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EQ in the Workplace

  • Judith Lukomski

Boosting your Emotional Intelligence can enhance job performance, improve teamwork, and sharpen communication skills.

A high IQ might lead to high academic achievement, but EQ can be a more significant factor for success at work — and in life. That stands for Emotional Intelligence, a sense of social and self-awareness that enhances job performance and interpersonal skills. In today’s hybrid work environment, it’s more critical than ever.

Emotional Intelligence has health benefits, as well. It fosters a sense of being more present and mindful, helping to ease stress and depression, two major causes of illness in our post-pandemic world, said Judith Lukomski, CEO of Transitions Today, a progressive management and social change consultancy.

“EQ is the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way, and understanding what’s going on with other people, too,” she said. “Everything that we’re feeling creates emotion, whether we’re excited and happy or feeling depressed and tired. Everyone goes through hundreds of different emotions a day and that’s important to understand.”

While the IQ represents “book smarts,” EQ is the heart working in unison with the head, and it’s where our most impactful decisions come from. Learning to cultivate EQ and bringing it into your work environment whether onsite or on Zoom, can reap considerable rewards.

Lukomski elaborated on the four foundations of EQ in the DCE webinar, Let’s Learn: Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Work Environment.


Getting in touch with your emotions, being present with them, and controlling impulsive responses is a key to effective self-management. It’s all about recognizing and accepting your emotions regardless of what they are, without disregarding negative feelings, compressing them, or pushing them down.

“We have to be present and accept those emotions or they will literally eat at you and cause disease,” Lukomski said. “Emotion is energy in motion, and we need to be present with it, take ownership of it, and then let it go.”

Avoiding automatic day-to-day behavior is an effective self-management strategy that can lead to enhanced mindfulness. Much of the time we go through the day doing the same things without thinking, but if we make commitments to ourselves, and stick to them while adapting to any disruptions, we can break the cycle and become more fully present.

“For example, you make a commitment to get up early and walk 30 minutes every day but something unexpected comes up. That’s when you follow through and take the walk at noon or in the evening. That way you keep that commitment to yourself.”


Once we get in touch and recognize our emotions, it’s important to determine the root cause — a key to becoming self-aware — do some digging to find out where that emotion is coming from.

Let’s say you’re preparing for an important meeting and stressing out over all the scenarios that could happen. “Stop for a moment and determine where that anxiousness is coming from,” Lukomski said. “And then start to build out your best-case scenario and understand that people, in general, want to see you be successful, fulfilled, and happy.”

This process can lead to increased self-confidence because you’re giving yourself the potential to perform at your highest level and understand your strengths and weaknesses, even in the most stressful situations.

“Talking in front of a group is one of the most stressful things. That’s where you can start to dig in and find out where that root cause comes from. It may take you far back to a third-grade class when you forgot a word.”

Lukomski recommends journaling or talking with a counselor as effective ways to connect with your emotions.

Social Awareness

Working with a team and really connecting with coworkers requires empathy — not just for others but also for yourself. Social awareness involves recognizing your own needs and imperfections and understanding that other people have the same level of needs as you do.

That requires active listening, being able to read cues and share back what someone has said to you, Lukomski said. It’s an expression of empathy and an effective way to connect with coworkers and make them feel respected and seen.

“Active listening changes the whole dynamic,” she added. “You know how you feel when someone is focused and listening to you, and when someone is distracted and not listening?”

It’s important to recognize emotional cues in group situations, the verbal and nonverbal signs that signal alignment or non-alignment. Be aware of your own body language and positioning when you’re interacting with someone, as well. Are you closed off or open?

And avoid multitasking whenever possible. “Pay attention to how much time you spend multitasking,” Lukomski said. “When you pull your attention in different directions, you’re not really giving anything full attention.”

Relationship Management

Working well with teams is a foundation of relationship management, “being able to inspire or influence others, and do so through our actions, our conversations, and through leadership,” Lukomski said.

But that doesn’t mean you’re always the team leader; there are times to lead, to follow and to volunteer. Knowing the difference requires self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to “read the room,” whether onsite or on Zoom, using humor when appropriate to diffuse tension and create a positive environment.

“You can change negative energy in a room by infusing the grace of humor,” Lukomski said. “If it’s done with a sense of kindness, it’s a great way to break the ice and allow people to see the humanity in each other. You suddenly begin to see the collaboration expand.”

Setting appropriate boundaries is an important element of relationship management, taking care to ensure a balanced give-and-take. If interactions are too one-sided — a coworker taking up too much of your time with personal problems, for instance — suggest resources they can access for help without getting directly involved.

“Maybe the balance tips a bit toward one or the other when people are going through difficult or exciting times,” Lukomski said. “But it needs to come back to a balanced relationship, which is so incredibly important.”