Why emotional intelligence is key for creating a strong corporate culture

Making emotional intelligence a priority will go a long way to creating a positive, productive culture.

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What is it that defines a corporate culture? Is it fun social outings? Always having a full snack cabinet? While such perks are definitely enjoyed by your employees, this isn’t how you create a strong corporate culture. In reality, company culture should always be based on the core values that define the way you and your employees conduct business.

Of course, building and maintaining this ideal culture in the workplace isn’t always easy. It requires a conscious effort each and every day — and whether or not you are successful at this will depend in large part on your emotional intelligence (or EQ).

Psychology Today explains that EQ “is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”

Mantras and slogans are one thing, but the way people act while they are in the workplace is what will ultimately define the perception of your company’s culture. Because of this, emotional intelligence is vital for both you and your employees to keep the culture headed in the right direction.

Emotional intelligence starts at the top

Psychologist Daniel Goleman emphasized the importance of EQ in leadership and culture when he summed up his research results as follows: “Emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

So how does this tie into creating a strong corporate culture? Quite simply, it will define the way your company’s core values are perceived and interpreted by everyone else in the office. It will affect your employees’ moods and outlook on their work — and this will eventually have an impact on your bottom line, as well.

A report from the National Business Research Institute notes that, “An employee’s productivity is determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor. When the bad boss fails to keep promises, never gives credit when due, makes negative comments, or blames others for their mistakes, the productivity level of their employees is significantly impacted.”

Poor attitudes are contagious, and a boss with low EQ can have a very negative impact on the company’s culture. Studies have consistently found that negativity spreads more quickly than positivity, which can completely undermine all the efforts you’ve previously made to create a strong company culture. If you say the culture is one way and act in a completely different manner, you’ll lose the respect of your employees and have trouble retaining top talent.

Even something as simple as body language can affect corporate culture. As the Harvard Business Review explains, “If a manager consistently comes to work looking angry (whether he means to or not), he may cultivate a culture of anger.”

As with any other skill, it is essential that you try to strengthen your emotional intelligence. Actively working to improve your self-awareness, empathy and social skills will make it much easier to build culture in a positive, affirming manner. Most importantly, this attitude will spread to others, making it far more likely that the entire team will buy into your values and vision.

Hiring based on EQ

Despite your own best efforts, the people you select to join your team can literally make or break your culture. Emotional intelligence has been cited as “the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58 percent of success in all types of jobs.”

A potential hire may look great on paper, but if their emotional intelligence is lacking, they could quickly become a negative influence on the rest of your team and derail your culture-building efforts.

Says Jason Bliss, co-founder of Healthy Living Network, “When I decided to create a post-acute, in-home healthcare company, I knew that the first thing I had to get right was my team…Finding people with the skills and disposition I needed wasn’t easy. It all started with creating interview questions that sought to discover a lot more about a candidate than their experience. I needed to quickly gain an understanding of a potential employee’s emotional intelligence and drive—along with their professional aspirations.”

During the hiring process, employers must make emotional intelligence just as much of a priority as an individual’s experience level or work portfolio. Asking questions designed to gauge a potential hire’s EQ can give you a far better understanding of whether they would contribute to your desired culture or detract from it.

Hiring someone who will strengthen your company culture is essential. A recent study estimated that a bad hire could cost businesses as much as $240,000. Do your due diligence during the hiring process so you can avoid the potential harm to your culture and financial outlook.

Create a robust corporate culture of your own

While emotional intelligence may not be the first thing that comes to mind when attempting to define your company culture, it is an absolutely essential consideration.

By striving to improve your own emotional intelligence and making it a priority during the hiring process, your entire team will be able to contribute to creating a positive, productive culture. Sales growth, improved employee retention rates and other benefits are sure to follow.

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