Emotional and Social Intelligence Matter for Today’s Hybrid Workforce. Do You Know Why?

Now that workforce is likely some combination of remote and hybrid, with online meetings the norm and in-person lunches a hit-or-miss affair. In fact, only 9% of offices anticipate being fully on-site for the future, versus 60% in 2020, while the number of hybrid workplaces has grown from 32% to 59%.1

What are EQ, IQ, and social intelligence?

All people have some level of EQ, IQ, and social intelligence. You probably know that people with higher IQ tend to demonstrate ability with topics such as spatial reasoning and mathematics.

But “people often confuse EQ and social intelligence,” says Ina Purvanova, Ph.D, professor of leadership and management and department chair at Drake University’s College of Business and Public Administration. “Think of EQ as knowing yourself—being in touch with your values, emotions, and reactions, and being able to control them. Social intelligence is being able to read others, which helps you build relationships.”

‘Leadership on steroids’

So why the focus on EQ and social intelligence while managing a workforce? Well, the pandemic of course.”We’ve always known good leadership is important, but in this shift to virtual and hybrid, it’s now leadership on steroids: You have to be an even greater leader in this new work culture,” she says. “Effective leadership is about bringing people together and making them feel like they are working together and contributing to a common cause, and that can be more difficult in hybrid or remote. It requires much more purposefulness and intentionality.”

The role of social and emotional intelligence in managing a hybrid or remote workforce

  • Ask for intentionality from employees, too. It’s appropriate to call out ways team members can contribute more fully to the team, says Purvanova. That may be about simple to-dos such as turning on cameras or showing up on anchor days. “Set those common sense of standards and expectations,” she says.
  • Recognize informal leadership. As you establish stronger connections, you may notice traits in team members that can help them rise to challenges. “There’s this idea of informal leadership that helps people respond to needs, wants, and values as you work together on projects,” Purvanova says. Can those leaders be given opportunities, such as spearheading a project, that help them develop their social and emotional intelligence even more?
  • Help the newbies. For new employees or employees with less work experience, it can be difficult to acclimate—and to read everyone’s social and emotional cues as well as learn the workplace’s culture—if no one is there to show them the ropes. “Do what you can as a leader to foster that connection,” Purvanova says. That may mean an anchor day once or twice a week, new hire “buddies” to navigate jobs and projects, and face time with key team members, suggests Hunold-Van Gundy.

How you lead and foster your own social and emotional intelligence may change from year to year; after all, the new hybrid work culture is just that—new. “Connecting only comes through ongoing, intentional connection and conversations,” Hunold-Van Gundy says. “And that takes time, something leaders and owners never have enough of. But prioritizing the relationships with employees and teams so they’re set up to do their best work brings the highest level of engagement and performance.”

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