Recharge Your EQ Before Heading Back to the Office

Barley-Sullivan_employee EQ July 6, 2021 By: Jenn Barley and Karen Sullivan

Do you feel excited, anxious, or both about returning to the office? Use your emotional intelligence to help you navigate the transition. Here are five ways you can tune up your EQ before you go back to your workplace.

Even though you’ve been in virtual contact—potentially for hours on end—with members of your team, work life looks incredibly different today than it did just 18 months ago. Most of us have felt either excitement or anxiety, or a combination of both, while anticipating our return to the office. We have new perceptions of our work environment, our culture, our coworkers, and the meaning of work-life balance. The good news: We can use our emotional intelligence (EQ) to assess those perceptions, rebuild connections, create opportunity, and avoid falling back on comfortable, but bad, old habits.

It’s vital to invest your time in EQ right now. EQ is what enables you to understand and manage your emotions related to going back to work, your behavior because of those emotions, and the impact they have on you and those around you.

Here are five ways to recharge your EQ.

Get curious and compassionate (EQ skill: empathy). Everyone is coming back to the office with different experiences, expectations, and needs. It’s important that we think beyond ourselves when creating our new work environment (remote, hybrid, or fully in person). Having empathy means we genuinely care about what’s happening with others, we’re interested in their opinions, and we want to know why they feel or behave a certain way. Take mental notes when you see someone shut down, raise their voice, or become defensive. Ask them about it at another time and listen. Using empathy builds trust.

Know your emotional triggers (EQ skill: emotional self-awareness). Do you really understand the moments that lift you or the ones that throw you off track? True emotional self-awareness requires reflection. Think about those times in meetings when your heart leapt or dropped. What caused that reaction? Was it someone or something specific? Write it down and learn when to expect the trigger. When you understand yourself, you can plan ways to react appropriately and productively in the future.

Imagine the possibilities that can emerge when you’re open to ideas that you normally wouldn’t be. Challenge yourself to change your mind about something.

Be bold (EQ skill: assertiveness). Don’t mistake assertive with obnoxious. Assertiveness is all about your willingness to share your ideas and maintain your boundaries. As your organization’s workplace norms are being collectively readjusted and redesigned, use this opportunity to establish yourself as self-confident enough to engage in healthy conflict to create better outcomes for everyone. Practice assertiveness by making clear and solid statements when asked for your opinion.

Learn to take stock in the moment (EQ skill: reality testing). Reality testing means you can observe what’s happening and measure your feelings against the reality of the moment. It’s a self-check, essentially evaluating whether you’re seeing the situation for what it really is. When switching among virtual, hybrid, and in-person office models, it’s easy to create false narratives about what’s happening. Instead of telling yourself stories, practice asking others how they perceive a situation. Or try writing down what happened in purely factual statements. This means describing it without using any positive or negative language.

Give yourself permission to bend (EQ skill: flexibility). We’ve all learned some lessons in flexibility recently. Change on a dime? Well, we had to. And now, we know we can. Recall that insight when dealing with your coworkers and facing decisions back at the office. Imagine the possibilities that can emerge when you’re open to ideas that you normally wouldn’t be. Challenge yourself to change your mind about something. Vet the possible outcomes of choosing differently. Flexibility is a key to innovation.  

Using your EQ in these ways will have positive effects on you and your colleagues that you might not expect. Understanding your emotions and behaviors makes you a valuable asset to your team.

Jenn Barley

Jenn Barley is a master coach, facilitator, and leadership expert and CEO of Kickstart Your Edge. She and her team help organizations build distinctive global brands and Play to Win cultures, and train individuals and master life coaches in EQi assessment and leadership development.

Karen Sullivan

Karen Sullivan, MA, PCC, is an executive coach, educator, mentor, and facilitator and is president of KickStart Your Edge. She is a retired police chief and leverages that experience to help organizations and individuals drive positive change.