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How to Assess the Emotional Intelligence of Your Employees?

How to Assess the Emotional Intelligence of Your Employees?_YellowSpark Blog
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How to Assess the Emotional Intelligence of Your Employees?

Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability of individuals to identify and discern between the different emotions of themselves and of others. It also includes the effective management of these emotions and expressing them in an appropriate and effective manner.

All human beings are made of different emotions that they suppress or express in different ways and/or in different situations. While this has been largely accepted in the social and personal space, the professional world seems to curb these emotions under the guise of objectivity and professionalism.

Now don’t get me wrong, objectivity and professionalism are very crucial qualities in the workplace. But assuming that having them will keep the emotions of employees under control is like expecting everyone driving to work to follow the road traffic rules at all times. Theoretically ideal but practically we all see the number of violations, accidents and road rage cases.

Each employee you have also perceives and emotes to the same situation in a different way. For example, when we conduct training for the employees, we get to observe a variety of emotions expressed by different employees sitting in the same room and undergoing the same situation. For instance, when we give them a quiz, some employees get worked up in giving all the right answers and right answers only. Some others would be smiling while we question them, not because they know the answer, but often because they don’t know it. (Think of Dr. Asthana played by Boman Irani in the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai who breaks into an idiosyncratic laugh every time he is stressed). Yet others tend to get emotional if their answers are contradicted or proved wrong.

These are not just random outbursts of emotion in isolated events but a smart hint of where the person stands emotionally. And since all of us are emotionally driven, this also affects the work knowingly or unknowingly.

How Emotional Intelligence impacts your workplace?

The level of emotional intelligence can help you determine how prepared an employee is in a given situation. Employees who are emotionally intelligent can adapt to situations more comfortably without getting too attached to their previous one. On the contrary, those having lower levers of it could be suffering from stress, burnout and other symptoms leading to lower productivity.

According to a study conducted by Leadership IQ, 46% of the new hires fail in the first 18 months of their employment. Some of the main reasons for this were

• 26% of the employees couldn’t handle feedback given to them
• 23% were not equipped on how to manage or understand emotional changes in them
• 17% of the employees displayed a lack of motivation to excel
• 15% didn’t have the right emotional temperament for the job
• And just a mere 11% failed because they were unable to grasp the technical skills needed

As you can see, low productivity and poor performance might not necessarily be a technical flaw after all. A number of our clients over the years have now come to recognise and accept the role of emotional intelligence in the overall development of the employees and the company as a whole. Identifying the level of emotional intelligence of our employees can thus become the first step in this process. This will not just help you know where your employees stand emotionally but also come in handy when you deal with them on a daily basis.

A note of caution – Some employees have mastered the art of pretending to be emotionally intelligent by responding instantaneously with practised, too-good-to-be-true responses to classic interview or annual review questions. So how do you look beyond the ready-made answer and get what they are really made of?

Here’s a quick list that can help you with that.

Here are 5 questions that can help you gauge the Emotional Intelligence of your employees.

1. As per your colleagues and team members (excluding your manager), what are the perks and limitations of working with you?

The question might seem simple on the face value of it but usually gives a very valuable insight on how the employee perceives himself or herself and others in the team. This might also catch your employee off guard as they might not be prepared to say it from other’s perspective. It could give you a hint about any pride, ego or unpleasant emotions that they might be holding which hinder their productivity in the big picture. Look for how comfortable and frank they are in their interactions while answering this. Is the hero of their story the employee or are they able to objectively mention their strength without much bias? It does require an acute sense of self-awareness and humility to reply these.

2. You get a negative feedback from your reporting manager on the project. How do you handle that?

The art of handling negative criticism is still not percolated to all layers of the workforce. When you ask an employee about it, a general response is often a rote one. Try questioning and focus on the feeling of the employee while the feedback was given to them. An employee with a high level of Emotional Intelligence will be able to narrate the incident without losing stride or letting it affect their self-worth. Having a response like ‘felt bad’ or ‘felt okay’ may not really help in such a situation. Instead, an ideal reply could sound something like this… “I hadn’t anticipated the negative feedback because I thought I had met the project requirements. Thus, when I got to know about it, I was a little surprised and frustrated too. However, after spending half a day thinking over it, I came to realise that I may have actually overlooked certain aspects that were essential. Since my manager rectified it at their end, I’ll use the feedback as a learning for the next project and avoid similar errors in future.” This not just gives the manager’s perspective but also a clear idea of the emotions the employee actually underwent in the process.

3. You have a project that you are working on but due to certain circumstances, it doesn’t see the light of the day. How do you cope up with a failed project then?

This will give you a brief idea of how accountable a person is when something doesn’t work out. Is the employee passing the buck on others, blaming the process, cursing the system and being frustrated or is able to describe it objectively and also bounce back without getting too defensive about it? This question also gives you specific insight on four important areas in the employee’s life:

a) Their ability to narrate the feelings they felt in an objective manner showing their self-awareness about their emotions.
b) Their self-management to move past the failings and work towards solving the crisis at hand
c) How socially aware they are to the emotions of others, their motivations and challenges?
d) If the failure was because of a specific person, were they able to mend the relationship and work together in a professional way?

All these will help you determine the employees’ emotional characteristics and their coping mechanisms that can, directly and indirectly, affect their work and people around.

4. Tell me about your hobby. How often do you indulge in it and why?

Another tried and tested question with a massive success rate when it comes to identifying the emotional intelligence of any employee. You need to ask the employee about their hobby in a way that you are totally oblivious about it. Question and cross-question them at various stages and ask them to simplify it further to you. This will help you gauge whether the employee is comfortable in constant stressful communication or shows signs of frustration and anger. A calm and patient response in such a situation is a sign of high emotional intelligence.

5. Describe the last time you needed help and asked for it?

Employees having a genuine understanding of their own strengths and limitations, and they aren’t afraid to admit what they don’t know are more emotionally intelligent than others. Their response would normally begin with “All thanks to my colleague, I learnt about that particular angle of viewing the project which I wasn’t aware earlier. I think I’ll continue to use this for future projects too.” Accepting their flaws or gap in their subject knowledge and asking for help shows an eagerness to learn as well as maturity and humility of the person. If an employee avoids this or shares it with a degree of embarrassment, they might be struggling to keep up with their emotional intelligence and might need your help in this.

These questions can definitely help you gauge the emotional intelligence of a person. You can use it at interviews while hiring the right candidate among the many options with the same qualification. This could be your much-needed distinguisher to choose the ideal candidate. You can also use these in your annual review to assess how the employee has been over the year and then chalk out a plan to help improve in areas that need to be worked upon.


Yellow Spark can help you identify the level of emotional intelligence in your employees; also provide training and tools to improve it. With the right coaching and awareness, your organisation would not just be a success for customers outside but also a delight for employees working with you. Want to know how? Write to us at contact@yellowspark.in and we’ll be happy to help.

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.