5 Meaningful Examples of Emotional Intelligence at Work

How a little compassion and consideration can help you succeed — and truly thrive.

Courtesy of abracada / Shutterstock
Courtesy of abracada / Shutterstock

Emotional intelligence is becoming an increasingly important factor in company culture and career success. Research has shown that the ability to interpret others’ emotions and react with empathy can increase mindfulness and effective leadership. And simply put, exhibiting emotional intelligence makes it easier to connect with others and forge strong relationships, which studies show are a predictor of happiness in the workplace. It can also make or break the employee experience, and indirectly promote or prevent burnout.

We asked members of the Thrive community to share the different ways they’ve witnessed — and have been impacted by — emotional intelligence in the workplace. Their examples prove just how much a little empathy and understanding can mean to your colleagues.

A CEO showed consideration for her employee’s whole self

“When my CEO found out I was going to be out of the office later in the afternoon for a mediation appointment for my divorce, she promptly excused me from all the meetings and commitments that day. She took over my client responsibilities that day and said I needed to focus, and have my head and my heart centered on what was most important that day. She was empathetic, but said it was just common sense for her to do this for me. Her understanding and thoughtfulness touched me deeply. It made me more loyal and committed to the success of the company.”

—Jennifer Pennell, executive search, San Francisco, CA

A human resources director came to the rescue

“I was once facilitating a batch of youth leaders when they asked me a question which absolutely stumped me. In this set-up of more than 30 participants, the HR director jumped to my rescue. The most interesting aspect was the time frame in which he realized that it was a catch-22 situation for me, and his subtle way of answering the question. It didn’t appear that he was speaking on my behalf, but more so to share his point of view. I really appreciated his emotional presence and intelligence and also learned from this experience.”

—Aakriti Agarwal, coach, facilitator, and image consultant, Hyderabad, India

A team leader inspired loyalty with their support

“One particular leader that I worked with had an amazing ability to build relationships. These strong relationships resulted in a collective resilience. When their team was threatened with layoffs due to an abrupt shift in the market, this leader personally flew around the world speaking individually to all of her team members. In most situations like that, people would have started looking for other jobs. That wasn’t the case with this team. Members said things like, “I can’t leave her because she has always supported us,” or, “I have to stay and see if we can make this work.” It was inspiring to see a team of people rally around a leader in tough economic times.”

—Kerry Goyette, founder and author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence, Columbia, MO

Bosses changed a culture by supporting new hires in the first 100 days

“As a certified emotional intelligence practitioner, the most meaningful example of emotional intelligence at work is when I hear clients understand how important it is to offer the assistance of a coach to hires within the first 100 days in their new role. We include the service with all international placements. When a client says ‘My new hire won’t need that,’ they are underestimating the impact a culture will have on the new hire’s success. A client demonstrates care for their people when they ensure they are fully supported, and given help finding solutions, within their first 100 days.”

—Caroline Stokes, author of Elephants Before Unicorns, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A team member used compassionate directness with a boss and found solutions

“Recently, one of my team members approached me shortly after I had asked if he could send a client an email on our behalf. He indicated that the approach I took could be conceived as micromanaging. This was not my intent, but I was so appreciative that he had: the self awareness to notice this, the bravery and emotional intelligence to address this head-on and immediately, and the sensitivity to be honest and firm, yet clear and unthreatening in his approach. I reached back out to him to clear the air, letting him know what my intention was, and that I would work to be more clear with a similar situation in the future. I feel like it was an immense learning experience for us both! We both see ourselves as progressive, lifelong learners who are continuously working on our own ‘stuff’ and practicing our emotional intelligence, and this is one example where that worked beautifully in practice.”

—Jeremy Berman, CEO and cofounder, New York, NY

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