Coffee cup with a heart inside, title of blog is Emotional Intellegience & Performance Improvement

Emotional Intelligence & Performance Improvement

A co-worker shared her recently acquired knowledge of Fika, a Swedish tradition.  Fika means “to hava coffee” and is a coffee break, commonly occurring at 10 am and 3 pm. Instantly I asked why those seemingly random times, she responded that Sweden reviewed accidents in the workplace and found that they often happened at 10 am and 3 pm.  In order to combat these accidents, Sweden implemented Fika, to not only give workers a break but encourage emotional intelligence.  

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence is based on the idea that EQ affects personal outcomes more than IQ (Merriam & Bierema, 2013)  Bierema describes it by saying, “The premise of emotional intelligence is that IQ comprises only a small portion of intelligence and that the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, and anticipate those of others, is a key interpersonal competency” (2008).  On the recommendation of our book I actually went to Berkeley’s Emotional Intelligence Quiz and scored above average.  What was interesting was that the test was solely on human facial expressions, I got some wrong but I ended up with 14/20.

So what do Goleman, facial expressions, and performance improvement have in common?  A lot actually, imagine a software engineer who has amazing coding abilities but struggles to work with others.  The engineer can do the job, and has the skills but if they don’t feel comfortable starting conversations or connecting with others, what happens when they get stuck on a project? Will they be able to innovate alone? 

For those who work in emotion labor positions, it is even more crucial to teach and encourage emotional intelligence. This is everything from police who must stay calm in stressful situations, or to those who must appear “authentically” happy as a customer service workers. Essentially this pretending interferes with attention and adds to cognitive load which is a “key factor contributing to job exhaustion and job satisfaction.”    


So how do learning designers include emotional intelligence in their courses?  First, check your own biases, look inward, and assess your feelings before you begin a course. Next, include a lot of space for retrospectives and feedback for both learner and instructor. Third, create a safe learning space for discourse and encourage discussion around feelings and emotions (Bierma, 2008).  And last, we often look at learner motivations with a narrow lens, I encourage you to take into consideration all feelings that a learner could have, including; fear of failure, trauma surrounding being wrong, confusion or worry, imposter syndrome to just name a few. Use empathy with your learners, encourage empathy among your learners and create a safe space for all learners to not only acquire knowledge but keep it!


Bierema, L. L. (2008). Adult learning in the workplace: Emotion work or emotion learning? New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 2008(120), 55–64.

Emotional Intelligence Quiz. (n.d.). Greater Good. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from​

Fika—A Very Swedish Tradition—How to Fika Like a Swede. (2016, June 16). Hej Sweden.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.