Employee Satisfaction and Emotional Intelligence

Wouldn’t it be great to live and work more peacefully with others? If you could decrease your behavioral and relationship problems, would you be more satisfied at work? Would bettering the quality of your relationships with yourself and others affect your job satisfaction? A substantial body of research supports the importance of social and emotional abilities to personal and professional success. Recent research suggests that social and emotional abilities increase achievement, motivation, optimism, purpose, connectedness and satisfaction. The good news for interested library and information professionals is that these social-emotional life skills can be learned.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The term emotional intelligence (EI), as coined and defined in Salovey and Mayer’s 1990 article of the same name, is “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.” Although various models of EI now exist, these models generally share the following 5 components:

  • Self-Awareness is a person’s ability to recognize and express thoughts, feelings and moods. This awareness can help him understand the source of those thoughts or emotions.
  • Managing Emotions is a person’s ability to display her emotions, particularly anger, sadness or fear, in socially appropriate ways.
  • Self-Motivation helps a person use his emotions to reach his goals. It helps him recognize and manage destructive impulses and delay gratification to reach these goals.
  • Social Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others.
  • Social skills are used to deal with others in social situations. They enable a person to carry on a conversation and deal with other’s emotions in a socially competent way.

How can library and information professionals use this information?

By utilizing these principles of emotional intelligence a professional can access previously untapped personal and professional resources. Emotionally intelligent workers enjoy greater productivity, creativity and satisfaction work even when working alone. As previously stated, most EI experts agree that patterns of emotional intelligence are not fixed. People can boost their all-round EI by building the emotional abilities they lack (Stein, 2006). Below are some suggestions to start using emotional intelligence to increase your job satisfaction (loosely based on Cherniss, Goleman and Emmerling, Cowan, Alder, 1998):

  • Cultivate self-awareness. What are your feelings and why are you feeling that way? The goal is to be more informed about emotions and let them help you overcome obstacles in life.
  • Believe that social and emotional competence can be improved and that such improvements will lead to your goals and valued outcomes. Though IQ is relatively fixed, a person’s capacity for emotional intelligence is unlimited.
  • Recognize that emotional intelligence is important to your personal and professional success. Feelings matter, and increasing your focus and attention on emotions is an important first step. Make time for the development of social-emotional skills.
  • Seek a mentor or coach who models emotional intelligence and is willing to work with you to develop your EI.
  • Build a support group of other individuals who are interested in enhancing their emotional intelligence. Support for any kind of personal change is important.
  • Ask trusted coworkers, friends and family members to give you feedback on your emotional and behavioral progress. Feedback is crucial when managing personal change.
  • Try new behaviors repeatedly and consistently over a period of months. Practice is important when making any behavioral change, because it takes time for a habit to be unlearned and replaced by healthier reactions.
  • Start using vocabulary to express emotion. Label your feelings rather than a person or situation (Hein, 1999).
  • Use your feelings to help you make decisions (Hein, 1999).
  • Show respect for other people’s feelings (Hein, 1999).

Developing greater emotional intelligence is another way of knowing yourself better in order to interact with others in all aspects of your life, but this intelligence can be particularly useful in the workplace. By utilizing the principles of EI a professional can reduce stress, improve concentration, better engage with coworkers, create a more pleasant work environment and, most importantly, increase job satisfaction.

Suzanne Devlin has worked in corporate and academic library human resources positions and is currently program manager for an Institute for Museum and Library Services grant that supports library students in the western states.


  • Cherniss, Cary, and others. “Guidelines for Best Practice.” Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. http://www.eiconsortium.org/reports/guidelines.html (accessed April 13, 2008).
  • Hein, Steven J. “The Ten Habits of Emotionally Intelligent People.” The EQ Institute.   http://eqi.org/summary.htm (accessed April 15, 2008)
  • Salovey, Peter and John D. Mayer. “Emotional Intelligence.” Imagination, Cognition, and Personality 9 (1990): 185–211.
  • Stein, Steven J. and Howard E. Book. The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success. London: Jossey-Bass, 2006.