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Stress Can Limit Emotional Intelligence, Workplace Success

Armen Hareyan's picture

According to a new poll stress has a detrimental impact on our emotional intelligence (EI) and this can spell professional problems for working Americans.

A strong emotional intelligence can help build positive relationships with colleagues and improve performance -- the ideal formula for workplace success. But if stress prevents us from being aware of and controlling our emotions, getting along with others, adapting to changes and maintaining apositive mood, then our EI is going to suffer. In fact, it has been scientifically demonstrated that emotional intelligence is actually more important in predicting success in the workplace than IQ (cognitive intelligence)(1).

The poll results demonstrate that more than half of working Americans (55 percent) are not familiar with emotional intelligence and its impact on their professional success, and 48 percent are not familiar with the negative effect stress has on their emotional intelligence.

Americans from all walks of working life are feeling stressed

Overall, 42 percent of working Americans -- be them blue collar, service or professional workers -- say they frequently experience stress in the workplace (as a result of work or personal experiences).

And more than half say stress is putting them to the test -- not just physically, but psychologically and behaviorally too:

-- Physically: 54 percent of working Americans say they experience headaches, clenched jaws, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, increased perspiration and fatigue or insomnia due to stress

-- Psychologically: 59 percent of working Americans experience anxiety, irritability with co-workers, defensiveness, anger, mood swings and feelings of helplessness or of being trapped

-- Behaviorally: 54 percent say stress in the workplace makes them impatient, procrastinate, quick to argue, withdraw or isolate themselves from others, neglect responsibility and perform poorly

Then 32 percent say stress has prevented them from being recognized for their contribution at work and 27 percent say it has prevented them from being moved up in their organization or company. This may be due to:

-- Fifty-three percent of American workers saying stress negatively affects their productivity in the workplace

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-- Fifty-three percent saying stress negatively affects their relationship with co-workers

-- Forty-seven percent saying stress negatively affects their workplace decision-making

"The good news is, you can learn or improve your emotional skills at any time in your life -- even in the presence of stress," says Dr. Stein, president and CEO of Multi-Health Systems, Inc. "Unlike IQ, a person's EI is not set in stone. If individuals monitor and interpret their emotions and the emotions of others, then apply that knowledge to better succeed in dealing with the world around them, they have a better chance of experiencing workplace success."

A study conducted in 2002 demonstrates that managers who had higher levels of emotional intelligence reported less subjective stress and demonstrated better management performance. It also suggests that EI may play an important role in mitigating the impact of stress.

How to move the meter on your emotional intelligence

Multi-Health Systems publishes The Bar-On Emotional Quotient inventory (EQ-i) that measures 15 factors often regarded as the building blocks of complex working skills. They are:

-- Intra-personal skills such as emotional-self awareness, assertiveness, self-regard, self-actualization and independence

-- Inter-personal skills such as empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility

-- Stress management skills such as stress tolerance and impulse control

-- Adaptability such as problem-solving, reality testing and flexibility

-- General mood such as happiness and optimism.

"By pinpointing these underlying skill sets, individuals can work to improve their performance both in their personal and professional lives," says Dr. Stein. "In fact, EI training might be a means of reducing stress, thus helping to fuel workplace success."