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Pizza Day Isn’t Cutting It: Instead, Actually Help Your Employees with These 5 Key EQ Skills

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May 17, 2024
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Aaron Gilbert

High turnover. Poor communication. Disengaged employees.

These are all red flags of a toxic workplace, and they are an accepted part of modern workplace culture.

But they shouldn’t be.

Bosses, team leaders, and managers certainly don’t help when they try to glaze over a toxic work environment with casual Fridays, bi-weekly pizza lunches, or the occasional company-branded tumbler. Instead, they should focus on the five primary aspects of emotional intelligence (EQ) so they can be a better leader for their team.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate emotions in oneself while also interpreting them in others. EQ cannot be one-sided — it requires an understanding both within and without to be truly beneficial.

When we understand other’s emotions as well as our own, we save ourselves from a host of ineffective communication tactics and team strife. Research shows that EQ aids in better decision-makingconflict resolution, and stress management.

In his book on the topic, psychologist Daniel Goleman says that EQ can be more important than IQ in company culture, and the research shows that most employers agree. Of course, it can be easier to seek out EQ in others than to cultivate it in oneself.

No wonder employees aren’t impressed by pizza Tuesdays if their team leader expects EQ from everyone but themselves.

The good news is anyone can become more emotionally intelligent. The key is developing the five components of EQ: Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Let’s take a closer look at each:

5 Components of Emotional Intelligence:


Few workplace examples capture the epitome of a boss’ lack of self-awareness more than Michael Scott from the TV show The Office. Hopefully, you naturally possess more self-awareness than Michael, but it can be difficult not only to recognize your own emotions, but also to be cognizant of how your emotions affect your actions, decisions, and interactions at work.

Self-awareness is also about understanding your strengths and weaknesses both professionally and emotionally. To be self-aware is to grasp how all of this affects your team and to be proactive to lean on your strengths, ask for help when you need it, and self-regulate your emotions to be a reliable leader.

Tips for cultivating self-awareness:

  • Keep a log of your emotions and behaviors to begin to notice correlations between the two.
  • Routinely ask for feedback from both your mentors as well as your team.
  • Reflect on how you conduct yourself in meetings, what you say and how you say it, and consider how your team may perceive your words and demeanor.


A natural follow-up to self-awareness is self-regulation. Emotions are not an enemy to defeat or an annoyance to tame — they are insightful pieces of information that can help you better grasp a situation, decision, or problem. The key to getting the most from our emotions is to regulate them in a healthy way.

Self-regulation at work looks like responding to emotions carefully and acting on them appropriately. It requires you to slow down and first understand why you’re feeling what you’re feeling (self-awareness) and then use your logical mind to utilize the emotion in a productive way. It takes practice, but when you can do this effectively, self-regulation helps you be more thoughtful, flexible, and wise in your leadership.

Tips for cultivating self-regulation:

  • Make a habit of pausing and thinking, ‘I can choose how to respond’ when you are experiencing a strong emotion.
  • Practice stress-management techniques.
  • Work on accepting emotions as they are, either by yourself through mindfulness or with a therapist.


All good leaders need to be able to motivate their team. It turns out motivation is also crucial to one’s own EQ. Motivation can come from internal or external sources, often referred to as intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Both have their place, but intrinsic motivation, or being motivated simply by the desire to learn, explore, and grow, often results in the highest levels of engagement, satisfaction, and joy.

As a workplace leader, you may be often driven by metrics and bottom lines, but when you can combine that extrinsic motivation with motivation from within, you’ll be most able to guide your team to effective outcomes. Genuine motivation to realize your full potential is often contagious and can make a difference in your whole team’s morale.

Tips for cultivating motivation:

  • Cultivate a growth mindset in yourself and your team.
  • Celebrate progress as well as achievements.
  • Offer yourself and your team support more than criticism.


Empathy is the ability to understand where someone else is coming from and interpret someone else’s feelings. It’s not just seeing that someone else is mad, it’s about understanding what led to their emotion and accepting why they feel the way they do. As a boss or manager, it’s important to understand the power dynamics at play within your team, and using empathy is an important component of being a leader with emotional intelligence.

While some are naturally more empathetic than others, empathy is a skill you can cultivate. It requires being an active listener while being genuinely interested in understanding what others are experiencing. Any attempt to smooth over conflict or motivate your team without empathy will always fall flat.

Tips for cultivating empathy:

  • In the midst of a tense situation, pause and consider how your team might be feeling.
  • Reflect on a recent meeting, putting yourself in the shoes of each person present.
  • Lead by example in sharing how you’re feeling, and offer opportunities for team members to do the same.

Social Skills

Emotional Intelligence doesn’t stop inside yourself. EQ requires social competencies to regulate your own emotions while being considerate of others. Putting EQ skills to work in social interactions is the last key component to leading with true emotional intelligence.

EQ social skills at work include being an active listener, an effective communicator, practicing empathy in real-time, and inspiring motivation in your team. These are sure-fire way to build real rapport with your team, far more than a weekly pizza day ever will (although, when offered on top of EQ social skills, the gestures do help!)

Tips for cultivating social skills:

  • Practice active listening.
  • Ask open-ended questions and be interested in your team’s insights.
  • Work on noticing the body language in others while regulating it in yourself.

Your Team Deserves Your Emotional Intelligence

Most job hunters know EQ will be part of the initial evaluation, but finding it in their new boss isn’t necessarily a given. If employers are going to seek out emotional intelligence in their employees, then employees should expect it from their employers in turn.

As a team leader, take the initiative to lead by example in improving your emotional intelligence in yourself as you motivate your team to cultivate it in themselves. Then, when the next office pizza day comes around, your team will actually be able to enjoy it.

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