We’ve all heard the phrase ‘people leave managers, not companies’. Overwhelmingly it’s true, with half of all workers leaving a job due to bad management (Gallup, 2015). So where are managers going wrong?

Emotional intelligence is a powerful driver in effective management and can help managers in winning the willing engagement and commitment of others. Managers with high levels of emotional intelligence have a good understanding of their emotions and how they can impact those around them, as well as an awareness and appreciation of the emotions of their team. Let’s explore exactly how emotional intelligence supports the manager/employee relationship:

Emotion regulation

Managers who can effectively regulate their emotions remain calm and rational even in stressful, pressured or upsetting situations. Giving in to negative thoughts and disruptive emotions can get in the way of strong management – good managers channel their frustrations into positive energy.

Controlling internal feelings is very important for managers in order for them to analyse, judge and tackle a situation in a professional and appropriate manner. It helps them to remain as objective as possible when dealing with their team.

Impulse control

The ability to control impulses and is incredibly important for effective management. A lack of control in managers can result in snap reactions or unreasonable anger, causing them to lose influence, reduce productivity in their team, as well as setting a poor example for their direct reports.

Good managers control inappropriate reactions. They do not give in to emotions or hasty decisions, taking the time to assess the situation before acting. This is important for people managers as it ensures challenging situations with their direct reports are dealt with appropriately and professionally, creating a safe and comfortable environment for their team.


Empathetic managers understand the viewpoints of their team and their reasons for feeling and acting the way they do. They take this into account when considering how to respond to them, meaning they are in a better position to communicate with them effectively and receive a positive response.

Managers who lack empathy may be perceived by their reports as cold or insensitive and team members may feel less comfortable approaching them about challenging or personal situations. Thus, empathy is key in effective management; understanding someone’s reason for doing something can avoid misunderstandings at work and ensure the proper support is offered to the employee.

Emotion perception

The ability to read emotions in any situation is an important skill for managers and contributes to the smooth running of any group of people. Emotional signals are a powerful way of communicating and are crucial in correctly interpreting or judging a situation.

Managers with poor emotion perception may miss the useful information that emotional signals give and thus may find it difficult to understand the behaviour, motives and feelings of their team. They may find it difficult recognise when their team are struggling and require support.

Being in touch with how their team are feeling helps managers to become more effective as they will be astute at recognising when support is required as well as any dips in motivation and engagement.

Emotion management

Emotion management is the next step after emotion perception. Managers who are adept at emotion management are able to influence how others feel. This could be by sympathising with them, calming them down, or motivating them. However, emotion management is about the wider issue of getting other people to act in a way that achieves a goal. Managers may want to instil a variety of emotions in employees if they feel what will help them to improve, for example, underperformance.

Being able to influence how others feel is hugely important for effective management. It means managers can ensure their team are feeling engaged and motivated and can also dissolve negative or high-stress situations. In some situations, people’s emotion can get out of control and prevent a problem being solved; managers must be able to calm things down.

Want to learn more about emotional intelligence and its power in the workplace? Check out our EI 101 factsheet for the lowdown on all things EI.

By Amir Qureshi, COO, Thomas International