How to Cultivate Emotional Intelligence in High-Stress Work Environments

IQ, stand aside; there’s a new sheriff in town. Emotional intelligence (or EQ or EI) is considered critical not only for interpersonal relationships, but we now view it as an essential and yet-to-be-tapped-into potential for navigating modern-day work environments. Yes, EQ is officially riding the wave, and companies around the globe are beginning to realize the importance of cultivating the frequently overshadowed talent each and every one of us inherently possesses. Not only that, but EQ is also one of the most in-demand skills of 2023 in today’s competitive workplace. And by the looks of it, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, how exactly do we cultivate emotional intelligence in high-stress work environments? And, most importantly, is it necessary? Let’s find the answers.

EQ definition

In the previous decades, intelligence and emotions in human beings were viewed through a juxtaposition lens, or rather two uncorrelated entities. However, today psychologists and researchers are more than keen to explore emotion psychology and in what ways it correlates with cognition. What we do know so far is: emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of one’s emotions, to cognize, understand, control, and express. In short, it’s the ability to handle interpersonal relationships reasonably and empathetically. It helps us overcome a blocked mindset, as well as solve problems and make crucial decisions. Additionally, it helps us communicate without our often hindering go-to defense mechanisms (such as passive aggression).

"Ludo" board game.

Cultivated for success

The old days of glorifying one’s IQ are long gone; the intellectual quotient is no longer considered a reliable indicator of one’s professional capabilities. – And it’s true. Back in the day, if a person had a considerable IQ, employers would greet them open-armed. Why? Because smart people are always in high demand. It meant they were highly desirable and employable. However, the premise has evolved since. The business world has realized that being an A+ worker takes a bit more than one’s impressive IQ. Companies need employees who will find flexibility a natural part of their role. Fast-paced environments crave versatility and adaptability; connect the dots- you have 5 seconds. The workplace is an ever-shifting animal; ride or die. Win or lose. Are you limber? – You better be.

Research shows that emotional intelligence directly impacts how employees interact with their coworkers, how they cope with stress, and, most importantly, how they manage conflict in the workplace. Additionally, it also affects their overall performance, as well as job satisfaction levels. The higher your EQ, the more likely you will enjoy your professional growth, no matter how hectic and stress-packed the journey. It is safe to say our EQ plays a more critical role in our professional success than traditional intelligence.

4 men at a business meeting depict how important it is to cultivate emotional intelligence in high-stress work environments.

How to cultivate EQ

Is it even possible? – Absolutely. Of course, to some, EQ comes naturally; they were simply born with it. (personality traits and upbringing play a crucial role in one’s EQ development) All the same, for the rest of us, it’s far from “game over”. Improving our emotional intelligence is possible with a bit of practice.

Yes to self-awareness

So, how do we cultivate emotional intelligence in high-stress work environments? We take a step inward when the pressure hits. Developing emotional skills is important, as they can help us recognize our own emotions and their impact on our workplace and vice versa. Self-awareness is about cognizing multiple aspects of self, especially our feelings, and emotions. The multi-angle approach. It is considered one of the pillars of emotional intelligence. Moving experts from Apollo Moving share: “A good percentage of our clients are young professionals working in high-stress environments; newer generations seem to know how to handle pressure.” – Well, the self-aware bunch, at least! Practice by:

  • Emotional weaknesses and strengths – evaluation: How’s your communication? Are you assertive? Or passive-aggressive when you hit a dialogue wall? Impatient? Irritable? Frustrated? Anxious? Address your weaknesses.
  • Keep track of feelings: Do they influence your professional decisions and etiquette? How susceptible are you to your emotions? Do you make rash decisions? Are you unpleasant when under pressure and stress? Ask the questions and reflect. Become aware of your feelings.


Those who practice self-regulation are aware of their reactions and can hit pause when they feel a reflex response coming to ruin the day; learning how to regulate our emotions is crucial for cultivating emotional intelligence. People who adopt “the switch” technique (ON – OFF emotions) can manage conflicts assertively, de-escalate workplace tension, and, more than anything, are flexible and adaptable to abrupt changes. Challenges and high-stress situations can be handled with ease when we master self-regulation.

A woman on a laptop smiling.

Improving social skills

Individuals with high EQ naturally enjoy excellent social skills. To thrive in a high-stress work environment, we should:

  • Practice empathy: active listening should go both ways. If we learn how to “walk in someone else’s shoes”, there will be much less room for epilogue-less conflict. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can be a game-changer. Offer support.
  • Work on our motivation: optimism can be learned. We can reignite the passion that initially brought us there if we focus on what we love about our job (no matter how nerve-racking and erratic our schedule). Enthusiasm is contagious. Let’s practice.
  • Avoid workplace drama: people-pleasing personality types often get involved in office drama. (and involuntarily so) Being compliant can prove to be our hidden career killer. Learning to steer away from the boiling gossip lava and saying “No, I’m not going to take part in this” is a sign of high EQ. Pick your battles wisely.


Final words

If we want to cultivate emotional intelligence in high-stress work environments, it’s best to remember: The things that rattle us are only temporary; it is our responsibility to remind ourselves of transience. Is it really worth our blood, sweat, and tears? It will pass. That’s how emotionally intelligent people reason. If you want to learn more about maximizing your career potential, visit, the free go-to source for career exploration of the web.