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Using Emotional Intelligence to Build and Strengthen Relationships -
Enabling Human Resource Professionals to Accomplish their Goals

By: Gina Abudi, MBA
President, Abudi Consulting Group, LLC


Check out great programs by Gina and other NEHRA Partners on our Partner Program Page



Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions to discriminate between different feelings and labeling them appropriately; and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.[1] When we have strong emotional intelligence, we are better able to build and strengthen relationships with others, thereby enabling us to accomplish not only our own goals but the goals of the organization.


EQ vs. IQ

Cognitive intelligence (IQ) is fixed at birth. It is not flexible and cannot really be changed. It is our ability to learn. Emotional intelligence (EQ), however, is flexible and can be changed. We all have the ability to improve our emotional intelligence. High IQ does not equate to high EQ. However, within an organization, EQ has a greater impact on our success than does IQ.


Having a full understanding of our own emotions, as well as the emotions of those around us, enables us to be more successful in achieving our career and our personal goals. As HR Professionals, it also enables us to guide others to help them achieve their professional goals.


Consider this story,

Jeremy is a human resources manager. His co-workers note that he does an excellent job acknowledging people’s feelings when difficult news needs to be communicated. He has been able to diffuse difficult and tense situations quickly because of his abilities to read others. Jeremy seems to be able to reflect how others are feeling and adapts his communication style to help them keep calm and remain composed. Jeremy has spent significant time getting to know others in the organization and has built strong relationships across the organization. He is a very outgoing person and seems to be able to identify with everyone. Jeremy is a great listener and many employees stop by his office just to get his thoughts on any number of matters. Ask any of his co-workers and they will tell you that Jeremy is inspiring! But don’t ask his manager. Jeremy’s manager feels differently. She sees Jeremy as spending way too much time focusing on others’ feelings and not enough time managing in his role.


Jeremy has a problem. While he has strong relationships across the organization, he is missing one key relationship – that with his manager. As strong as Jeremy’s emotional intelligence skills appear to be based on his interactions with his co-workers, he hasn’t been able to read his manager effectively and adapt to her needs. This will hinder Jeremy’s ability to be successful in the organization. While Jeremy’s EQ social-awareness is strong when it comes to employees; it does not appear to be as strong when it comes to his boss.


In this white paper, we’ll share a number of best practices to increase EQ with a focus on building strong, productive and mutually-beneficial working relationships throughout the organization.


Four Key Skills of Emotional Intelligence


Exhibit 1: Four Skills that Comprise Emotional Intelligence[2]


Personal competence is focused on an individual’s ability to stay aware of his/her own emotions and manage his/her behavior and reactions. It is about the individual.


Social competence is focused on an individual’s ability to understand other people’s moods, behaviors and motives in order to have a strong, productive and mutually beneficial relationship with them. It is about others.

While this paper will focus on building and strengthening relationships, before that can be achieved, it is essential to develop skills in the first three key competencies. Self-Awareness, Self-Management and Social Awareness. Let’s touch briefly on each of these core key skills of EQ before we focus on how to build relationships using EQ.

Table 1 provides a brief description of each skill as well as a few tips on how to develop that skill.



Key Skill

Brief Description

How to Develop (Just a few ideas)


The ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in a particular moment and understand how you will act across certain situations.

  • Don’t label feelings as “positive” or “negative” – simply recognize them generally as feelings
  • Recognize what happens when you have an emotional outburst


The ability to use your awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and ensure your behavior is positive and manage your emotions in certain situations.

  • Don’t allow emotions to make your decisions
  • Count to 10 and take a deep breath – don’t react

Social Awareness

The ability to accurately read the emotions of others and understand what is going on with them at a particular point.

  • Learn to actively listen
  • Watch other’s body language

Relationship Management

The ability to use your awareness of your own emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions with others successfully

  • Be genuinely interested in others
  •  Know your communication style and how to adapt it to communicate more effectively with others


The balance of this paper will focus on the value of building relationships and how to do so with a focus on emotional intelligence.


The Value of Building Relationships for HR Professionals

Strong relationships are essential in order to accomplish goals. As a Human Resource Professional (HR Pro) it is necessary to engage all levels of employees in the organization in achieving the goals of the organization. We can only effectively engage those individuals with whom we have built strong relationships and with whom we have earned trust.

  • The stronger the connection with others within the organization, the more likely HR Pros:
  • Get their point across
  • Accomplish their own goals
  • Accomplish the goals of the organization
  • Help employees to accomplish goals
  • Drive the organization in a positive direction
  • Recruit and retain top talent

HR Pros with strong relationship management EQ:


  • Cultivate and maintain strong informal and formal networks
  • Actively build rapport with others at all levels
  • Take time to establish, nurture and maintain strong working relationships


  • Improve retention of the workforce
  • Collaborate and share information and encourage others to do so
  • Promote and encourage teamwork
  • Model respect for others within the organization
  • More effectively engage others


Consider this story,

When Abigail took the job as Director of HR at All Company Training, she knew that HR was having a difficult time working with the senior leadership team. As just one example, before she joined the organization, a previous large-scale change initiative went poorly because senior leadership refused to engage employees in the initiative prior to launching it. When one of the HR managers attempted to engage the senior leadership in a conversation around the importance of talking with employees before launching the change, he did not get too far. His focus was on the needs of the employees rather than the value to senior leadership. Therefore, senior leadership was uninterested. Abigail had been through these situations before. She knew that for HR to be successful, it was imperative to build relationships (which leads to trust) throughout the organization to accomplish goals. In this case, the goal of convincing senior leadership that it is necessary and valuable to engage employees in conversations around change to get their buy-in. If employees are engaged, then the change is much more likely to be embraced and to “stick” over the long term (a bottom line impact.) But you can’t engage employees and convince them of the value of the change unless you have already established relationships and built trust with them. And, Abigail couldn’t begin to convince senior leadership of the need to sell employees on change without building relationships with senior leadership first.


HR Pros touch all employees throughout the organization. Those HR Pros who have taken the time to develop relationships throughout the organization have a perspective of what’s working and what’s not; where things are going well and where change is needed. They become the “go to” person for employees who have concerns.

HR Pros with strong emotional intelligence understand how to engage employees in ways that help the employee come to trust the HR Pro and feel comfortable speaking with him/her.


Building Relationships Using Your Emotional Intelligence

Recall, as mentioned earlier, that you must accept that you have emotions (self-awareness) and manage those emotions by channeling them in the right direction (self-management.) You must also learn how to read the emotions of others to manage your interactions with them and their reaction to what is happening around them (social awareness.) You can then use those skills to build strong working relationships with others. Enabling you to influence them to move in the direction that they need to move to ensure their own success and the success of the organization.


The first week I started in a human resource management role in an organization, I began to reach out to others to get to know them. I scheduled meetings with managers and directors in various departments as well as with vice presidents of business units throughout the organization. I asked them about the organization, how things worked officially and unofficially, what their successes were, their best practices, and where they were having challenges. I asked about their goals. I asked about them personally. I shared about myself. I was beginning to build relationships with them. Once I was comfortable with them and they were comfortable with me; I asked to attend their department or division meetings. Just to listen in and learn more about their teams. In all of these meetings, I watched body language, listened to employees talk about what excited them and watched as they heard news that concerned them. I began to understand their challenges. I was beginning to build relationships with this broader group. And they were beginning to build relationships and trust me.


In building relationships with others, be interested in others. Express an interest in who they are and in what interests/matters to them.  It is essential, therefore, to share a bit about yourself personally. We connect with people on a personal level. Find commonalities in hobbies, sports, music, etc. Get to know people’s names and use those names in conversations (we all like to hear our name used, it creates a connection between us and the person talking with us.) The more you know about others and the more they know about you, the less room there is for misinterpretation.


Best Practice Consider these handful of best practices for building, nurturing, and maintaining strong relationships throughout the organization to increase your credibility, build trust and enable for getting things done:

  • Attend department meetings and division meetings of other business units
  • Attend all company social events
  • Acknowledge, don’t ignore, the feelings of others. Sometimes people are upset and their feelings need to be acknowledged. Acknowledge those feelings
  • Be genuinely interested in others
  • Get to know employees by spending time where they may be hanging out – coffee machine, water cooler, cafeteria
  • Maintain relationships with others by meeting for coffee, or going out to lunch or for drinks or dinner after work
  • Know your communication style and learn how to adapt that style to accommodate others
  • Provide and receive feedback well. The ability to provide feedback to others in ways that enables for improvement with embarrassing them or making them feel inadequate is a skill. Ensure feedback you provide is constructive and actionable
  • Build trust with others through open and regular communications, honest feedback and through sharing with others and letting them get to know you, and spending time getting to know them


Don’t rush the process of building relationships! It takes time to develop strong working relationships with others. Invest that time and you will find that those strong relationships and trust you have built enables for not just accomplishing the goals of the organization but also your own goals within human resources.


In Summary…

The ability to build strong relationships within human resources is essential for success in the role. HR Pros have a unique opportunity to work throughout the organization, helping to shape the organization in a way that attracts and retains top talent that can be successful in moving the company forward. This requires strong emotional intelligence skills overall, as well as the ability to build, nurture and maintain strong, productive working relationships.


Take a few minutes and map out your plan for building stronger relationships throughout the organization. Consider, as you build your plan:

  1. Who do you need to build stronger relationships with at work? Who do you not know as well? With whom do you not have as good a relationship as you’d like?
  2. How will you build those relationships? What will you do? How does it look?
  3. How will you maintain those relationships? What is the timing? How does it look?
  4. How will you “check in” to be sure the relationship is a good one – productive and mutually beneficial?



Author’s Bio

Gina Abudi, MBA has 25+ years of experience providing consulting and training/education to mid- to large, global organizations. She is President of Abudi Consulting Group, LLC and an adjunct faculty member at Granite State College (NH) teaching in the Masters of Science in Project Management and Masters of Science in Leadership programs.


Gina’s work in emotional intelligence is throughout the organization. She is often brought in by human resource professionals or senior leaders to provide coaching or training around the topic. She has mentored and coached new employees at all levels, including at the senior leadership level as well as with high potentials, to support them in strengthening their emotional intelligence skills to increase their effectiveness in collaborating and communicating within the organization.


Gina blogs regularly on a variety of leadership, project and process improvement topics. She is lead author of Best Practices for Managing BPI Projects: Six Steps to Success (J Ross Publishing, 2015) and author of Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach (J Ross Publishing, 2017.) She is working on a series of books for leaders on a variety of topics of importance to them in moving their organization forward.


Gina has been honored as one of the Power 50 from PMI®, one of 50 executives who have achieved success in proving the value of project management within organizations. She is Chair and member of the Community Engagement Committee of the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation and is Co-Chair of the Volunteer Leadership Team of the Association of Change Management Professionals.


Gina received her MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management.  


You can contact Gina at or at +1 (603) 471-3864. 


Check out Gina's program Emotional Intelligence for Human Resources and sign up today. 


[2] Based on work by Salovey and Mayer and Goleman.


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