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5 strategies to create emotionally-intelligent workplace policies

When employees feel understood and cared for, they aren’t just more productive, they’re proactive and motivated to work.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

What sets an organization apart? Are the best organizations that make profits at the cost of equally high employee turnover? It may be hard to find a goalpost for organizational success, but experts agree that emotionally intelligent workplace policies correlate with high productivity, proficiency, and profitability. 

Emotional intelligence is more than a buzzword. In a workplace setting,  emotionally intelligent policies hold an organization together. 

When employees feel understood, they aren’t just more productive; they’re proactive and motivated to work. Emotionally intelligent policies can convey this to employees better than any incentive. 

While a push for policies centered around EQ will need foresight, a true transformation demands much more. The real push to reinvent policies must come from an enterprise’s leadership and HR. 

“With the post-COVID shake-up of work conditions, employees have reflected on what they are looking for in their organizations. A core feature many consider important is flexibility. This can be found in areas such as where and when people work, but also in how well an organization’s policies and procedures can best accommodate the individual needs of employees,” says Dr Kirin Hilliar, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, and Psychologist at OpenMinds Psychiatry, Counselling and Neuroscience Centre.

“Companies having emotionally intelligent policies can help facilitate and demonstrate this flexibility to their staff,” adds Hilliar.

“Emotional intelligence is essential in modern workplaces because it allows employers to better empathize and communicate with their teams,” says Dr Hossam Korany, Associate Professor of HRM at Abu Dhabi University, UAE.

HR can harness the EQ of a company’s culture in several ways. Here are some questions that organizations must ask themselves to be more emotionally attuned. 

Does your leave policy allow for special circumstances? 

An important aspect of emotionally-intelligent work culture is a flexible leave policy, says Kirin. When organizations consider a policy more aligned with their employees’ needs, true change can occur. “Is your leave policy flexible or too rigid to allow you to demonstrate empathy for the specific needs of individual employees? For example, bereavement leave might be limited to only three days, with no opportunity or procedure to extend this. This can force an employee to return to work before they are emotionally or mentally ready. Having systems in place to allow for the standard leave period to be modified (when necessary) will allow for flexibility of practice,” she adds. 

Are you empathetic in your correspondence?

In the pursuit of adhering to policies, HR managers tend to be tone-deaf. This can instigate a chain reaction of bitter communications between the aggrieved employee and the policy-abiding manager. “Be empathetic. Respond appropriately to the emotions of colleagues. You need to be able to guide your staff members through difficult projects,” says Korany. 

Do you account for the needs of new employees? 

Do your induction processes consider the perspectives, knowledge levels, and needs of someone entirely new to your company? “An important aspect when identifying what is most important for new employees is to know and structure your information in a prioritized way by putting yourself in their shoes,” says Kirin. 

Induction can be an overwhelming phase. “HR needs to consider if they’re presenting information systematically, or is a lot of information thrown at newcomers with minimal consideration of how they are expected to digest everything?”

Are you training managers to harness their EQ?

“Emotional intelligence can help management develop strong working relationships, create an environment where employees feel truly valued and appreciated, and better predict job performance,” says Korany.

“Having mindful and socially aware managers can create a positive and healthy work environment that encourages employees to do their best and reach their goals.”

Do you have a balanced benefits policy?

Do your bonus and benefits policies only target extrinsic motivations such as money, promotions to a new title, or do they also target intrinsic motivations like a sense of autonomy over their work schedule and responsibilities, contributing to projects that the employee themselves finds important, and enhancing their skills through training? 

“Incentives in the latter category will help address employee engagement and motivation at a holistic level. Moreover, they will help your company weather the storm when market forces mean options such as pay increases or promotions are unavailable,” says Kirin. 

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More

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