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Coffeepot Chatter: Creating Harmony With Emotional Intelligence

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Maria exits Harry’s office. She is clearly upset.

Tom: Hi. Uh, are you okay? Because you don’t look okay.

Maria: I’m not okay. I don’t want to talk. I can’t talk. I’m afraid I’ll say things I shouldn’t.

Tom: Really? That bad, huh? I hope it wasn’t something I said or did.

Maria: Can’t go there, Tom. At least not right now. I need a break and I need to think.

Tom: Take a break. I’ll cover for you.

Maria: Yeah, okay. I think I’ll take my lunch early. Can you cover for an hour?

Tom: Sure. No problem. (Maria exits.)

Tom (pops his head in Harry’s office): Maria is taking an early lunch. What’s up? Should I be concerned?

Harry: I expect Maria will be ready to talk when she returns. If not, just give her some space. We’ll talk tomorrow.

Sound Familiar?

Has a scene similar to this played out at some point during your career?

Whichever part you might have had in the scenario, there are decision points involved that can make or break the future quality of your workplace environment. These decisions all hinge on emotional intelligence (EI). 

If you’re not sure what EI is and how it impacts your work life, you’re in luck. Integrated Behavioral Health’s Ryan Morgan, PsyD, will return to campus Tuesday, November 4 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. to build on his earlier workshop on emotional intelligence (EI).

Spotlight spent some time with Ryan recently to find out more about his upcoming visit and the workshop - Using Emotional Intelligence in Communication and Problem Solving. 

EI: Now More Than Ever

Ryan says EI skills are needed more now in the workplace, but unfortunately they are not well developed in a lot of people. “Employees are feeling more workplace stress, feeling stretched thin, or even bringing home stress into the workplace,” he noted. “Managing our emotions well at work is challenging.”

Ryan wants everyone to know that you didn’t have to attend the first EI workshop to benefit from the new session. He’ll be revisiting and reintroducing EI as a concept at the start of the program before moving into problem solving.  He will review the four main skills that make up your emotional intelligence:

  • Self awareness – being aware of your emotions and how others perceive you
  • Self management – what you do when you experience your emotions
  • Social awareness – understanding other people’s state of mind
  • Relationship management – communicating and building trust

Self awareness, in particular, plays a pivotal role in communication. “Employees are often unaware of how they are coming across to other people,” Ryan said. “If they have underdeveloped self awareness, they may not realize their behavior is causing conflict or tension.”

In our scenario above, Maria is well aware of her emotions and how she is coming across to Tom. She uses her self management skills to take an early lunch break to take a step back from whatever is upsetting her. 

Ryan says self management is a key step in recovering in a situation such as this.

“You need to stop and gather all the information before you act ,”  he says. “Examine your own role and potential responsibility. We often go right to a place of defensiveness and blame, and that’s a morale killer. So, ask yourself: could it be something on your part that is causing this?”

At the same time, the tension and upset probably isn’t solely your responsibility. “There are so many different styles and characters in the workplace,” Ryan says. “Those interpersonal styles can change the game in terms of bringing in stress.”

Building EI Skills

There are a lot of things we can all work on to improve our emotional intelligence and make our workplace more harmonious.  Ryan’s workshop will focus on increasing social awareness and relationship management, including:

  • Listening and being aware of the social context of what is going on
  • Not jumping to conclusions
  • Paying attention to body language to be more empathic rather than passive or closed to the other
  • Looking outside yourself even when you are upset
  • Accepting feedback graciously
  • Challenging your own assumptions and thinking

By using EI skills in tense circumstances, Ryan says, we can avoid escalating workplace conflict. “Building trust through communication is a big part of the equation,” he said. “When your professional relationships are built on trust and empathy, rather than suspicion and assumptions, you will have a more harmonious workplace.”

Register For Using Emotional Intelligence 
in Communication and Problem Solving

To register for a workplace learning or wellness program, send an email to and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your Lehigh email address
  • The name of the program
  • The date and time of the program

You will receive an email confirmation and the location of the event about a week before the program. Remember, saving a program to your Google calendar DOES NOT register you for that program. You must send a registration email.

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