An Overview of the Direct Impact of Emotional Intelligence in the Office and How to Develop EI Skills

Conflict is an inevitable part of any workplace. Whether it’s a disagreement over strategy or a personality clash between coworkers, conflict can cause stress, decrease productivity, and damage relationships. But conflict doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Conflict can be an opportunity for growth and positive change when handled properly. This is where emotional intelligence comes in.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become a buzzword in the business world over the past few decades. Many organizations have realized the importance of EI in the workplace and are investing in training and development programs to improve the emotional intelligence of their employees. One area where EI plays a crucial role is in conflict resolution. Workplace conflicts are inevitable and can be detrimental to the overall productivity and harmony of the organization. Therefore, understanding the role of EI in conflict resolution can help employees effectively manage conflicts and improve workplace relationships.

In this article, we will explore the role of EI in workplace conflict resolution and provide statistics to support the importance of developing and utilizing EI skills.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, understand, and regulate one’s own emotions, as well as those of others. In the workplace, EI is increasingly seen as a critical component of successful conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships. Research has shown that employees with higher levels of EI are better equipped to manage and resolve conflicts, leading to better outcomes for both individuals and organizations.

The concept of emotional intelligence was first introduced by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990. EI later gained public interest in 1995 when Daniel Coleman published “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” Coleman presented the argument that EI is critical when determining success in one’s life and that it plays a significant role in the workplace.

EI and its role in the workplace soon attracted the attention of leaders, human resources workers, and business owners. Early research suggested that EI can influence an employee’s productivity and how well they interact with their colleagues and leadership teams. It also played an important role in how employees managed stress, navigated conflict, and how they felt about their role within the organization.

EI can be broken down into the following four components:


Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It is the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. In conflict situations, self-awareness can help individuals identify their own triggers, biases, and emotions that may be contributing to the conflict.

For instance, if an employee is upset about a colleague’s behaviour, self-awareness can help them understand if their emotions are being triggered due to a past experience or if they are making assumptions about the colleague’s intentions. By recognizing and managing their own emotions, individuals can prevent themselves from reacting impulsively and instead respond thoughtfully toward a resolution.


Self-management is the ability to control our emotions and behaviours in order to achieve our goals. In conflict situations, self-management can help individuals regulate their emotions and avoid reacting in a way that can escalate the conflict.

For example, if an employee is receiving negative feedback from their manager, self-management can help them stay calm and composed and respond to the feedback in a professional and constructive manner. This can prevent the conflict from escalating and lead to a productive discussion toward a resolution.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions and perspectives of others. In conflict situations, social awareness can help individuals understand the root causes of the conflict and the emotions and needs of the other party involved.

For instance, if a team member is consistently missing deadlines, social awareness can help the project manager understand if there are external factors affecting the team member’s performance, such as personal or family issues. By recognizing and acknowledging the other party’s emotions and needs, individuals can build trust and empathy and work toward a resolution that is mutually beneficial.

Relationship management

Relationship management is the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with others. In conflict situations, relationship management can help individuals collaborate effectively toward a resolution and prevent the conflict from damaging the relationship.

Signs of Emotional Intelligence

There are four known levels of EI:

  1. The ability to perceive emotions – the first step is to accurately identify emotions and how they present in nonverbal signals such as facial expressions and body language.
  2. The ability to understand emotions – the emotions we identify can have a range of meanings and may not be directly related to a specific workplace situation though it may come out during office hours.
  3. The ability to reason using emotions – this step involves actively leveraging your emotions to stimulate cognitive activity and reflection.
  4. The ability to manage emotions – this crucial step towards EI enables individuals to regulate emotion and appropriately respond.

Some key examples of emotional intelligence include:

  • Self-awareness
  • The ability to identify and describe what others may be feeling
  • The ability to accept responsibility for mistakes
  • The ability to let go of mistakes
  • The ability to accept and embrace change
  • Being in tune with individual strengths and limitations
  • Curiosity surrounding the emotion of other individuals
  • The ability to feel empathy for others
  • The ability to show sensitivity to others’ feelings
  • The ability to effectively manage and regulate emotion in challenging situations
  • Not being judgmental of others

Differences between people with high vs low EQ

In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder sampling hiring managers, 75% of those surveyed stated that they hold more value over a candidate’s EI than their IQ. As a widely recognized skill of high value, hiring managers and leaders alike find individuals with EI skills lend to office environments with improved communication, effective leadership, better problem-solving skills, and stronger interpersonal relationships within the workplace.

Individuals with high EI demonstrate:

  • Better decision making
  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • Calmness and productivity under pressure
  • Strong conflict-resolution skills
  • A strong sense of empathy and consideration
  • The ability to listen, reflect, and respond to constructive criticism

Individuals with low EI demonstrate:

  • Self-victimization
  • A lack of responsibility for errors
  • Passive-aggressive communication
  • Poor teamwork
  • An overly critical opinion
  • Dismissal of the opinion of others

Read more: How to Manage Toxic Employees

Read more: Signs of a Hostile Work Environment

Why is EI important in the workplace?

Employees with higher levels of EI oftentimes demonstrate better interpersonal functioning, stronger leadership, and effective stress management.

Emotional intelligence is particularly important in the workplace because it can help to prevent and resolve conflicts. When individuals have a high level of emotional intelligence, they speak with empathy while understanding their own emotions and the emotions of others, effectively making it easier to communicate and work collaboratively. This, in turn, leads to fewer misunderstandings, less work-related conflict, and an increase in positive relationships among coworkers.

Furthermore, when inevitable conflicts arise, individuals with high EI are better equipped to handle them constructively. They not only remain cool and level-headed, even in tense or emotional situations, but they can take steps to de-escalate conflicts and prevent them from spiralling out of control. This also leads to a more trusting workplace and more understanding among employees.

EI in Leadership

A sign of an excellent leader is the ability to listen and communicate effectively with individuals within all levels of an organization. Someone with strong EI skills can not only reflect on their own emotions to ensure they don’t interfere with their ability to lead effectively, but they also have a great sense of understanding the emotions of others. Their strong interpersonal communication, coupled with their ability to remain calm, unbiased, and non-judgmental, results in a productive environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and a sense of security.

How Can Emotional Intelligence be Used to Resolve Workplace Conflict?

EI in relation to conflict resolution can look a lot like what you’d expect from couples counselling, but there’s a reason it’s so effective in professional settings as well.

In a research paper by the East Tennessee State University, they determined that the most productive way to deal with emotions during conflict is to consider these five key concerns:

  1. Appreciation – Through all the anger, misunderstandings, and fear, most parties in a conflict are typically feeling underappreciated. To show appreciation in conflict resolution, acknowledge merit in the position of others, in their feelings, and even if there is no particular agreement, from their point of view.
  2. Affiliation – Affiliation involves building a relationship, essentially transforming parties in conflict from adversary to colleague.
  3. Autonomy – Frustrations and anxiety often arise during conflict because individuals feel a significant lack of autonomy in their workplace. Workplace mediation and investigations allow others to provide their point of view, the series of events as they see them, and how they feel. Providing people with a voice instills a sense of autonomy in their actions and role in conflict resolution.
  4. Status – Status within an organization can be seen quite clearly. Failure to recognize status among colleagues can exacerbate an already tense situation. If clear status is lacking among the parties in conflict, it’s best to offer common courtesy and work towards strengthening relationships.
  5. Role – Identify and learn to be comfortable with the role you play in this particular situation. Additionally, recognize and appreciate the roles each party plays in the conflict. By doing so, you are working towards relieving anxiety and negative emotions that may arise.

Read more: Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach in Workplace Conflict Resolution

Read more: Professionalism, Impartiality, and Empathy in Workplace Investigations

Based on these five areas of concern, third-party mediators and investigators at Global Mindful Solutions are able to build empathy and trust, thereby improving the emotional aspects of a negotiation. We also work with emotions across all dimensions of a negotiation to understand emotional nuance because of power differential, cultural nuance, or past experience; to address process issues with the same vigour as substance issues; to actively listen and to encourage all the parties to listen to each other.

Take a look at our Mediation and Investigation services to better understand how we can help you reach conflict resolution in your workplace.

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Read more: When HR Should Hire a Mediator to Resolve Workplace Conflict

When it comes to resolving workplace conflict, emotional intelligence can be used in a number of ways.

  • Listen actively and empathetically: When trying to resolve a conflict, it’s important to listen actively and empathetically to the other person’s perspective. This means paying attention to what they are saying, asking questions to clarify their point of view, and trying to understand their emotions and motivations.
  • Stick to facts: Explain the facts at hand and how they impact you. It’s also important to ask fact-based questions for further clarification. This will help you in providing a concise explanation of the situation, what exactly you’re hoping to achieve, and solutions you would be open to. Ultimately, by sticking to facts, the conversation will lead to a resolution of conflict that recognizes and meets everyone’s needs.
  • Use “I” statements: When expressing your own perspective or feelings, it’s important to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “you’re always interrupting me,” say, “I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted.”
  • Focus on common ground: Instead of focusing on differences and disagreements, try to find common ground and areas of agreement. This can help to build a sense of shared understanding and cooperation.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions: It’s important to take responsibility for your own actions and behaviours and to avoid blaming others for the conflict. By acknowledging your own role in the situation, you can help to defuse the conflict and move towards a resolution.
  • Look for win-win solutions: Instead of trying to “win” the conflict or get your own way, try to find solutions that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved. This can help to build trust and cooperation among coworkers.
  • Reflect: Begin by asking questions like “Why is this person feeling this way? How am I contributing to their feelings? Are there other factors that may be contributing to their feelings?” Take a moment to reflect on your own emotions, where they’re coming from, and how they may be playing a role.

Statistics on Emotional Intelligence and Workplace Conflict Resolution

  1. EI is a key factor in workplace performance: According to a study by the Harvard Business School, 90% of top performers in the workplace have high levels of emotional intelligence.
  2. EI leads to job satisfaction and employee retention: A study by TalentSmart found that employees with high levels of EI are 20% more likely to stay in their current job, are 87% less likely to leave their job due to dissatisfaction and are 12 times more likely to be promoted than those with lower levels of EI.
  3. Employees with higher rates of EI are more innovative: Research conducted by Harvard suggests that people with high emotional intelligence are more innovative and have higher job satisfaction than those with lower EI.
  4. EI is positively correlated with improved interpersonal relationships: A study by the University of Maryland found that employees with higher levels of EI are more satisfied with their jobs and have better relationships with their coworkers.
  5. EI training can lead to improved conflict resolution skills: A study conducted by the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations found that individuals who received EI training saw a 72% increase in their ability to effectively manage and resolve conflicts in the workplace.
  6. EI can help reduce workplace stress: A study by the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that employees with higher levels of EI experienced less stress in the workplace and had better coping strategies for dealing with stress.

Strategies for improving EI skills

For some, emotional skills come naturally, while others have to work on it; but everyone has the capacity to improve their ability to understand and reason. Taking steps to improve one’s EI is especially helpful in the workplace to improve interpersonal understanding, communication, and teamwork.

A 2011 study discovered that participants who took part in EI training developed significant improvements in their emotional competence. More improvements included better personal and professional relationships, better overall physical and mental well-being, and reduced stress.

Improving EI skills can take time and effort, but the benefits can be significant. Here are some strategies for enhancing EI skills for better conflict resolution:

1. Practice self-awareness:

Take time to recognize and reflect on your own emotions, reactions, and aggravators. Take note of your emotional strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to how you are feeling in various situations and how these emotions can sometimes direct your reactions. The more you become aware of your own emotions and their impact on your behaviour, the better you’ll be able to control yourself in conflict situations. As you continue to reflect, you may notice that you gradually become more in tune with your emotions and the role they play in your personal and professional life.

2. Practice self-regulation:

In moments where you have recognized your emotions are leading the charge, now is a great time to practice self-regulation. Develop techniques for managing your own emotions, such as deep breathing or mindfulness. Avoid reacting impulsively or emotionally during a conflict, and instead focus on finding a constructive solution. More ways to improve your self-regulation include:

  • Having hobbies outside of work
  • Physical exercise
  • Relinquish what you cannot control
  • Think carefully before making decisions

3. Practice empathy:

People who are emotionally intelligent are skilled at understanding how someone else may feel in certain situations. It’s important to try to understand the perspectives and emotions of others, even if you do not agree with them. Empathy in the workplace gives you access to understanding interpersonal relationships, office dynamics, various behavioural trends, and influences. Try to listen actively, ask questions, and see things from their point of view.

4. Practice social skills:

Build positive relationships with others by communicating clearly, expressing appreciation, and showing respect. Use humour and other positive emotions to defuse tense situations and build rapport.

Having improved social skills equate to being a valued team member and leader who contributes to better communication and an overall more positive workplace culture.

Tips to improve your social skills include:

  • Listen intently to what people have to say
  • Take note of nonverbal communication
  • Stay away from office drama
  • Hone your skills of persuasion

5. Stay motivated:

Intrinsic motivation is a major component of emotional intelligence. Individuals with strong EI oftentimes demonstrate motivation to achieve goals for themselves rather than for external factors like money, status, or recognition. These people are typically motivated simply by the passion and discipline they have for what they do.

6. Keep a positive attitude:

Optimistic people in the workplace are usually inspirational to others to stay motivated and consistent. By adopting a positive attitude, you too can have a sense of accomplishment about your work, your progress, and your contribution.

The Takeaway

Workplace conflicts can arise due to various reasons, such as differences in opinion, personality clashes, power struggles, and misunderstandings. When conflicts are not managed effectively, they can lead to negative consequences such as decreased productivity, low employee morale, and even legal disputes.

Emotional intelligence plays a critical role in successful conflict resolution in the workplace. Employees with higher levels of EI are better equipped to manage and resolve conflicts, leading to improved relationships, increased job satisfaction, and better outcomes for organizations. The statistics presented in this article highlight the importance of developing and utilizing EI skills in the workplace. By investing in EI training and promoting a culture of emotional intelligence, organizations can create a more positive and productive work environment for all employees.

If your organization is experiencing roadblocks in finding effective ways to manage workplace conflict and need professional investigation or mediation services, consulting with a neutral third party will help to resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants involved to settle on an agreeable solution that propels your organization forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established processes that aim to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on getting back to work and continue making a positive contribution to their organization while leading a fulfilling role in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions to get started with neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation, facilitation, and restoration services.


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