Emotional Intelligence is at the Heart of Diversity and Inclusion

Rahul is a manager working for multi-national corporate out of Bangalore. Three years ago, his company joined the popular conversation around ‘Diversity and Inclusion’. His new team was no longer homogenous and now presented with generational, gender, cultural, language and religious differences. As well as this, there were many more less visible differences beneath the surface. Rahul realized that many of his well-intentioned communications were being misunderstood and this was causing tension. He soon had to negotiate and manage all these differences to gain his people’s co-operation, and to ensure his they would come together to be a star performing team. How did he achieve it? He had to become a ‘Cultural Chameleon’, using his experience as a highly emotionally intelligent individual. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was the key that helped Rahul to move from fearing differences, to embracing the diversity of this wonderful team.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Since Daniel Goleman published his best-selling book ‘Emotional Intelligence’, EQ has been accepted as the best predictor for success in building high performing individuals and teams. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand and influence one’s own emotions and the emotions of others.

Emotional Intelligence begins with an individual’s understanding their own emotions in various situations (Self- Awareness), then using this awareness to regulate those emotions to produce healthy responses (Self-Management). Emotions are at the center of every situation whether it is good or bad. Emotional Self Awareness also equips you to be better tuned in to the emotions of others (Social-Awareness) and then this helps us to respond effectively, reducing conflict and stress (Relationship-Management).

Stress or conflict triggers the primitive ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response and leaves us with ‘tunnel vision’. This was a good adaptive mechanism for ancient cave dwelling humans, but this is disastrous for today’s managers in multicultural workplaces. It is up to the managers to bring comfort levels to teams with diversity. A harmonious and productive workplace can be achieved with the influence of an emotionally intelligent leader. Why? Because Emotional Intelligence is also about displaying healthy emotional responses at the right time with each individual.

How does EI enhance Diversity and Inclusion in workplaces?

1. Developing Empathy:

Empathetic individuals are able to put themselves in the shoes of others and understand what they are going through. Moreover, they are willing help others to improve the situation. Empathy is at the core of successful leadership in diverse groups. This is a crucial skill in dealing with differences and helps in building stronger relationships.

2. Reducing Unconscious Bias:

The benefit of unconscious bias is that it can help us to make quick decisions however the downside is that it happens unconsciously and can bring negative into complex social situations. Knowledge of unconscious bias alone is not enough to reduce workplace bias. Emotional intelligence can mitigate the impact of these unconscious bias by improving self-awareness, assertiveness, adaptability and impulse control.

3. Creating An Inclusive Culture:

As the popular saying goes ‘Diversity is a reality, but Inclusion is a choice’. Emotional Intelligence provides relationship management skills to make an inclusive culture a reality. Research has proven that Emotional Intelligence is a predictor for multicultural competence. People displaying ‘Emotional Common-sense’ is critical to develop inclusive teams.

4. Improving Mindfulness:

A diverse workforce can create positive or negative social situations. Emotions are organized responses to internal or external events. It can result in negative or positive meanings for the individuals. Understanding your inner landscape is vital to determining your response to various social situations. Mindfulness is a regular practice of emotionally intelligent individual.

5. Improving Constructive Thinking:

Constructive thinking is particularly important for corporate leaders. It helps them to create win-win solutions, to generate creative ideas, to settle disagreements, to influence cooperation and to build trust. Emotionally Intelligent people have higher self-awareness and impulse control that helps them to apply knowledge to immediate situations.


The foundational ingredient in the recipe for Diversity and Inclusion in any workplace is emotionally intelligent leaders and teams. At People Builders, we are specialists in helping you to develop Social and Emotional Intelligence in your individuals and teams. Contact us today to see how we can best partner with you so that true inclusiveness becomes a reality for you and your organisation.

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