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Emotional intelligence and soft skills useful in the world of work

Camilla Varrella

Today the world of work requires a strong specialization. Consequently, it’s necessary to possess numerous hard skills, specific to each profession.

Hard skills are skills that are acquired through education and practice and are opposed to soft skills, which are instead personal characteristics developed in the course of one’s life thanks to the socio-cultural environment in which one grew up and the experiences lived. However, this does not mean that soft skills cannot be expanded and developed over time.

In the digital sector, the most sought-after hard skills mainly concern the technical-scientific field. In fact, the demand for professions such as those of the data analyst and data scientist is very high.

The soft skills, however, are not far behind. Therefore, during an interview, it will be very likely that you will have to answer questions relating to your ability to solve problems, work in a team, adapt to different situations and know how to communicate.

We are in an era in which the spread of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is questioning the relationship between man and machine in the world of work. Many activities previously carried out by human personnel are now carried out by machines, but with a view to “Augmented Intelligence”.

The latter concept means the recovery of the centrality of man with respect to technology, the purpose of which must be to increase and not replace the abilities of the human being, whose peculiarities are creativity and emotional intelligence.


Emotional intelligence in the world of work

The fathers of the concept of “emotional intelligence” are Peter Salovey and John Mayer, who in 1990 published an article about it. According to the two scholars, this type of intelligence is based on the adaptive use of emotions to solve problems and adapt effectively to the environment. The term, however, became famous in 1995 thanks to Daniel Goleman and his best seller Emotional Intelligence: what it is and why it can make us happy.

Goleman’s text led to a change in the way people select and manage human resources in companies, which previously was focused only on the academic and cognitive aspects.

Goleman argues that emotional intelligence is made up of five ingredients:

  • knowledge of one’s emotions
  • ability to control one’s emotional states
  • ability to self-motivate
  • recognition of the emotions of others
  • control of relationships

Since its first formulation, the emotional intelligence model has evolved and adapted to the corporate world of business. Nevertheless, it is possible to trace four macro-groups of skills:

  • self-awareness
  • self-management
  • social awareness
  • relationship management

By developing these characteristics, you improve your emotional and social potential and are able to achieve personal and professional success.

In companies there has always been an analytical corporate culture, that is centered on cognitive aspects, therefore on shared intellectual values, on the rules and procedures used to achieve the objectives. But the emotional revolution that has spread in our society in recent years has made it clear that cognitive culture is not enough, we also need an emotional one. 

The latter is made up of shared emotional values, rules, processes and scenarios that determine which emotions should be expressed in work and how to do it. Emotions are of vital importance in companies both for their economic impact – negative ones, in fact, can lead to absenteeism or not performing their duties correctly – and for the role they play with respect to health and well-being.

Companies have finally understood that people cannot act regardless of their emotional baggage, so if you want to know what happens in the workplace, you need to understand how emotions are expressed and perceived.

Statistically, employees with emotional intelligence are more likely to:

  • receive wage increases on their merits
  • occupy higher positions
  • are more productive
  • have lower levels of stress and burnout
  • show higher levels of corporate engagement
  • are less likely to change jobs
  • obtain positive evaluations from both colleagues and superiors

Emotional intelligence can improve job satisfaction by making it easier to reduce the intensity and frequency of negative emotions felt during the performance of one’s duties; which implies an increase in productivity that will make the employee feel satisfied and proud of his work and of himself.

Despite this, the entry of emotions into corporate life is not a simple process, it requires awareness and conviction.