Anyone can say they support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by simply adding a page to their company’s website or posting about it on social media. But, actively supporting DEI in the workplace should be demonstrated by your behaviors, not just your words. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an essential element in the implementation and adoption of DEI practices.
Have you ever tried to bake a cake or cook a dish even though you’re missing an ingredient or two? It just doesn’t turn out quite right. Well, it’s the same for DEI in the workplace. If an element of your or your team’s EQ is missing, your company’s DEI will be skewed, too. And, at the end of the day, we all want our cake to be baked to perfection!
There are five ingredients of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, social skills/team skills and leader assertiveness. Ensuring that all of your team members have each of these ingredients mastered will create a high EQ on your team and inherently will help them better support DEI in the workplace.
Self-awareness involves understanding your internal state, which shapes the way you interact with others. It is considering how your behaviors and words affect others, and in turn, how others react and respond to you. Self-awareness is the awareness of your own thoughts and feelings.
Self-management entails being willing and able to manage your behavior and words (i.e., your internal states, or contexts, and impulses). Within self-management is also the willingness and ability to be open to considering interactive feedback (i.e., feedback, “feed forward” and follow up). It is important to note that without self-awareness — the first ingredient of EQ — you can’t effectively self-manage.
Empathy is the capability and readiness to sense others’ emotions, understand their perspectives and take an active interest in their concerns. The S.E.T. Interaction (support, empathy and task) is a very useful tool to successfully demonstrate empathy. Support involves showing that you understand the person’s situation; empathy is acknowledging the person’s difficulty; and task requires moving to “let’s figure out how we can solve this”.
Social skills/team skills — the fourth ingredient of EQ — recognizes that actively cultivating and maintaining a web of connections and relationships fosters collaboration and builds strong team cohesion. It involves being skilled at cooperation, managing conflict and developing teams.
Leader assertiveness requires knowing when to take charge and influence, and knowing when to allow oneself to be influenced. Speaking up, being clear on your viewpoint, facilitating conversations, and realizing when it is necessary and beneficial to be open to being influenced are key characteristics of leader assertiveness.
It is only after the successful establishment of these five key ingredients of emotional intelligence that a workplace can effectively implement DEI practices. This is because EQ facilitates DEI practices.
First, let’s begin by clearly defining DEI:
- Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting.
- Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide as equal outcomes as possible for every individual.
- Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging.
By establishing this general consensus, we can understand the ways in which high level EQ is necessary in successfully implementing DEI practices in the workplace.
Begin by asking yourself and your team members the following questions:
- Do all employees have a voice in meetings?
- Are they taken seriously?
- Are they involved in decision-making?
- Do they feel safe to speak up?
- Are you missing out on the wisdom, knowledge, and fresh ideas that can come out of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, education and upbringing?
You likely won’t have a perfect report, and that’s okay. What’s paramount is that you are (self-) aware of this imperfect score, and that you and your team work to self-manage and empathize appropriately, through the implementation of social skills/team skills and leader assertiveness. Being able to recognize areas for growth and development is crucial, and building the five key ingredients of EQ is a great place to start.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, companies with higher-than-average diversity see 19% higher innovation revenues. Through the successful establishment of organizational-wide EQ, you can foster a more inclusive and more supportive corporate workplace environment (i.e., one that is supportive of DEI). With practical, easy-to-implement tools and tactics that apply to leaders and their team members, you can actively support DEI in the workplace.