Anthoula Dimaki

PHD Cantidate, University of West Attica, Athens, Greece




    In this day and age, emotional intelligence plays an important role in the workplace. Research has shown that high levels of emotional intelligence among the human resources of a company enable it to gain a competitive advantage. Emotionally intelligent people promote the organizational success of a business. A very important social skill is empathy and it has been found that it has a special weight in the workplace as it helps a person in his professional life. This article is a bibliographic review regarding the emotional intelligence of the individual and specifically about the special importance it has in the workplace. In addition, reference is made to the distinct social ability of empathy and how it is related to people and their workplace.

Key words: emotional intelligence, empathy, workplace, business



     The issue of the human brain and the structure of the mental capabilities, constitutes over time a subject for science and research work. Until recently, the concept of intelligence was considered as an innate human ability that could be measured following an established certification process for expected school performance, unrelated to an individual's experiences or age (Vaiou, 2010).

      In Aristotle's work "Nicomachean Ethics" appears a first connection between intelligence and emotional life, which indicates that the important ancient philosopher had shown interest in this aspect of human existence. Darwin, many centuries later and specifically in 1872, in his work "The expression of emotions in humans and animals" highlighted the important role that emotions play in the survival and adaptation of humans and animals. The well-known Intelligence Index (IQ) was established as IQ ( Intelligence Quotient ) for many years and was the reference point for the development of the individual at professional, personal and interpersonal level. In 1880 the first attempts to measure the IQ began and in 1905 the first attempt was made which was successful by Binet and Simon.  Binet and Simon correlated intelligence with the ability of learning in school by creating an intelligence measurement tests. Then other researchers invented scales to measure intelligence and the perception prevailed that high levels of intelligence are associated with human success (Vaxevanidou and Rekleitis , 2019).  



     E.L.Thorndike who is a Professor of University at Columbia USA, in 1920, was the first to try to introduce the dimension of another intelligence displayed by people with social skills and named "social intelligence". Thorndike appointed social intelligence as a human ability that can have understanding of the internal situation, what is the behavior and what incentives have. He also defined that social intelligence is the human ability to manage other people and social interactions as well as to be able to exercise proper social judgment in any case (Landy, 2005).

   The American psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983 in his book which is entitled «Frames of Mind : The Theory of Multiple Intelligences» formulated                the theory of Multiple Intelligence as  an effort to expand this narrow sense of intelligence examining it under a different aspect (Vaiou, 2010 ).  Gardner's theory examines the possibilities of the human mind, identifying intelligence as "a predisposition, possibly neurological in nature, which, depending on the values ​​of a particular society, the opportunities provided and the individual choices, the individual's social or family environment may activate or not ” ( Gardner, 1999: 34) In this book, Gardner did not accept the IQ theory and the one-dimensional intelligence model. He developed the theory of multiple intelligences and his model included nine types of intelligence (Vaxevanidou and Rekleitis, 2019):

  •  Nature-loving (understanding of nature and living organisms)      
  •  Musician (distinction of sounds, pitch, rhythm and sound color)      
  •  Logic - Mathematician ( quantification of things, formulation and proof of hypotheses)      
  •  Existential (dealing with questions about life and death)      
  •  Interpersonal (senses the feelings and motivations of others)      
  •  Physical - Kinesthetic (body-mind coordination)      
  •  Linguistic (finds the right words to express himself)      
  •  Self- aware (understands himself, his feelings and desires)      
  •  Spatial (envisions the world in all its dimensions)      

     In 1973, McClelland 's work "Measuring Ability Instead of Intelligence" sparked a great deal of interest in emotional intelligence. The main hypothesis of the study of McClelland, was the link between school performance with a successful daily life and the response of people to work. McClelland with surveys showed that some people are more successful than those, who had a sufficient performance to keep working them. The most successful people possessed                              a group of special skills, one or more, such as empathy, initiative and                                                                            self-discipline. In 1988, Reuven Bar-On mentioned the condition "Sentimentality Index » ( Emotional Quotient , EQ ) and made a first attempt to measure emotional intelligence . Reuven Bar-On   in the final model identified five dimensions of emotional intelligence: a)   interpersonal skills , b)  intrapersonal skills  c) general mood  d) adaptability  and  stress management  ( Vaxevanidou and Rekleitis,2019) . In 1990 Peter Salovey and John Mayer,  psychologists of University of  Yale, created the first comprehensive theory of  emotional intelligence and also introduced the concept of "emotional intelligence". The term typically determines the  ability of the individual to process information resulting from the emotions and the advantage so as to guide thought and action ( Salovey and Mayer , 1990) .   

  Daniel Goleman a student of McClelland at Harvard University was inspired by his professor,   continued his research and proved that success in human life is not one-dimensional and identical to a high IQ, but basically to another human ability, the "Emotional Intelligence ". The "Emotional Intelligence» (Emotional Intelligence) is a new form of intelligence which was the subject of study for researchers and appears in the field of psychology and Management.  Daniel Goleman was the one who in his book "Emotional Intelligence - Why EQ is more important than IQ » (1998) introduced this new concept widely.  Goleman supports that emotional intelligence is a person's ability to recognize and understand their own feelings and the other, the ability to manage emotions in an efficient manner and interpersonal relationships (Vaxevanidou and Rekliti, 2019). 



     Nowadays, emotional intelligence plays an important role in the workplace. It has been found out  in researches that the high level of emotional intelligence of human resources of a company can be the leader in gaining competitive advantage and officials of being more receptive to change ( Papoutsi et al., 2019 ) . Researchers recognize that emotionally intelligent people are an important factor in the organizational success of a business. The magazine « Business Perspective and Research » recognizing the importance of emotional intelligence in a workplace published an issue dedicated to this special ability (Caruso et al., 2016).

    In the case of the leaders, emotional intelligence is a positive feature that helps them strengthen the teamwork and more effectively understand the emotional climate that                                                      exists in business (Vaxevanidou and Rekleitis, 2019). When the person has                                                                                       emotional intelligence actually affects those who are around him without exerting power or   manipulating them (Ryback, 1998). But the fact that someone holds a high level of emotional intelligence does not imply that it has these emotional skills which have a significant role in the working environment. An employee may have a high level of empathy but have not learned those skills which are based on empathy and lead in providing for example a higher level of service to a customer. Emotional abilities form groups that are each based on "a common basic dimension of emotional intelligence " (Goleman, 2011: 52).  Goleman (1998) identified a system of emotional skills in which there are two main dimensions of emotional intelligence:

1)  It is the internal processes of the individual on a personal level which determine how he manages issues of himself. Specifically, the personal level consists of two emotional abilities:

      a) Self - Management which includes initiatives, success motivation, self-control, the reliability, the conscientiousness.

      b) Self-awareness which includes emotional awareness (acceptance of emotions and effects) and accurate self-assessment (acceptance of possibilities and limits)

2) It is the social processes that determine whether a person can successfully manage their relationships with other people and includes two emotional abilities:

      a)  Social Awareness

  • social awareness which includes: the empathy, a person's ability to be "tucked in place of another")      
  • customer's satisfaction, orientation in service delivery      
  • the organizational awareness which includes the perception of the individual feelings of a group and its positions of strength that exist in this      

 β) Relationship Management  where in this case includes communication, influence and conflict management ( Polychroniou , 2005).               

     The main dimensions of emotional intelligence play a crucial role in the person to be able to learn those skills that are important to have a successful career in the workplace. If, for example, someone has a lack of self-awareness then they will not be able to realize what their strengths are and until they reach their limits. The following Table shows the relationship between the five dimensions of emotional intelligence and the twenty-five emotional abilities. No human being is the ultimate role model, all human beings have their strengths and weaknesses. However, as shown in the Table, in order to achieve a good performance, the individual needs to excel in some of these abilities, in about six, while on the other hand, the individual's strengths should be distributed in all five dimensions of emotional intelligence. So what we can conclude is that there are many ways in which the individual can be led to success and excellence (Goleman, 2011).


TABLE: The Model of Emotional Abilities

 Personal Ability

The following skills determine how well a person handles himself.



The ability of the individual to know the internal state, preferences, the personal stocks and have contact with intuition.                                             

1. Awareness of emotions

2.Accurate self-assessment

3. Confidence



The ability of the individual to be able to manage his inner state, his impulses and his personal reserves

1. Self-control

2. Reliability

3. Conscientiousness

4. Adaptability

5. Innovation

Behavioral motivations

The emotional tendencies of the individual that lead to the achievement   of goals or facilitate it

1.Trend to be achieved

2. Commitment

3. Initiative

4. Optimism


Social Ability

The following skills determine how well we handle relationships


The ability of the individual to have awareness of  emotions, needs and concerns                of the other                                                      

1.Understanding others

2.Orientation in the provision of services

3.Enhancing the development of others

4. Correct handling of diversity

5. Political perception

Social skills

The ability of the individual to provoke in others the reactions he wants

1. Influence


3. Leadership

4.Catalytic action regarding change

5.Handling disagreements

6. Cultivation of bonds

7. Partnership of cooperation

8. Team skills


Source: Goleman, 2011:53-54


    Below we can see the dimensions of emotional intelligence:    

IndependentEach offers a different way of doing work:

Interdependent: Each of them affects some others to some extent, as there are many powerful interactions.                                                       

Hierarchical: The categories of emotional intelligence are "structured" hierarchically.                                                                                                            

 Necessary, but not capable: The fact that a person has a basic ability of emotional intelligence, it is not necessary that he will be able to develop or demonstrate the corresponding skills, such as cooperation and cultivation of bonds. One factor that can contribute to develop an emotional intelligence capacity is the climate in a business or the personal interest in the job assigned to the employee.                                                                                                             

 General Type: The general list covers all tasks, to some extent. However, specific skills are required in various positions (Goleman, 2011).

         Can the people who have the same abilities distinguish in different professional fields? Also, as an employee who rises in the hierarchy, he should have different skills (Goleman, 2011). According to Buranda (2005), the skills that a person who wants to lead should have can be divided into two main categories. The first category is called "role skills" and this includes the individual's ability to follow specific leadership roles that make up leadership behavior. The second category of leadership skills is called "post- skills ". When Bourandas is referring to "post -skill " determines the ability of that which is main the feature more skill or ability that which forms the basis to develop other skills. For a person to be able to gain a leading role in an organization should have a set of necessary post-skills where according to the bibliography  are considered fundamental 1) systematic thinking 2) the ability of creative decision-making and solving problems 3) ability of communication 4) emotional intelligence 5)  self-aware 6) self -regulation 7) the empathy . He supports that emotional intelligence is a fundamental skill for a leader who inspires and leads substantially in order to convince people to follow him willingly. (Bourandas, 2005).

   Empathy is an important skill for emotional intelligence and for the workplace and much more for the person who has a leading role within an organization. The empathy is the ability when "someone comes to the position of the other" in order to better understand the feelings, the concerns, the needs and the values so as to react or behave in the right way (Bourandas, 2005: 262). Below is a further analysis of this particular ability in order to highlight its important role in the workplace.



     The roots of the term "empathy" are found in the Greek word "empathy" which consists of the synthetic "em" and " passion" which mean respectively "em" and "feeling". In the late 20 th century took the term empathy from evolutionary and social disciplines of psychology that study have been scientifically described in English «empathy» emotional coordination among individuals. Note that you should not confuse the concepts that are related to empathy such as sympathy (compassion) and the support (Roussinou and Kouvaraki, 2017).  Thwaites and Bennett-Levy (2007) note that empathy and the support have a distinct difference. While in empathy the key issue is the understanding of experience of the other person while in the support the key issue is the approach of the individual in such a way as to relieve his pain (Roussinou and Kouvaraki, 2017).  

        Goleman identifies empathy as "social radar" (2011: 200). In fact, people do not communicate verbally what they feel and experience, but they reveal their thoughts and feelings with their gestures, the tone of their voice, their facial expressions and their posture. A person's ability to perceive this kind of non-verbal communication presupposes that the person possesses some basic skills of self-awareness and self-control. A person should be able to manage his own emotions and not allow himself to be overwhelmed so that he can perceive the moods of other people. Self-awareness is important for empathy, to be able to "decode" the instinctive messages that evoke feelings in one's body. The person with empathy has the ability to "read" other people's emotional world and at a higher level is able to feel and react to other people's non-verbal communication of feelings and concerns. When a person has empathy at very high levels it means that he realizes any problems or worries that may lurk behind the other person's feelings (Goleman , 2011).

      Man receives the initial lessons of empathy from infancy, when he develops his relationship with his mother and father. It is these fundamental relationships that determine a person's subsequent course and social behavior such as whether he or she works easily with other people and how desirable he or she is in a group. However, not all people possess the ability of social awareness to the same degree and this happens and appears in the workplace (Goleman, 2011).  Goleman (2011:203) expresses the view that "empathy   represents the fundamental skill for all social skills that are important for work" (Goleman, 2011). 

        Some social skills that promote individual in a work space are: a) understanding of others.  The person with this ability gives attention, feel the feelings of others and showing interest in their concerns. Helping others by understanding their needs and feelings b) development of others. The ability of the individual to perceive the need for development of others and to encourage the development of their abilities c) The correct management of diversity. The creation of opportunities through different personalities of people d) the political perception. The ability of an individual to perceive the social and political trends that exist in a company e) the orientation to provide services. The ability of the individual to anticipate, recognize the needs of customers and respond to them (Goleman , 2011) .  Azar (1997) supported that empathy is composed of two parts: a) the reasoning part with which the person understands what someone else feels b) the emotional part that refers to the sensation given to the person about what someone feels.  



         Today empathy is considered one of the key elements of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1999). The empathy is particularly important in the workplace as emotional guides the person and help to cope with the difficulties. But empathy has important role in the work of the individual not only for the survival of and for the good performance of, when the workpiece being undertaken related to people (Goleman, 2011). Employees seek applause in their workplace and an environment of empathy (Edginton et al., 1994).  

    Important element of empathy is the right hearing which is of particular importance for the workplace. People who do not have the ability to listen to others or just seem indifferent do not inspire others to communicate with them. While, unlike workers seemed interested to listen to others and especially managers who implement regular communication of the "open door" with the attitude that they show are better listeners. An indication that one person "really" listened to the other is the way he reacts which is the most ideal (Goleman, 2011 ).   

     However, it is not enough to have empathy, but one should also show interest. There are some individuals who seem not to have to empathy nevertheless in reality these individuals wish to keep a distance and not to be involved emotionally and not to enter the procedure to help (Laura Shaw et al., 1994). It should be noted that in the field of business, managers do not have a successful course when they emphasize the fact of maintaining good relations with others and make sure that employees are emotionally satisfied by burdening the company (Boyatzis, 1982). So, the control of empathy may become a tactic that followed when the purpose is the sharing of not enough resources of an organization (Daniel et. al., 1995)                     

     Goleman (2011) states that there is a scientific basis for the view that the female sex dominates inherently more attuned to the feelings of other people in relation to men, emphasizing that this is not always the case. But as he states that there are two important exceptions where there is no difference between the two sexes and play an important role in the workplace. In the first exception there are cases where people try to hide their true feelings and the second exception belongs to the case when the person is trying to understand the thoughts that do not express another person in an interaction.

       In a test conducted on 7,000 people in the USA and even 18 other countries investigated empathetic behaviors and proposed by the researchers that the person has the capacity to understand the feelings of other people better adjusted emotionally comfortable expresses his own feelings and are more populars. They also support the fact that many times the existence of empathy in the work environment makes it less stressful and more human (Barlow & Maul, 2000; Edginton et al., 1994).


3. CONCLUSIONS              

    The emotional intelligence is an important dimension of the human condition as when the person has it and even at a high level then it is an important advantage for personal and by extension in his professional life. However, having a high level of intelligence does not mean that one has the emotional skills that play an important role in the work environment. A special social and communication skills which can lead a person to success and the excellence through the working  area  is empathy. However, in order to be able to understand non-verbal communication, a person must have the skills of self-control and self-knowledge. The empathy is the basis for all social skills and is an important parameter for the human resources of an enterprise. In particular, for people who hold a leading position in an organization, empathy is a necessary skill. However, if an organization has limited resources then a rational allocation of them should be done by controlling empathy.    




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