How Does Emotional Intelligence Predict Employee Performance?

Emotional intelligence is not an entirely new concept. Employers have in the past always used different traits to predict a job applicant’s future job performance. Such traits may include their cognitive ability, past behaviors, skills, personality and competencies related to the job. Today, emotional intelligence has been added to that category and continues to grow in popularity. 

So, can emotional intelligence be used to predict an employee’s performance? Based on various studies, it is clear that emotional intelligence can be used to predict future job success in an employee. The only problem is that even with so many studies going on, it is not clear what it is about emotional intelligence that may affect an employee’s performance.

A study published in the JournalOpens in a new tab. of Applied Psychology looked at the correlation between job performance and self-reported emotional intelligence and found out that there are seven traits that made the difference in employee performance.

Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is simply a person’s ability to not only be aware but to understand their own emotions and those of others and use that to manage how they react and respond in a social context. The concept started being used in the 90s after Goleman published the Emotional IntelligenceOpens in a new tab. book. Since then, studies continue to be done on the concept and it is often used to improve the interaction between people but it is widely used in the workplace.

Empathy and self-control are usually at the center of emotional intelligence. A majority of jobs have some certain degree of frustration, whether you are a banker, lawyer or a casual laborer. And without emotional intelligence, it would all be chaos. Without even realizing or understanding it, most of the time we rely on emotional intelligence to interact with others and to deal with situations especially at work.

Generally, people who have high levels of EQ, have better social relationships with people including management, colleagues as well as customers leading to not only performance improvement but satisfaction in doing what they do no matter the level of their job. When you have the skills to understand what others are going through and why they are behaving like that and knowing how your own emotions are affecting your reasoning and thinking is very valuable in dealing with complicated relationships and managing conflicts and it is what sets leaders apart.

Some careers like sales demand high emotional intelligence. Salespeople interact with customers on a daily basis. What happens when there is a misunderstanding and the customer is not communicating clearly about what they want? A person with low EI is likely to mislead such a customer and may even end up angering them. A person with high EI, on the other hand, will analyze the situation trying to understand exactly where this customer is coming from and their feelings, so that they can respond in a manner that will not belittle the customer but rather influence them to make a purchase increasing their performance.

Emotional intelligence can help an employee improve their work performance by helping them to;

  • – Use their mental capacity to do their job rather than being influenced by their emotional interactions
  • – Deal diligently with situations where a conflict is likely to occur leading to non-productive behavior
  • – Predict how other people will react to a certain situation and try to find better ways of approaching the issue
  • – Avoid offending others; customers, colleagues or management
  • – Have better impulse control and avoid distractions that may derail them from achieving their goals at the end of the day


Emotional intelligence has also been shown to influence other outcomes like organizational loyalty. Studies have it that employees who have high EI focus on the organization and will do everything to help the organization perform effectively by going above and beyond their call of duty. Additionally, emotional intelligence has been tied to job-related outcomes like job satisfaction. An employee who has better interaction with others from the management to customers is more likely to enjoy their job and feel satisfied than one who is always in conflict with others.

Measuring Emotional Intelligence in a Job

There are positions that demand interactions like sales, customer service, and management. In such roles, if the employee has the ability to understand and control their own emotions and those of others and behaves in a way that is socially acceptable and exercises control, they will be received better by the other person. Because of this, it is no wonder that emotional intelligence is tied to emotional stability, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and cognitive ability.

There are several ways in which emotional intelligence is measured in job performance. Sometimes it is measured as an ability and other times as a combination of traits like self-awareness, social skills, self-regulation, motivation, and empathy.

Self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy, however, are at the center of EI since they involve dealing with emotions. What they all come down to is being aware of your own emotions and knowing how to behave in certain circumstances, understanding other people’s emotions and being empathetic enough to care about their feelings and learning impulse control.

Five Features of Emotional Intelligence

Goleman (1998) in the book, Working with Emotional Intelligence,Opens in a new tab. suggests that IE accounts for 67 percent of skills that are required to succeed in a job and is more important than even IQ and technical proficiency.

There are 5 elements of emotional intelligence that influence employee performance in any organization.

1. Self-Awareness

A person who is self-aware as mentioned earlier is in tune with their own emotions, and are aware of how those emotions and actions can affect those around them. Self-awareness also means being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses and being able to act in humility.

Self-awareness is very important especially to those who are in leadership positions. A leader who has self-awareness has better interactions and is able to give constructive feedback where it is needed. By being aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they improve the performance of the organization by hiring individuals who can do the job and delegating those jobs they can’t do.

2. Self-Regulations

Self-regulation is the ability to manage both emotions and impulses. It is the ability to exercise restrain by knowing what is necessary and would benefit everyone in a particular situation. For instance, rather than shouting at employees because you are stressed, a person who has self-regulation will look for other ways of containing their emotions like delegating some duties.

In an organization, self-regulating helps nature respect and trust among employees, and also helps employees adapt to change better and react rationally no matter the situation.

3. Empathy

If you are self-aware and have self-regulation, the next thing is knowing how to deal with others in that regard. Empathy is identifying and understanding the emotions of others. It is putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and trying to understand why they are reacting that way.

Not everyone has a good day at work and as such, conflicts are inevitable. Without empathy, all you would care about are your own emotions and getting everyone to agree with you. Empathetic employees try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Maybe that other person is going through some tough situation at home and it is projecting in their work and their interactions with others. When you understand that you also have good and bad days and that how you react to a situation is dependent on so many factors, you are in a better position to control how you react to the other person.

By understanding how the other person feels also, you have compassion and willingness to help which results in improved social relationships. Empathy is particularly important in situations where constructive feedback is needed. In a team set up, empathy shows that you care and you gain respect from other employees and as such job performance improves.

4. Motivation

Self-motivation refers to the ability to enjoy what you do and doing everything one can to achieve their goals. Employees who are self-motivated find satisfaction in what they do and are not motivated by money and status.

Self-motivation is important since it reduces procrastination, keeps one focused in the midst of a setback, increases self-confidence and that motivation ends up spreading throughout the entire team improving performance in the process. (We have a related article – how do you motivate staff to improve productivityOpens in a new tab.)

5. Social Skills

People who have good social skills are excellent communicators. They are open to not only hearing good news but the bad as well. They end up becoming leaders and if not they are great influencers in the organization.

They excel in the management of change and dealing with conflicts that may arise. They go above and beyond their call of duty and will not just sit back and watch others do their work for them. Without even realizing it, they set examples that others can follow and will be consulted by others on various issues because they are not only good at it but are willing to lend a helping hand.

Emotional Intelligence in Improving Productivity

While emotional intelligence may seem like a skill that you only require to improve personal relationships, in an organizational setting, when handled well, it can improve productivity in the long run.

Understanding emotions and controlling responses

In an organization, when you know how to control your emotional response to situations, you are less likely to be moody or react in a counterproductive way to certain situations. By allowing anger and panic to control you, you are unable to think rationally, or even focus on one issue at a time wasting valuable time and compromising on productivity.

Encourage your employee to recognize their emotional triggers and learn how to control their reactions to them.

Stress management

Every job has its moments and it is bound to be frustrating at some point. Emotionally intelligent people recognize this and understand their limits and can recognize easily when the stress of the job is becoming too much.

Such people will take necessary breaks whether it means going for a one-week vacation all in the bid of preventing exhaustion. They know that they will be more productive if they are rested and not under any stress.

Some employers see it as lazy when an employee goes on leave but emotionally intelligent employers understand that this is a necessary part of creating a motivated and productive workforce. (We have written a related article – 15 emotional signs of stress in the workplaceOpens in a new tab.)

Encouraging collaboration

Collaboration is very important in any organization regardless of its size. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand this and encourage teamwork more than individual accomplishments. Such people can easily read the emotions of others, recognize their strengths and weaknesses and react appropriately.

They are also empathetic and as such, are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the organization.


Feedback whether positive or negative is very important if an organization is to thrive. Contrary to popular belief feedback is not only a downward process where only managers, team leaders, and supervisors can give feedback. It can be the other way round and emotionally intelligent leaders understand that they can only do better if they encourage employees to provide feedback on the running of the organization.

Such leaders at the end of the day are able to give constructive feedback so as to improve productivity. By giving and receiving constructive feedback, relationships within the organization are improved and in the end productivity because everyone is working towards the same goal. (Learn more on what is workplace feedbackOpens in a new tab.)

Valuable partnerships

Emotional intelligence allows for the development of better partnerships and attracts more and better people to support the brand. Through emotional intelligence, understanding is created between partners and clients alike where you have a better understanding of what they want from you and you are able to communicate better. This way productivity and efficiency are increased and better relationships are created.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence in an Organization

Just like with any other skills, emotional intelligence takes time to practice. As such, the organization needs to create a culture where workers and management as well can practice and even perfect emotional intelligence.

And it all starts in the organization showing its employees that it cares about them. Naturally, employees are usually aware of why the organization wants them to perform well. In short, they understand the impact their performance has on the organization. Their well-being is what matters at the end of the day.

Do they understand that you care about them as individuals and not as a group and that you know they are capable of good performance? Once they understand that, they are more likely to draw satisfaction in their job and will be loyal to the organization.

This can be applied in certain situations where as a leader you understand that there are good and bad ways of getting employees to do their job. Threats and fear, for instance, are not a long term solution. We are all emotional creatures and it will take more than a threat to change someone’s behavior. You must first make them understand exactly why you are asking them to put in more effort before they are willing to do that.

Begin by gaining their support on an emotional level and stick to that rather than going back to giving commands and threatening them. Once you do that all that emotional groundwork you have already created will be for nothing and not to mention employees don’t react too well to intimidation and manipulationOpens in a new tab.. If you are not invested in their emotional wellbeing, their loyalty will be lost and they will only come to work to do the bare minimum; just what is expected of them and go home and so begins the cycle of unsatisfied and unmotivated employees. 

Setting Goals to Increase IE

Once you have helped your employees to see the vision of why they do what they do and how that has an impact not only on the organization but their lives as well, you can work on improving emotional intelligence among them.

Insist on the importance of traits like empathy, feedback, communication and goal setting at every level from the individual, team, department to the entire organization. For instance, you can encourage people to identify their emotional triggers, interact more with each other, encouraging them to ask and give feedback and pushing on regardless of the setbacks they encounter.

Once you have set the goals, encourage your employees as well as management to discuss them. While it may seem weird at first, especially in a situation where open communication has not been that common, with a bit of practice, they will get accustomed to it.

Related Questions

How does emotional intelligence improve decision making? When it comes to decision making, our emotions are what influences the actions we take. Emotional intelligence can help you make better decisions by understanding how your emotions have been driving your actions where you can now pause and evaluate how to respond to a certain situation.

How do you improve your emotional intelligence? There are several ways of improving EI and becoming a better person but what they all come down to is practicing self-awareness where you learn what triggers both happy and angry emotions in you, not judging others before you understand how their emotions are influencing their behavior and letting go of the need to always be right.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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