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Emotional intelligence: 5 ways to be happier at work
If you're unhappy at work, you're probably not performing at your best. Consider these emotional intelligence tips to boost your happiness – and productivity
As IT professionals, we’re all about practicality and efficiency, and most of us probably don’t spend much time focusing on how about how happy we are at work. But maybe we should: One study shows that employees who are happy at work are up to 31 percent more productive, and 19 percent more likely to complete tests accurately.
So, what’s the key to being happy at work? Emotional intelligence. In my years as a senior director of IT, these skills have had a profound impact on my happiness. They’ve also improved my productivity, professionalism, and overall health.
[ How strong is your EQ? See our related article: Emotional intelligence test: 5 self-evaluation tools for leaders. ]
Here are five ways adopting emotional intelligence can help you be happier at work.
1. Acknowledge your feelings after negative feedback
Negative feedback is a fact of life for an IT professional – no matter how good you are.
Criticism can deeply affect you. If you’ve poured yourself into a project, its rejection can feel personal. And while it’s important to recover emotionally from negativity, you can’t recover without first knowing what you’re feeling.
It’s easy to dismiss a reaction as simply feeling angry or upset, but the reality is often more nuanced. You may feel a mix of emotions, and you may even be blocking some of them, which can lead to health issues.
Emotional intelligence can help you identify exactly what you are feeling. You can’t move on from a feeling until you’ve allowed yourself to process it.
2. Recognize when you’re nearing burnout
Burnout is a serious syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress. The World Health Organization’s description of burnout includes feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
None of these factors will help you perform your job well, and worse, they will prevent you from being happy at work.
Harness your emotional intelligence skills to recognize when workplace stress is beginning to affect you. Take notice if you’re feeling disconnected, exhausted, or unproductive. The sooner you recognize these signs, the sooner you can act to prevent burnout.
3. Build meaningful relationships with your coworkers
We spend an astounding 90,000 hours of our lives at work – with our coworkers. Making those relationships fulfilling can vastly improve your workday mood.
This isn’t exactly a secret; many people judge their job by how well they get along with their coworkers. One study by Officevibe found that 70 percent of employees consider having office friends the biggest factor in workplace happiness.
But making friends can be easier said than done, and that’s where emotional intelligence comes in. Utilizing your emotional intelligence can help you better read others’ emotions, regulate your feelings around others, and make the connection between your actions and others’ feelings. All of these skills are vital in order to develop healthy, successful friendships – especially in the workplace.
I recommend the following simple tips:
- Take advantage of breaks. Spend a lunch hour or coffee break getting to know your colleagues. Initiate a one-on-one conversation about something other than work to make a more human connection.
- Congratulate your teammates and recognize a job well done. Send a co-worker a kudos email on something they did well, or maybe go an extra step and send a complimentary email to their boss, copying them on it. Everyone appreciates a pat on the back – even an electronic one!
- Be a team player. Others will want to work with you – and connect with you – if they can count on your support and willingness to be a team player, and if they know that you are not out solely for personal gain.
4. Learn how to handle problem clients
The same interpersonal skills that enable you to make friends at work can also help you deal with difficult clients. Clients often come to us when they are embarrassed, angry, or frustrated – and IT pros typically bear the brunt of those negative emotions.
I know from experience how a difficult client can get under your skin. One angry phone call can ruin your mood for the rest of the day. But emotional intelligence can allow you to navigate these situations much more effectively.
When a client – or anyone else, for that matter – takes their anger out on you, it’s not about you, says Dr. Abigail Brenner. “It’s almost always about them – their issues, their needs and their desire to control you and/or a situation.” Emotional intelligence can help remind you of this and help you avoid taking it too personally when a client lashes out.
5. Recognize how you feel about your job
Emotional intelligence does more than just boost your happiness at work; it can also help you recognize when your job isn’t right for you. If you remain unhappy at your workplace even after utilizing emotional intelligence and practicing the advice offered here, it may be time to look for a new opportunity. After all, it simply makes sense to change a situation that is hurting you physically and mentally – and the truth is, you aren’t likely to be a productive employee if you’re miserable and unhealthy.
So don’t underestimate the importance of happiness: Studies find that unhappiness at work can lead to health issues, including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. It’s important to recognize what you’re feeling, acknowledge your worth, and allow yourself to succeed somewhere that is right for you.
When you are content at your job, you’ll also be better at performing it. So sharpen those emotional intelligence skills and become the happiest, best version of yourself.
[ Dealing with criticism is a skill. How do you measure up? Read Emotional intelligence: 5 ways to handle criticism. ]