A real life case that looks at how bringing emotional intelligence to an issue can solve it



(names changed of course)


Sharon has been in business for 15 years.  For most of those years she hardly paid herself, preferring to put the money back into the business.


Her hard work and dedication has paid off and the business is now successful, turning over a healthy $2.6 M and making a profit.


She has a team of contractors and several staff on wages and a recently appointed operations manager on salary.


But all is not well.

After being the in position for a little over 3 months her operations manager asked for a bonus saying she had been working lots of overtime.  

Sharon had been intending to make a bonus payment at Christmas but did not like being asked for one.  


She paid the bonus that was requested even though she had been thinking of a higher amount.


Since then there has been tension between the two.  

Sharon resents the fact that her employee asked for a bonus.  

She also feels there is no gratitude by her other staff for the fact that she spent 15 years building the business so that they can now have work.


Let’s now look at how applying EQ to this situation can assist Sharon and her team.


What distinguishes great leaders from the average ones is Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The same applies to everyone involved in an organisation, from employees to managers. EQ is twice as important as the IQ and the Technical abilities in driving performance. The lack of this skill leads to difficulty in building good relationships with and between peers, subordinates, superiors and clients and influences dramatically decision making.

How Sharon's situation looks when the EQ is used

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is made up of five components and I will show you how the lack of skill in each of these components affected the relationship between Sharon and the Operational Manager:

1.  Self-awareness (gives you more control over how you express your emotions)

The first part of Emotional Intelligence. In order to be able to understand someone else’s emotions, it is imperative to perceive and understand your own first. This process is all about identifying your own emotions at a given moment and how reacting or responding to those affect your behavior.  

The most common emotions that led to undesirable results in the workplace are: Fear, Anger, Frustration, Sadness, Hostility, Disappointment, Guilt, Shame, Worry, Apprehension, Remorse.

Operations Manager

Frustration, disappointment and resentment built up over time with the Operations Manager.  These feelings are undesirable and the body sensations are dislikable, uncomfortable.

The OM wanted to ease the discomfort (treat the symptoms) and she “thought” that getting a “bonus” will help her feel better. However, even after she received that, the quality of relationship between her and Sharon did not change, in fact it got worse. She most probably shifted to another set of feelings, as undesirable as the previous ones such as guilt, shame, fear. At this stage, she doesn’t know what to do and maybe she expects Sharon will do something about it, and with that she is passing the responsibility for her own feelings to Sharon.


Sharon seems to be totally absorbed in the technical aspects of her job as a leader. When the OM asked for a bonus, she was surprised. I guess that she felt affronted, disappointed, misunderstood, irritated, shamed and vulnerable, to name a few emotions. Physical and visceral sensations associated with these emotions could be annoying too.  She thought that giving the OM a bonus would bring an end to all this and everything will come back to “normal”. We now know that it didn’t.

There is a quality that emotions have that is the message they have for us. Both the OM and Sharon jumped over this stage straight to strategies.


How could the situation be different if they would have known how to deal with emotions?

Emotions tell us about our needs!


Self-awareness involves checking in with their bodies and hearts and getting acquainted with what sensations and emotions they experience.




This would have lead to the first question: What are these feelings and why do I feel the way I feel?

All our actions are an attempt to meet a need. When a need is met, we feel happy, satisfied, joyful, etc. When a need is not met we feel sad, hurt, disappointed, etc.  Knowing that encourages investigation and leads us to ask the next question: What need of mine has not been met?


Operation Manager – Her needs for being seen, acknowledged, appreciated, fairness, compassion, trust and respect (to name a few), were not met.


Sharon: Her needs for choice, appreciation, trust, compassion, understanding and respect, (to name a few), were not met at work.

So the root of the conflict is the unmet needs.


Self-aware individuals recognize the relationship between their emotional experiences and their thoughts and behaviour. They are also skilled in recognizing their own strengths and limitations, and are open to new information and experiences, and learn from their interactions with others.


2.  Self-Regulation (Management and Reasoning with Emotions)

Being able to understand what you feel and why you feel that way helps to focus your attention and prioritize how you are going to express yourself in a caring (for self and the other) and calm way.

This allows for taking responsibility for your own feelings and emotions. We can have control over them ONLY when we OWN them. When blaming others for our feelings, responsibility for how we feel is in their hands.

OM and Sharon

Second question:  

“Given these identified needs of mine, that have not been met, what would be the best strategy I can come up with, in order to meet my needs?”


Those who are skilled in self-regulation are flexible and adapt well to change and challenges. They are good at managing conflict. They are thoughtful of how they communicate with others and take responsibility for their own feelings, thoughts and actions.


3.  Social skills

True emotional understanding requires more than just understanding own emotions and those of others.  The person is able to put this information to work in their daily interactions and communications. How to formulate a request to self or others depends on this skill.  Some important social skills include active listening and verbal communication skills.


If Sharon had this skill then she would be  able to build relationships and connections with employees that foster transparency, clarity, clear expectations, acknowledgement, appreciation and respect.


In the same way, if the OM have had this skill, she would be able to develop a strong rapport with leaders and co-workers and not end up in a situation in which she could not communicate skilfully what her needs were.


4.  Empathy

Having the ability to understand how others are feeling is absolutely critical to emotional intelligence. When you are able to authentically empathize, you can more appropriately respond to needs and concerns. You’ll be able to feel more connected with one another and recognize that you both belong to the human family of “emotional beings”.

Third question:

OM: How shall I request what I need in a way that will show my awareness and care for the Sharon’s needs?

Sharon:“How shall I respond to the OM’s request in a way that will show that I hear her needs, that I care and also  express mine and make myself understood and appreciated?”

Competence in this area enables us to respond appropriately to needs and concerns. We are able to feel more connected with one another and recognize that we both belong to “the human family of emotional beings”.


5.  Internal Motivation

The fifth aspect of EQ is a desire to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status. Motivation is more towards inner needs and goals and internal rewards such as experiencing harmony, balance, fairness, gratitude. Their behaviour is aligned with these motivations.


Communicating needs is the first step into coming up with a strategy that would have had met her needs and built a good relationship with Sharon. Conflict never arises at a level of needs. Conflict arises at a level of strategy usually – as in this particular case.

She could approach Sharon and tell her that her needs for acknowledgement and appreciation have not been met and as a result she feels hurt, frustrated, disappointed and sad. She could also ask Sharon if she is planning to offer a bonus for her extra hours. This would open discussion.

If the OM would also show authentic empathy and compassion for Sharon’s efforts to grow the business and to achieve success, then the entire discussion would have had a successful turn and both the OM  and Sharon would have had a satisfying if not rewarding relationship today.


Her thoughts of offering a bonus for Christmas have not been shared with the people involved. I guess that verbal acknowledgement for the extra work that the OM put in was not expressed either.

Emotional Intelligence would have helped Sharon notice, anticipate and keep under control the emotional climate at work.

Also, the quality of thoughts she had after the “incident” would have been different. She is placing herself as the victim from where learning is almost impossible. If she would start ‘looking’ with empathy and compassion at the entire situation, her state would shift towards a resourceful one that would serve both herself and the OM.


The components described above benefit not just the individual’s personal life and development, but how they communicate and become healthy and balanced.

Effective leaders have a solid understanding of how their emotions and actions affect the people around them and how to respond to challenges. They master emotions, they are Emotionally Intelligent.


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