Good leaders know that emotional intelligence is a skill to be developed and used in the workplace. But when work gets stressful, it can be hard to avoid falling back on old, unhealthy habits. Here are some ways leaders can manage stress through emotional intelligence and avoid regression at work.

High Emotional Intelligence Leads to Less Job Stress

Job stress is an integral part of many industries. Managers and leaders must deal with others’ emotions and resolve workplace conflict. This can lead to stress, and stress can negatively affect mental health and workplace productivity. Studies show that having a higher emotional intelligence can lead to experiencing less job stress. This is because leaders (and employees) who have highly developed emotional intelligence are better able to identify when they are stressed, take steps to control their emotions, and make adjustments that will keep them from being overwhelmed. But that doesn’t mean that stress doesn’t still happen.

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Breakthrough Stress Can Cause Regression and Workplace Conflict

Remember that emotional intelligence is a skill. It can be taught and it requires practice. While some employees are naturally more empathic or socially aware, everyone, even leaders, can get better at managing and expressing their emotions over time.

When the heat is on, leaders’ emotional intelligence is put to the test. Breakthrough stress can overcome your ability to cope and cause you to regress to older, less adaptive interaction strategies. Regression can build on itself and result in increased conflict between coworkers. When your entire team is under stress at work, it can lead to interpersonal problems, which in turn can cause even more hard feelings and regression.

Emotional Intelligence Techniques to Manage Job Stress

Avoiding this means further developing your EI skills, while at the same time recognizing that development is still a work in progress.

Don’t Demand Perfection (of Others or Yourself)

Perfect emotional intelligence doesn’t exist. Everyone gets short sometimes. When you or an employee has gotten overwhelmed, it doesn’t mean failure. Don’t hold your team’s feet to the fire when their emotional intelligence skills fall short. Doing so will only increase the regression spiral and lead to more interpersonal problems.

Identify Your Stress Triggers

What is it about a situation that makes you feel stressed? Some employees may feel inspired or motivated by the same situation that makes others short-tempered. Understanding what triggers your stress responses can help you be prepared to apply your emotional intelligence skills when they happen and keep you from defaulting to regressive coping techniques.

Acknowledge Emotions Out Loud

Part of emotional intelligence is recognizing your own emotions and empathizing with those others are feeling. When stress is high, it often comes with frustration, anger, anxiety, or guilt. Acknowledging those emotions out loud without judgment can allow your team the space to express those emotions, without causing them to interfere with group goals.

Practice Cognitive Reframing

Stress can make even small obstacles seem insurmountable. Using cognitive reframing can allow you to put each challenge in perspective and identify ways through. Rather than indulging in the feeling that you are “a complete failure,” spend time restructuring your thought process to focus on what can be changed going forward, how you can laugh at the situation, or what you can learn from it.

Process Mistakes, Then Move On

Emotional intelligence also involves engaging with negative feedback or different opinions. Conflict avoidance is not healthy. As the leader of your team, acknowledge mistakes, and provide space to process them. This could involve a one-on-one meeting with a lagging team member, additional skills training, or a brainstorming session with the team. However, once the mistake has been processed, it is up to you to model letting that mistake go and allowing team members to learn to do better.

Get Help Developing Your Emotional Intelligence Leadership Skills

When stress is high, it is time to let your emotional intelligence leadership skills shine. If they are still a work in progress, committing to developing and practicing those skills can equip you to better deal with future stress, and lead your team to more successful outcomes.

David Stanislaw is a leadership and executive coach with over 30 years’ experience helping managers and leaders develop emotional intelligence skills and handle job stress. Contact us to meet with David to strengthen your leadership coping skills today.