The role of emotional intelligence in career success

Emotional intelligence is the key to attaining success in your career. To craft a successful career, there are so many elements that need to be put together. A successful career needs to be built on a foundation of patience, hard work, knowledge and connection, but throw in tactlessness and the whole thing falls apart. 

Building a rapport with coworkers is made easier when you are emotionally intelligent. You may have various skills but no man is an island, and you will need to interact with your co-workers. Emotional intelligence makes communicating and interacting much more positive and efficient.

In this article, I will explain what emotional intelligence means, the five components of emotional intelligence, the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace, how emotional intelligence affects career success, and how to improve your emotional intelligence skills. 

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI), also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), is the measure of emotional capability of an individual. It is the ability to take control of one’s emotions, perceive others’ emotions and adjust our behaviour and reactions accordingly.  

Understanding what emotional intelligence is will lead us to better appreciate how it may benefit us in the workplace. For example, a supervisor may be angry and snippy to everyone around, and you need to ask for help on something urgent. Everybody avoids the moody supervisor, but that is not an option for you. Being emotionally intelligent will cue you on how to approach with care, and avoid allowing negative emotions to influence you. 

The five components of emotional intelligence

In the 1990s, Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, author and science journalist coined the five components of emotional intelligence in the workplace. They include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. 

  1. Self-awareness: Self-awareness entails being able to know and understand what you’re feeling and why you are feeling that way. It is an intrinsic value that enables you to put a name to the various conflicting emotions you feel, what triggers certain reactions in you, and how it affects those around you. 
  2. Self-regulation: Self-regulation is a component of emotional intelligence that enables you to contain your emotions, and control the ones that are projected outward. This comes after self-awareness as you need to be able to understand what you’re feeling and why to be able to control them. 

    Self-regulation is important to master, as your emotions may negatively affect others in the workplace. 
  3. Motivation: Motivation means being driven to improve yourself and achieve something. It’s all about setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Being motivated in the workplace can relay a positive attitude to your coworkers and employer, and a desire to complete tasks successfully will lead to doing your best. 
  4. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to deeply understand the emotions of others, and identify with what others are feeling. You may or may not have been in that same situation before, but you’re able to see the situation from the point of view of the other person, and really relate with what they feel. 

    Empathy allows you to handle workplace situations more effectively, and more efficiently alleviate negative situations. 
  5. Social skills: Good social skills enable you to positively communicate and interact with others. People with strong social skills can communicate effectively with others, build rapport with teammates and colleagues, and diffuse conflicts with ease. 

Benefits of emotional intelligence in the Workplace

Some of the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace include: 

1. Reduced stress

Being in the workplace comes with so many hazards, but the most significant of all is stress. There are so many stress-inducing factors in the workplace, but volatile emotions always take first place.

When you are a master of your emotions, you can prevent yourself from being negatively affected by the emotions of others, but instead, positively affect them with your own. 

2. Become a better leader 

Being able to positively influence your subordinates is what makes a leader truly powerful. Emotional intelligence helps you master this and more. When you can keep calm in all situations, it will enable others to be able to trust and follow your lead.

The ability to discern the feelings of others and behave in a way to accommodate them will enable you to be able to steer them in the correct direction. 

3. Further your career

Emotional intelligence helps grant you a better understanding of how to leverage the soft skills needed to succeed in your career.

Skills like communication, patience, problem-solving and so on, will be enhanced by higher levels of emotional intelligence. 

4. Better efficiency

When emotions – particularly negative ones – are kept to a minimum, things will work out more efficiently in the workplace.

Frustrations will not pile up, fizzle out of control and impede workflow if everyone is emotionally intelligent. 

How emotional intelligence affects career success

Out of all the workplace skills, emotional intelligence positively influences the success of your career the most. 

1. Increases confidence

Having better control of your emotions gives you more confidence. You know that you can hold yourself back from embarrassing emotional outbursts if things go wrong, so it gives you boldness when approaching situations.

It gives you the confidence to approach difficult situations since you know you have the mindset to handle whatever comes your way and can positively influence those around you. 

2. Makes you a more effective communicator

Being emotionally intelligent makes you an excellent listener, better understand where others are coming from, and react accordingly. This enables you to effectively communicate with your coworkers. 

3. Makes you a better negotiator

Being a master of emotions, you can better understand what makes others tick and influence their reactions. Your manner of approach will be tailored to each individual, making the most of their personality to convince them.

Emotional intelligence makes you an excellent negotiator, able to reason with others in a way that pulls on their emotions the most. 

4. Helps you build stronger relationships

Being able to control your reaction and positively influence others helps you to build stronger relationships.

When the attitude of others towards you is positive, it draws them to you, and you can build better connections that way. 

5. Builds upon your skillset

There are so many skills you may need to succeed in the workplace, but emotional intelligence helps you make the most of each skill. 

How to improve your emotional intelligence

Though an important skill to have, emotional intelligence doesn’t come easily to all. We all need this important skill, and if it doesn’t come naturally to you, there are ways you can improve on it. 

Here are 4 ways to improve your emotional intelligence in the workplace: 

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Though there are five components of emotional intelligence, no one – no matter how emotionally intelligent – will have them all in equal proportions. One may have self-awareness but lack self-regulation, or be empathetic but have poor people skills. You need to know where you excel and where you need to improve.

Look back on all your social interactions, including emails and text messages to see how you respond to others. Sit back and write down all the strengths and weaknesses you can think of, and come to the list back regularly to see if you’ve improved. 

2. Practice emotional intelligence

When you’ve identified your deficit areas, actively try to improve on them. Learn about all aspects of emotional intelligence and put them into use in your daily life.

The more you practice this skill, the more naturally it will come to you until you have fully mastered it. 

3. Ask for help

Even after knowing all there is to know about emotional intelligence, it may be hard to fully grasp it. If you’re having difficulties, reach out to a colleague or mentor to ask for ways you can improve your communications and leadership skills. 

3. Receive feedback

Receiving external feedback can help you better understand the areas you’ve improved and where you still fail at. Reach out to people you can trust to give you honest feedback. Then use the advice to better yourself. 


Emotional intelligence is an important skill to succeed career-wise that though may not come easily to everyone, can be learned. There are several ways to cultivate emotional intelligence, and you may try different things before you will be able to find what’s best for you. 

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Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa is a content writer with She writes predominantly on topics related to education, career and business. She is an English language major with keen interest in career growth and development.

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