The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Staff Turnover

July 26, 2021 9:00 am Published by

You already know that emotional intelligence is important in leader/follower relations. What is the importance of emotional intelligence among team members? How does your level of emotional intelligence affect your colleague’s intent to quit? How does your colleagues’ competency in emotional intelligence impact your decision to stay where you are or look for a new team, possibly at a new company?

Keep in mind that emotional intelligence is a skill that enables you to recognize, manage, and influence emotions in yourself and others. As you know, people are emotional creatures. People are also inherently communal. Mix ‘community’ with ‘emotions’ and you have an opportunity for a tragic cacophony or a glorious harmony.

Progress in our species occurs at the speed of cooperation. Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, in their book Primal Leadership, pointed out that the maximally effective leader is one who influences the emotions of the group and acts as a beacon for clarity on how to feel and respond to a threat or ambiguous future. “The leader acts as the group’s emotional guide” (p. 5).

How does this apply to the emotional intelligence of you and your co-workers? Emotional intelligence is a skillset that empowers you to influence the emotions and responses of other people, making it a leadership skill that can be applied without the use of a managerial title or position. If you’re not the “supervisor,” but your team looks to you for knowing how to respond to situations, then you are their leader even if not their boss.

As a result, your level of emotional intelligence (and the application of this powerful ability) has the potential to impact the turnover intention of the entire team.

Harmony, or resonance, among team members is a key factor in that team’s success. Appreciation at Work has already taught you that when people feel appreciated as a member of the team, they will have higher levels of job engagement and improved interpersonal relationships with teammates. These positive effects of feeling valued are powered by the emotional intelligence of the people who implement authentic appreciation in their teams. If, in your adept emotional intelligence, you generate momentum among the team toward positive outcomes (organizational commitment, mission accomplishment), then you will steer the team toward emotional resonance and create a positive emotional environment and experience in the group. The team will have a greater degree of loyalty to each other, engagement in their job duties, and improved performance outcomes. Not only will you all feel valued through the interpersonal connection you share, you will also feel like you’re making an impact with your work by feeling connected on a deeper level with your co-workers.

That emotional connectedness you create will change the mindset of the individuals in the team from “me” to “we.” That is to say, the individual persons in the group will move beyond identifying as an individual contributor in the organization to a necessary component of the team. This change in identity leads to a decrease in turnover intention at the individual level because they now take ownership of their role in the collective and don’t want to dismantle the fine-tuning they were instrumental in creating.

Your brain is hard-wired for social interaction and emotional response. Think about it this way: when you were a little child, every other kid (even if you didn’t know them) was a potential friend. You interacted with other kids on the playground and it didn’t matter to you their age, skin color, gender, or language. You managed social interaction with skill that was never taught to you. Whenever you created harmony with your new friend on the playground, you were emotionally pleased and played for hours without ever needing to make a rational decision. You also weren’t thinking about leaving your new connection. As a matter of fact, when you were told it was time to go and you were forced from that connection, you probably had another emotional response that wasn’t as pleasant as the one you had with your friend.

Turnover in your team is something you can influence. Your level of emotional intelligence is up to you — it is an ability that is within your grasp to learn and develop. You have the opportunity to improve yourself as a worker and also as a leader, even if you don’t have a formal management role. You have the opportunity to improve the connectedness of your team, reduce turnover in your department and organization, and create an environment of success. In essence, the capability to lead and influence others is yours to take hold of, if you choose to.


Dr. Jimmy Turner is a certified Appreciation at Work Facilitator and a Premier Partner. He is the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts: A Provocative Call to Live What You Believe with best-selling author Dr. Dillon Burroughs. A Marine Corps veteran, Dr. Turner continues to serve his community as the Chief Operations Officer of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. He also works with a variety of organizations as the lead consultant for Turner Solutions. Dr. Turner lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife, Shay. For more information please visit

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July 26, 2021 9:00 am


  • Thank you, Jimmy, for naming the group leader as the emotional guide! It is critical that we as leaders remember that how we behave and what we say can lift the weight from group members shoulders or it can send them packing.

  • JB says:

    Great article; can you point us in the direction of resources that will help teach emotional influence?

    • Paul White says:

      Thank you for asking. I recommend Genos International as a good place to find out more about emotional intelligence. Genos’ EQ model focuses on applied emotional intelligence. They offer plenty of articles, blogs, and other resources from their website at no cost that will help anyone learn more about emotional intelligence and how to apply it in their workplace. – Jimmy

  • lilmom3123 says:

    Hello, can you please share resources that will aid in learning about emotional intelligence; this is a new concept to me as a leader.

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