How Managers Can Use Emotional Intelligence to Create Balance in the Workplace

One of the keys to effective leadership is having high Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to effectively identify your own emotions as well as other's. The theory was developed by psychologist and science journalist, Daniel Goleman

Managers need to not only be able to control their own emotions, but respond appropriately when employees act out emotionally. In order to be productive, the workplace needs to be an emotionally balanced zone. Notice that I didn't use the word "happy," but instead "balanced." All emotions can provide value as long as we manage them properly. 

When emotions aren't properly managed, the office winds up being a volatile combination of personalities and emotional clashing. However, if you can learn to properly identify the full range of emotions in yourself and your employees, you can use Emotional Intelligence to maintain balance. 

The four basic categories of emotions are Fear, Anger, Joy and Sadness. Well-adjusted, successfully people experience each emotion, but equally and in moderation. Let's explore how to identify these emotions and how to respond to them appropriately.


Fear is the broadest category of emotion and includes anxiety, shame and guilt. All forms of fear originate from a lack of trust or lack of self-confidence. We fear things that we don't fully understand or don't feel totally equipped to handle.

CONS: The negative effects of fear include overthinking, failed communication, perfectionism, inauthenticity and procrastination.

PROS: Fear can be beneficial in that it's our natural protection against harm. Small doses of fear can help evaluate risk levels, avoid stress and encourage preparation.

SOLUTION: As we learned in Micro-Managing, the solution to overcome fear is to establish a sense of trust. As a manager, you can use Emotional Intelligence to identify times when you're feeling afraid. Dig down deep and find the source of your distrust.


Say for instance, you're afraid of coming across as too demanding. You want your team to like you, so you let deadlines slide and don't enforce office policies. You start to feel taken advantage of and realize that you've become a push-over. As we learned in Healthy Relationships, being nice isn't always the best way to get things done. The key to creating balance is develop respect with honest communication. 

Use your Emotional Intelligence to find out why you equate being "assertive" with "demanding." Do you feel that your employees don't respect your authority? Does the previous manager have a history of being unreasonable? Identify the source of doubt in your team and then work to build a better level of trust.


Anger is one of the most difficult emotions to overcome, because it derives from loss of control. Powerless people tend to feel jealous or mistreated because they think there is no other option. Anger derives from an exhaustion of efforts and lack of fairness. 

CONS: The negative effects of anger include rebelliousness, resentment, ineffective communication and impatience.

PROS: Anger can be beneficial in that it can motivate us to fight injustice. Small doses of anger can inspire us to find creative solutions and stand-up for those without power.

SOLUTION: The solution to overcome anger is creativity. Angry people haven't taken the time to find a new perspective of the situation. 


For instance, your employee is outraged that you ask him to work the day before Thanksgiving. Despite your explanation that everyone has to make sacrifices, he just refuses to comply. He feels that he always has to clean up everyone's mess and doesn't deserve this treatment. He thinks he's entitled to the time off.

Use your Emotional Intelligence to understand why he feels so powerless. What specifically in the past has made him feel like he does more work than everyone else? Has he actually been taking on more work because someone else is slacking? Try to come up with a creative solution that makes him feel valued. 


Happiness comes from a state of contentment and/or growth. We feel happy when we are satisfied with our current state or have reached an achievement. Love, empathy, acceptance and humor nurture us and give us a sense of purpose. Particularly in our society, joy can diminish quickly so it's a huge commodity.  

CONS: Too much happiness, doesn't always encourage growth. The negative effects of excessive joy can be complacency, delusion and ignorance. 

PROS: Joy is obviously beneficial in creating a welcoming, compassionate and fun environment.

SOLUTION: The solution to staying appropriately happy is to be content, but not complacent. Enjoy the small victories, but continually strive to keep growing.


For instance, one of your employees has an incredibly positive attitude. She's always encouraging and is basically the team cheerleader. She's always willing to help out and often cracks jokes to keep the rest of team uplifted. However when it comes to her performance, it's subpar.  She hasn't made an effort to learn any new skills in several years.

Use your Emotional Intelligence to understand her work ethic. Where is the source of joy in her life? What's her philosophy when it comes to workload? Does she have any ambitions for her career or is she just floating along with no direction? Communicate to her that you value her positivity, but expect to see her continually improve.  


Sadness is a lingering emotion that results from hopelessness. Sadness can be complex and more difficult to pinpoint than the other emotions. It usually involves a time-element such as reverence of the past or hopelessness for the future. Sadness can also be empathy for injustice or suffering.

CONS: The negative effects of sadness can be self-loathing and lack of motivation.

PROS: Sadness can be beneficial in certain circumstances. Sadness puts value on things, such as a feeling of nostalgia. Like anger, it can also be a motivator to fight injustice.

SOLUTION: The general solution for sadness is to instill a sense of hope. Increase the likelihood that circumstances will improve. However, because sadness is so complex, sometimes the only solution is to allow the process to complete.


For instance, your grandmother just passed away and you're having a hard time going back to work. You miss her very much and would rather spend your time consoling your family. Your supervisor gave you a reasonable amount of time to grieve, but you feel it wasn't enough. Your team is having trouble keeping up with projects without your guidance.

Use your Emotional Intelligence to search for some motivation. What are your priorities? What is your purpose in life? How will not going back/going back to work affect your future?  Can you ask your team for support? Can you explain to your supervisor your situation? Be aware of the big picture of your life. Try to find a balance between your head and your heart. 


In summary, the key to high Emotional Intelligence is awareness. Be able to identify the source of your emotions and work to empathize with your team. Be aware of their motivations and what sends them over the edge. Make adjustments so that each person has the opportunity to express emotion in a healthy, balanced way.


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