize Emotions 

Emotions drive us, whether we like it or not. By centering emotions in calm, workaday situations, you’re priming your team for better emotional efficacy in heightened, stressful situations. This might look like asking emotion-focal questions during interviews and onboarding, setting time to discuss emotions during project kick-offs or reviews, and encouraging employees to express themselves during company rallies or breakout sessions. 

3. Have Hard Conversations at Work

Part of suppressing our emotions at work is evading any conversation that might draw our feelings out of us. We avoid the negative feelings associated with rejection or fear by staying quiet when we have a great idea or solution to a problem. We avoid the possibility of an outburst by accepting poor treatment from a figure of authority. We allow misunderstandings to fester for fear of the alternative.

As an office manager, your role is to encourage - and even facilitate - these tough conversations. Once you’ve built the locus of trust, you might find more employees come to you to air their grievances. This step ensures that those important discussions don’t lack closure.

4. Encourage Reflection 

To be self-aware and self-regulating, we must reflect on how we act and behave. To stay motivated or motivate our team, we must understand what drives us all. To cultivate social skills and develop empathy, we must reflect on our colleagues and how our actions and behaviors impact the collective. Office managers should set a reflection practice in motion among the team. This might look like using software to prompt your team to reflect emotionally once per week, having an off-site lunch every month where employees meditate, journal, or connect, or encouraging employees to reflect after ending a conflict or making a tough call. 

If your workplace could use more emotional intelligence, you probably already know it. You’ve seen the lack of self-awareness or empathy, poor social skills, and other indicators that your people aren’t happy. The great thing is you have so much influence to change it. As an office manager, your role is one that probably seems to change every week. This week, put feelings first and see what happens. 

Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office. 

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