What is EI? Articles

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« 13. Team emotional intelligence: Is your team okay? »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited MSCEIT consultant.

The main research on emotional intelligence at work has examined the emotional intelligence of individuals.

Yet most people in business and the workforce work in teams.

  • The productivity of each team is reflected in the bottom line. 
  • The level of co-operation within a team impacts on their efficiency. 
  • A team's ability to handle stress, be innovative and solve problems also impact on the bottom line.

Surely having only one individual in a team with high emotional intelligence will not get the results you want?

One person on his or her own can't be responsible for maintaining an emotionally productive atmosphere in a team, for keeping stress levels of the whole team down, and for ensuring everyone communicates openly and fairly even when feeling frustrated.

Ideally, you would want the whole team to be able to do this, wouldn't you?

What drives productivity and co-operation in a team at work? 

Emotions drive productivity and co-operation in a team.

  • The emotions and emotional intelligence of each individual team member affects their individual creativity, co-operation, dedication and communication. 
  • How well the individual can use their own emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving skills is influenced by the emotional context in which they work.
  • The team leader's emotions and his or her levels of emotional intelligence influence the team emotional intelligence and the overall team environment in which everyone works.
  • The overall team's emotions, emotional norms and emotional intelligence affects creativity, co-operation, compliance, output and communication too.

Are you doing all you can to develop your team's emotional intelligence?

How high is your emotional intelligence? Take the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence-Test (MSCEIT) to find out and gain feedback on the results from our Director, emotional intelligence specialist, Rachel Green. Click here to find out how.

Do teams have emotions?

Yes, teams have emotions. I work quite often with teams who are undergoing change. I am brought in to manage the emotions of change. Why? Because how the team feels about the change impacts on how smoothly and quickly the change is implemented.

Quite often these teams have change imposed on them. This usually results in a more negative team emotion than if they have chosen to implement the change themselves.

Some teams may collectively be exhausted, overwhelmed or suffer from change fatigue. I can walk into teams and be a witness to this. I can see by the way they talk, what they say, and the level of energy in a team that this is the case.

Other teams may have higher emotional energy but they are angry, resentful and bitter about the change process or the people implementing it.

I was recently working with a team implementing major technological change. One man almost spat out the words, "I don't care whether this is a good change or not, the way the change was introduced to us was downright disrespectful and rude, I will never co-operate." He was seething and so were other members of the team.

You know what I am talking about, don't you?

What emotions have you witnessed in your team, or don't you notice?

Teams have group emotions, and they have a group or team emotional intelligence.

Team emotional intelligence is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Find out how to take the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence-Test (MSCEIT) by clicking here and get feedback on the results from our Director, emotional intelligence specialist, Rachel Green.

High emotional intelligence in teams - what does it look like?

An emotionally intelligent team may be enthusiastic, focused and creative. They can channel the emotions of the group to increase productivity. They enjoy their work, trust each other and care for others when problems arise. They may also feel challenged by, rather than stressed by, pressure and fast approaching deadlines.

It doesn't mean, though, that there are no conflicts and everyone is happy clappy. Indeed that would be false. Team emotional intelligence also involves specific group norms and agreed to guidelines for team emotional management.

For example, these may mean that:

  1. Emotions are accepted and not thought of as something "bad" but something to work with.
  2. Emotions are openly discussed and are not allowed to fester.
  3. Proactive efforts are made to cultivate emotions that foster productivity, co-operation and innovation.
  4. Emotions, such as frustration, anxiety or resentment are not ignored but brought out into the open, discussed, and solutions found for managing or reducing them.
  5. People are allowed to say how they feel while knowing they will not be criticised, belittled or trivialised.
  6. There is emotional honesty. 
  7. Time is given to developing emotional self-awareness, and the emotional awareness of others.
  8. Acceptable and unacceptable emotional behaviour is agreed upon and any member of the team may kindly remind people when people are being unacceptable, without offence being taken.
  9. The group has clear guidelines for handling conflict constructively.
  10. The group emotional norms support the values of the organisation.

J.W. Chang and Associates published research findings on team emotional intelligence and concluded that "Leaders should pay attention to the management of emotions in teams particularly when followers have low EI". (Published in Small Group Research, 2012. 43(1), 75-104.)

Want to do the MSCEIT to measure your emotional intelligence? It is the gold-standard ability measure. To find out how to take the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence-Test and gain feedback on the results from our Director, emotional intelligence specialist, Rachel Green, click here

Further resources on the Mayer Salovey emotional intelligence model.

What is the level of emotional intelligence in your team?

  • Do you have problems in your team with stress, interpersonal conflicts and absenteeism from work? If you do, you may find these are symptoms of an unhealthy team emotional intelligence and that your team emotional intelligence needs to be built.
  • Do you have people who do not like each other, don't talk to each other or who participate in backstabbing and gossip about other team members? It could be that your team emotional intelligence needs to be built.
  • Do you have people who keep information and resources to themselves instead of sharing it with all team members, or who work in cliques or silos, or who put their own needs ahead of the team's needs to the detriment of the team? It could be that your team emotional intelligence needs to be built.
  • Do you have disengaged team members who say little in meetings, who are retired on the job or who are  lacking in motivation, are not pulling their weight and are just going through the motions? It could be that your team emotional intelligence needs to be built.

Is there any real evidence that team EI exists or matters?

There is an increasing body of work on emotional intelligence in teams.

Vanessa Urch Druskat is one of the pioneer researchers into team emotional intelligence. Along with Steven B. Wolff, she has devised a Group Emotional Intelligence Survey (GEI) based on some of the principles of Daniel Goleman's work. (This means in addition to the emotional aspects of group intelligence there is other material on group dynamics included.)

Druskat and Wolff say, "Group emotional intelligence should not be confused with individual emotional intelligence. It is a group-level construct and is very different from the individual-level emotional intelligence of group members." (GEI technical manual 2006.)

To me this is where emotional intelligence gets really exciting and valuable in the workplace.

There will be further articles covering different aspects of team emotional intelligence; for now what is important is that you know that team emotional intelligence exists and it is an aspect that impacts positively or negatively on workplace performance. 

Have your emotional intelligence assessed now.

Want to know how high your emotional intelligence is? There is another model of emotional intelligence, by Salovey and Mayer, that has an ability-based emotional intelligence test called the MSCEIT which you can complete online.

Click here to find out how to take the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence-Test (MSCEIT) and gain feedback on the results from our Director, emotional intelligence specialist, Rachel Green.

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