The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

by MARIAH DELEON

MARIAH DELEON

Accomplished human resources executive who cares about the welfare of the business, the employees and the community who has the courage to manage with both head and heart to achieve business results.

Extensive formal training and experience in dynamic high growth software and e-commerce companies. Experience includes talent acquisition and management, acquisition and merger management, confidential coaching and mentoring at all levels of the organization, development of a phenomenal company culture and community relations program, design of all compensation and benefit philosophies and plans for executives, sales, marketing and company-wide plans, implementation of management and employee training programs, negotiation of multi-million dollar contracts in areas of benefits and real estate. Successfully negotiates issues between and on behalf of employees and management with the goal of creating win-win solutions. Manages staff domestically and internationally.

Webinar Transcript

Man: As Vice President of people for Glassdoor, Mariah De Leon is responsible for directing all the people functions of the company including strategic human resources planning and training, talent acquisition, benefits, employee relations, culture management, compliance issues, wellness, and more. Mariah has been an HR and talent acquisition executive in the technology industry for 20 years, bringing extensive experience in human capital management, talent development, and organization structure to Glassdoor. Mariah received her Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco. Please welcome to Elevate 2015, Mariah De Leon.

Mariah: Today, on behalf of Elevate 2015, I have the great fortune of being the VP of People at Glassdoor and I've been here for just over a year. And I also fancy myself as our head coach because what I love to do is help employees have aha moments and help them understand their full potential, not only with their IQ and their career but also their EQ which is, of course, my favorite topic on the planet to talk about and why we're here today, to discuss why EQ matters as much as IQ. So what we're going to talk about is what's the difference between IQ and EQ and how we have addressed it and implemented it here at Glassdoor, and some suggestions and ideas on how you might be able to do it at your company as well.

So let's talk first about what's intelligence. I think we all know what that is. That's really your job description. It's what you do. You could be a computer programmer. You could be a retail salesperson. How do you figure out somebody's intelligence? Well, for this, you look at their resume. You talk about their skills set. You might even give them an IQ test. Some IQ questions that you might ask are how have you performed against your goals? And what projects have you led, owned, or participated in? What systems, policies, programs or procedures have you developed or improved? And what skills such as time management, project management, prioritization, team building, and problem solving did you use to accomplish your goals? But I truly believe, and I think you will too if you don't already, that that's only half of the equation.

The other half is emotional intelligence and here at Glassdoor, we have coined the phrase "that's the how of what you do." So your intelligence, your regular intelligence that you're used to thinking about is the what and the emotional intelligence is the how. And what exactly does that translate into? It's thinking about what it's like to work with these people. So, for instance, you might have a brilliant computer programmer who is just really difficult to work with because he yelled at everybody all the time. Or you might have a computer programmer that's so much fun to work with because she's very collaborative. She's very inclusive and a great problem solver. So at Glassdoor, we would say that the computer programmer that's collaborative and a good problem solver and cares very much more about we and not just I has a higher EQ.

And the things that we tend to look at and we measure in our feedback, in our performance appraisals are is this person really, really good at effective communication? Do they exhibit compassion? Yeah, we believe compassion is really important because you're dealing with humans here and we all have lives outside of work, and we have our lives that we bring into work. And it is the human that we're dealing with here, and we need to have compassion and care for one another.

We also really want to be able to address conflict and address it constructively and create win-wins. We care about people being effective team players and as I said a little bit earlier, caring as much about we as I. Actually more about we than I. And you really want to have mutual accountability and that's what we mean by we. So that if Sally needs my support, I realize that she might be really needing some support and not able to ask for it. But since I notice it, I go ahead and reach out to Sally and say, "Hey, can I lend you a hand to get this project done?" And believe me, the next time she sees me struggling, she'll be right there to help me, too.

So I think you need both. You need those what and how. It's not an or, it's definitely an and. And you can't have somebody with great emotional intelligence that doesn't have good intellectual intelligence because you have to be good at your job so the what and the how matters equally. But we believe that EQ feeds IQ. A lot of companies do care only about the what and not the how and I hate to say it, but I think they probably have crappy cultures. It's probably not much fun to work there. So it just doesn't work here at Glassdoor. You have to be really good at both. And you also have to remember that developing your EQ muscle is just like any other muscle that you would develop. You have to practice just like if you go to the gym to get in shape. You don't go once and say, "Oh great, well, I'm done for the rest of my life. I'm a complete athlete." No. If you want to be an EQ athlete, you got to remember this. You got to remember to breathe deeply. You have to remember to care about the others as much as yourself on a regular and repeated basis so that you can stay in shape and have really strong EQ and IQ.

So think about this. How do you feel or how do the workers in your company feel on Sunday evening or Monday morning? Are they filled with excitement or are they thinking, "Oh, my god, it's Monday morning. I have the Monday morning dreads." I'm heading into work. I have a bowed head. I have depleted posture. I'm breathing shallowly and just thinking, "Oh, my god, how can I get through this day?" Well, I think we can all understand it's common sense. You're not going to get the most out of that person. You're not going to get the highest productivity, and you're not going to get the best return on your investment. And if you consider that, for most of us, our biggest investment is our people, it pays to take care of them. So if you even forget about the caring human aspects of caring for your employees, if you just looked at your bottom line, you would want to have an engaged workforce that was really thinking about their job and was really interested. If they're dreading coming into work because it's toxic, because it's hostile, because somebody is going to yell at them, you're not getting the best out of them.

So think about this. Is this your workplace? Are there aspects of it? Are there things that you would like to see improved? And we'll talk in a couple of minutes about some things that you can do to help implement these learnings in your own organization. Of course, the opposite of dread is feeling fed and that's the goal. That's what we find, at Glassdoor, produces high ratings on our site which are obviously anonymous and written by employees of organizations. If they're excited because they feel fed, they feel nourished, they feel cared for and seen as human beings as well as employees, they're engaged and they are productive and innovative.

I think the most important thing we can do for every single individual is help them see that they matter. They make a difference. Their contributions are helping the bottom line and helping the company grow, helping the teams succeed, and making the place and the company a better place because of their contributions. If a person doesn't see why they're here, then they don't see why they're here, and they're not as engaged. You're not going to help them contribute to their max, and they're also not going to see how their career is progressing if they don't really see how they fit into the company. So it's really, really important to care about them from a career development, career contribution, but also as a human being.

Some of the things that we do here at Glassdoor is that we know each other as human beings. We know if you're married or you're single and if you have children, and maybe your child is sick or maybe you just had a new puppy. And, of course, we have a dog-friendly work environment and so we bring the puppy then, and we really believe that that helps with creating a happy, healthy environment, too. Because I can tell you that if you are touched by a being that you find appealing, whether it's a puppy, a dog, or a friend, what happens in your brain is it generates oxytocin which is a hormone that helps you relax. And if you're more relaxed, you're going to think better. You're going to be more creative and innovative. So if you have an environment where people are stimulated but not stressed, stimulated and not feeling threatened, you are going to have a better work environment both within the work environment and within your employee's own human physiology. And if they're more relaxed and while thinking, "Wow, what can I do next?" They're going to be engaged and have fun.

So let's talk a little bit about what happens to the brain. So many, many, many years ago, humans lived in caves and there were big animals that might come and attack these humans who lived in these caves. And so if you think about yourself as a cave dweller, you would exit your cave and see this rather large ominous animal and you would have to make a decision. You were going to fight this large animal, this wooly mammoth if you will. You are going to run or you're going to freeze. These are the survival instincts from the amygdala, from the center part of the brain and this part of the brain, this is part of the limbic system, has largely remained unchanged for many, many, many, many years. And our brains still responds to threats as it did previously when we were living in caves.

So obviously, you don't have wooly mammoths running after us at this point, but what we do have were all kinds of other stressors that our brain still thinks it needs to fight. So too many emails, traffic, my boss yelling at me, too many deadlines, a toxic environment, all kinds of threats that cause the brain to shut down in the same way whenever it feels scared or threatened. And if your brain is feeling scared or threatened, it takes over most of the processing power in the brain and, unfortunately, that's not helpful for producing great business results because what you need is that part of the brain to be calm and relaxed so that the cognitive processing that needs to happen in the pre-frontal cortex in the front of our brain is actually able to do its work.

But I can tell you that if the body or the brain are under stress, the cognitive processing for normal business thinking is absolutely threatened because the amygdala says, "I trump, I win, I rule. You're going to pay attention to me until I've calmed down." So if you have employees that are constantly feeling threatened or they're in a toxic environment, you are not having the best innovative cognitive processing happening in the brain. So, again, if you think purely only about the business, you would want to have an environment that was healthy.

Some of the things that we do at Glassdoor because we've been paying attention to EQ for a long time and we understand that it's a multi-faceted approach. So we have multiple ways for addressing this because not everybody responds in the same way. So a few things that we've done. We're lucky enough for our headquarters office to be located in Lorain [SP] and we're right on the water. So we have the ability to go for a kayak ride. Now don't think if you don't have a kayak or you don't live on a body of water that you can't have high EQ. You just need to take your personal environment and maximize it and create potential for people to relax, to get some exercise, to be outside in nature if possible. As we all know at this point, exercise really does reduce stress and it calms the body down. It calms the hormones that generate stress down. And so having various programs where you can care about fitness of the body will also help fitness of the mind, which will help fitness of the org.

As I mentioned previously, we also have dogs in our environment because we love them, because they're a part of our family and then there's the other benefit as I mentioned earlier, the oxytocin rush that we get when we get to snuggle with one of our little furry critters, so we love those too. We have lots of cross-functional departmental meetings, and engagements, and parties, and events where we either do, oh, we drink a little wine together. We have a little food together or we're doing some sort of athletic event together.

The other thing that happens on our first day is every single employee signs the Glassdoor wall. So immediately, on your first day, you feel part of the team. And you're also putting it in writing on a wall in front of everybody that you're a part of that team. And as we all know, if you actually use your body, in this case, use your hands to write, you are embodying the thought, "I belong here. I'm part of Glassdoor," and that just embeds it and makes it much, much stronger. So we really do believe that people will reach their maximum potential if they understand how to work better together, how to bring problems to the table, and discuss them effectively. We put all of our employees through two days of emotional intelligence training and then we also have follow-on classes, and we also have a language, a common language about how to address conflict, how to deal with things when we're feeling stressed.

It is very common practice to begin a meeting by saying, "Hey, let's just take a moment and take a breath. Let's get grounded. Let's get centered. Let's come together in this room and maybe even take a minute or two to have a check in and go, 'How are you doing?' Let's check in as part of the community and see how we're doing around this table and then once we're all fully here around the table, let's rock it and talk about the business." And the business part of it will flow much quicker and much better if people are actually together feeling bonded and in the room together.

So you may be thinking, "This sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm very excited about doing this," but you may wonder if it would be embraced in your organization. And you know your organization. You know if it's open and collaborative and would embrace this kind of thing or if you need to take a little kind of a baby step because this would be brand new territory for your organization. So I would recommend regardless that you start with an assessment. You want to put together an employee survey so that you can get anonymously, from your employees, how it is that they are actually feeling about what it's like to work at Glassdoor or at your company. So we do this here all the time. We use a variety of surveys. We use Survey Monkey and we use Waggl and so whatever products you want to use is absolutely fine.

I think if this is a brand new project in your organization, you probably would want to do this anonymously because it's safer for people, and they're going to be more comfortable being honest. And, of course, once you get the data and you understand where your employees are at, you're going to want to report back to them and be honest with them about what it is that you learned and what it is that you're going to be able to address. We have found that employees don't want or even need perfection, but they love progress and they love to know that they're being heard and that you care. And so if you have the kind of environment that has never done anything like this before, this will be viewed as you being a real pioneer and really taking a risk to care about the well-being of the employees and the well-being of the company.

So don't be afraid to just take out first step and try it. But whatever you do, make sure that you respond properly to your employees. So it's like any other project. Once you find out what the problems are, make sure that you clearly communicate what you learned and what you're going to do about it. It's also critical to start at the top. Hopefully, you all have CEOs that embrace the critical elements of EQ as well as IQ but if you don't, maybe you will have to gently, gingerly encourage the senior team to start to embrace this, especially if you get employees that participate in the survey and want to help work with you to make the environment better, you can then show those results to senior leadership and, hopefully, then they will start to embrace it as well especially if you see that the environment starts to get better and stronger. And if the results are even better because people are feeling more comfortable, more relaxed and more engaged, that might help the senior team to really say, "You know what, this is something I have to pay attention to."

Do track your progress over time, and I would report back into your employees once every three months or once every six months. But, again, don't worry about being perfect, just track your progress. People love to know that you care and actually you might invite them to help you in this. You may want to start a focus group or a culture club. We have a culture club here at Glassdoor that I head and so I don't have to try and do this all by myself. I do this with a team of people that really care. They care as much or more as I do.

So our key takeaways here, I truly believe, it's been my experience, and there's now even lots of data. You can look on our site to see that actually having a healthy work environment produces better business results. So care about your business. Of course, you want to care about your business but really, you know what? For the most part, your people are your business. And if you care for your people, your people will then care for the business.

So it's a wonderful fulfilling prophecy and if you care about the whole person, not just their head and what's in it but also who they are as a human being, and you got your IQ and EQ, they're going to have a much more fulfilling experience because they won't just feel like some cog in the wheel but actually that they personally, as a full human being, make a difference. As I said, we put everybody through EQ training, and I'm happy to answer any questions after this. You can send me an email at mariah.deleon@glassdoor.com if you are interested in getting more information on this. But I also, again, want to recommend that you do think about what would work in your culture and assess your problems, make a commitment to change them, and track your success along the way. And report back on your progress. Again, remember, employees are just looking for you to be engaged so they can be further engaged. So don't let perfection stop you. Just take a baby step, take a breath, and enjoy the journey.