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  • Writer's pictureKohei Yoshino

Emotional Intelligence And Change Management

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

As a change management consultant, I've experienced firsthand the importance of emotional intelligence in the implementation of a change effort. Pearson (2015) defines emotional intelligence as a set of seven elements: 1) emotional self-awareness, 2) emotional expression, 3) emotional awareness of others, 4) emotional reasoning, 5) emotional self-management, 6) emotional management of others, and 7) emotional self-control. Within the realm of organizational and leadership development, emotional intelligence plays a critical role as it has been studied that 20% of a person's success is due to intelligence (e.g., ability to learn, understand, and reason) while the other 80% can be attributed to emotional intelligence (Kirch et al., 2001). There has been much research that concluded that emotional intelligence in leadership promotes effective social interaction at all levels within organizations and that leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to motivate their employees by appealing to their emotions (Vlasceanu, 2012). This latter point is particularly important in managing a change initiative since it is important to recognize the different emotional states of employees and manage them effectively (Vlasceanu, 2012).

Pearson (2015) defines emotional intelligence as a set of seven elements: 1) emotional self-awareness, 2) emotional expression, 3) emotional awareness of others, 4) emotional reasoning, 5) emotional self-management, 6) emotional management of others, and 7) emotional self-control.

One of the common challenges in the implementation of a change effort is managing the acts of resistance caused by employees. As Vlasceanu (2012) mentioned in his research, resistance can be caused by the fear of the unknown, disbelief in organizational change, and concern for the working place. In successfully implementing a change, organizational leaders and OD practitioners must manage resistance by utilizing their emotional intelligence through instruments such as stories, information and communication, participation and involvement, facilitating and support, and, negotiation (Kotter, 1999). Managing resistance requires curiosity as well as the ability and desire to fully understand the rationale for the resistance and it can be more effectively achieved by those with high emotional intelligence.


Furthermore, the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, states that emotional intelligence is strongly related to optimism, which can be interpreted as the causal attributions individual make when facing setbacks and challenges (Vlasceanu, 2012). In developing change management strategies using Kotter’s 8 step change model, OD practitioners soon recognize the importance of creating a positive vision for the change as well as navigating individuals who are impacted by the change through potential failures and setbacks (Kotter, 1996). By improving employees' emotional intelligence including optimism, in other words, OD practitioners and organizations can improve organizational resilience, align individuals with the vision, and increase the readiness for change. As Pearson (2015) argues, the phases of change are difficult to be managed without emotionally intelligent leaders, and for this reason, along with what’s outlined above, it can be concluded that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the implementation of a change effort and that organizations hugely benefit from investing in the development of emotional intelligence of employees through coaching, training, and mentoring.


References

Kirch, C. F., Kirch, D. P., & Tucker, M. L. (2001). The benefits of emotional intelligence in accounting firms. The CPA Journal, 71(8). 60.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press

Kotter, J. P. (1999). What leaders really do. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Pearson, D. (2015). Experimental research on the improvement of emotional intelligence for facilitating organizational change (Order No. 3716298). Available from Psychology Database. (1709265022).

Vlasceanu, S. (2012). Leadership and emotional intelligence in the context of organizational dynamics. Romanian Journal of Experimental Applied Psychology, 3(1).

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