We are human; we must recognize that we can be emotional. There is no script; we are not robots. The things we understand with one person and set of circumstances are not much to hang our hat on in the next event. I was recently in a group chat with Tom Cagley and others on the resilience of our team members.

Why is Emotional Intelligence (EI) important for project managers?

Life is rife with opportunities that test our strength, ability to bounce back, and resilience.

Recognition of the impact on our team members is one part; the other part is that our team members may not have the same level of resilience. Some people face adversity and keep going, seemingly without adverse impact on them. We wonder if this resilience variation has some correlation with age or generation. Life is full of challenges, not just the work life. Still, life is full of difficulty and disappointment, and the individual with increased resilience will be well suited for life, business, or work.

If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.  
~Marcus Aurelius

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to recognizing, understanding, and managing one's emotions and handling intrapersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. EI is a valuable skill for project managers that must find ways to keep individual and team morale. In addition, many business leaders consider EI a critical key to personal and professional success. In project management, having a high level of EI can lead to several benefits, including: 

  1. Better team management: By understanding the emotional state of team members, a project manager can better motivate and manage the team. Understanding leads to actions to help the team overcome the difficulty. 
  2. Improved communication: EI allows a project manager to communicate effectively with team members and stakeholders, helping to resolve conflicts and build strong working relationships. During times of team stress, conversations can become impaired. From experience, it is difficult to focus on the things at hand when irritated. 
  3. Emotional intelligence allows you to understand and help others manage their emotions. This means you can communicate effectively with your team members, build trust, and motivate them to achieve the project goals. Understanding the emotions of our team members is not to suppress but to know what we need to do to work through the feelings – effectively and responsibly. When you have to deliver an unwelcome message to the team, the worst thing you can do is bring the language of opportunity. We can work through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, for example. Loss of credibility – right there and immediately. 
  4. Emotional intelligence helps create a positive work environment by fostering open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect among team members. We can head off these problems before manifestation. 
  5. Increased empathy: EI allows project managers to be more empathetic, leading to a better understanding of team members' perspectives and a more supportive work environment. 

Don't hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace. EpictetusDon't hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace. 

A project manager with emotional intelligence demonstrates the ability to control their own emotions. EI means one can stay calm and collected even in the face of difficulty. Calm is essential for making clear-headed decisions and keeping a level head when dealing with difficult team members or clients. Therefore, it is in all the team members' best interests to have a measure of self-control or control over their emotions. 
As a group manager (and a project manager), I understood that we are all at various stages of controlling our feelings effectively. I had no problems with my team members expressing themselves with a measure of emotion.

So long as they did not name-call, they could express themselves. Sometimes it is impossible to control; the best solution is to create a space allowing the team to spout off. One way to do this is to model the acceptable behavior to demonstrate discontent. It is unrealistic to suggest that people, emotional beings, never show emotions.

Additionally, suppressing these bad feelings is perhaps not the quickest way through the problem. It can be challenging to focus on the situation when we hide our instinct to rant or rave. 
Better stress management: Project managers with high EI can better manage their stress, leading to improved decision-making and overall project success. 

An example of emotional control is maintaining your emotions when sharing lousy news with your team. I do not think the use of the word "opportunity" when things get complicated. For example, it's not an opportunity to work over 40 hours a week during the holiday season because of a decision well outside the team's control. This language is not helpful and does not add to the credibility of the person using that language.

Sometimes during these events, I would be the first to model a response with an emotional component. In my opinion and experience, going directly to suppression is not the best approach. Suppressing these emotions will not be helpful; letting the team members know it is okay to demonstrate feelings is good. Then, we have the natural response, quickly get past the emotional part, and move on to the actions required to address the problems.

Sometimes this strategy will not work due to the brief time needed for the response. This permission is part of creating a psychologically safe environment.

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is essential in EI and managing emotions, not just at work. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to express their feelings openly and honestly without fear of negative consequences. This includes sharing their frustration, disappointment, and anger without worrying about being judged or dismissed. 
In contrast, when team members do not feel psychologically safe, they may suppress or keep their emotions hidden, leading to adverse outcomes such as reduced trust, decreased motivation, and increased stress levels.
Psychological safety also enables team members to support one another during emotional distress or difficulty. This environment could include offering empathy, encouragement, or simply a listening ear. When team members feel safe expressing their emotions, they are more likely to seek and receive support from their colleagues, leading to a more positive and supportive work environment.
Enhanced decision-making: Project managers with high EI can better understand the emotions behind a situation, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving. 
To develop better emotional intelligence in project management, one can engage in activities such as: 

  1. Mindfulness practices: This can help improve self-awareness and better manage emotions. 
  2. Empathy exercises: Engaging in activities that help build empathy can help improve emotional intelligence. 
  3. Emotional intelligence assessments: Taking assessments such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) can help project managers understand their emotional intelligence and improvement areas. 
  4. Active listening: Improving active listening skills can help project managers better understand the emotions of team members and stakeholders. 
  5. Professional development: Taking courses or workshops in emotional intelligence can help project managers improve their skills and better understand how to apply EI in the workplace. 

EI in The Service of Project Management.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential skill for project managers as it helps them better understand and manage their emotions and those of their team members and stakeholders. By leveraging emotional intelligence in the service of project management, project managers can improve their ability to lead, communicate, and collaborate with others, which can ultimately lead to more successful project outcomes. 
Here are some ways in which EI can be used in the service of project management: 

  1. Self-awareness: Project managers with a high level of self-awareness are better equipped to identify their strengths and weaknesses, manage their emotions, and respond effectively to stress and pressure. This can help them to stay focused and resilient in the face of challenges and to maintain a positive attitude and mindset. 
  2. Empathy: Project managers who empathize with their team members and stakeholders better understand their needs, motivations, and concerns.  
  3. Communication: Effective communication is essential for project success, and emotional intelligence can help project managers to communicate more effectively with their team members and stakeholders. Project managers can create a more positive and productive communication environment by using active listening skills, speaking clearly and respectfully, and being mindful of nonverbal cues. 
  4. Conflict resolution: Conflict is inevitable in any project, but emotional intelligence can help project managers to manage conflict more effectively. By understanding those involved's underlying emotions and motivations, project managers can use empathy and communication skills to defuse tensions, build consensus, and find mutually beneficial solutions. 
  5. Leadership: Emotional intelligence is an essential trait for effective leadership, as it helps project managers to inspire and motivate their team members, build trust and credibility, and create a positive and productive work culture. By leading with emotional intelligence, project managers can create a more engaged and committed team, leading to better project outcomes.


Some folks refer to these skills as soft skills, not based on logic or calculation. When I was getting my undergraduate engineering degree, my roommate once said I had plenty of patience for technical things but less for people. I was young.

I told them it was on me if I did not understand these technical things; understanding people is not calculatable, few physical laws apply, and any that do apply sometimes but not others. Projects will forever require people and talent, and it is incumbent upon the project manager to understand people. Unmotivated or worn down people are not the sort of team we wish to have.