7 ways emotionally intelligent people handle workplace pressure

Stress is inevitable, but these abilities can set you apart when it comes to dealing with interpersonal conflict.

7 ways emotionally intelligent people handle workplace pressure
[Photo: Flickr user Cory Denton]

As the pace of change and automation in our workplaces continue to increase, it’s inevitable that the pressures and stressors will continue to rise as well. Most people feel this happening all around them. According to a new Korn Ferry Institute survey, nearly two-thirds of professionals say their stress levels at work are higher than they were five years ago


The main culprits at work were found to be changes in technology, workloads, and interpersonal conflict. While some of the stressors such as the rate of technological change may not improve, areas such as interpersonal conflict can be managed more effectively. 

People who are high in emotional intelligence are better able to manage their emotions and the emotions of those around them, giving them tools that allow them to more effectively manage pressure at work. Here are seven ways that emotionally intelligent people are better equipped to handle workplace pressure: 

1. They’re aware of their own emotions and stress levels

Being highly self-aware, emotionally intelligent people don’t let their stress levels get to the point where they feel out of control. They have a variety of tools at their disposal for dealing with the stress when it starts to build up, such as taking a break or talking to trusted colleagues.

2. They find trustworthy people to talk to

Whether at work or in their personal life, emotionally intelligent people have developed relationships with people they can trust. They reach out to these people and are able to benefit from their support and understanding when the pressure starts to build. Also, they’re not hesitant to reach out for professional help before a situation reaches a crisis level.

3. They take time to respond, rather than reacting

We feel before we think. When our emotions overwhelm us, we are in danger of reacting from our emotions. Author Daniel Goleman refers to this as an “amygdala hijack.” When we have an immediate, outsized response to something, this is because it takes about six seconds for messages to reach our frontal neocortex, or thinking brain, from our amygdala, or emotional brain. Road rage is a prime example of this.


If we don’t immediately react, our thinking process can kick in, and we will make more reasoned, better decisions. Emotionally intelligent people are tuned in to their emotional level and know when they need to take a break before getting back to the matter at hand once they have been able to process with their thinking brain.  

4. They’re able to set boundaries and stay calm in volatile situations

Instead of reacting to anger with anger, emotionally intelligent people know that this will only exacerbate the circumstances. By staying calm, listening, and staying positive, they are able to diffuse tense situations and keep them from escalating.

Instead of reacting with anger when they feel attacked, they are able to politely but firmly set their boundaries. Their ability to remove their egos from the equation allows for more clarity about the situation.  

5. They’re aware of what triggers them

We are all triggered at times. These are the times when someone says or does something that brings up strong emotions for us. The emotions arise because the situation brings up something from our past that we may not even be aware of. Because emotionally intelligent people are aware of their emotions and can trace them back to past events, they are less likely to be caught off guard. They have strategies ready to use whenever they find themselves triggered. 

6. They’re able to identify their emotions

The act of naming an emotion takes some of the power out of the feeling. Emotionally intelligent people are able to identify a wide range of emotions, thereby decreasing the likelihood of a potentially damaging outburst. 


7. They show their authenticity and vulnerability when appropriate

Emotionally intelligent people have a good sense of what to share, to what extent, and when sharing is appropriate. This allows people to get to know them and see their human side. Not having to be “on” at all times, and be all things to all people, relieves a great deal of pressure. This gives them some leeway and breathing space when things do not work out as planned, when schedules aren’t met, or when an unexpected crisis occurs.

About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to