Knowledge Workers Blame Lack of Emotional Intelligence for Unhealthy Work Relationships

A new report on the state of emotional intelligence at the workplace has found the employees have more expectations from their current organizations. Knowledge workers, in particular, seek strong support and emotional connection to improve their mental well-being and confidence at the workplace. As per the report, only 27% of knowledge workers have stated that they have a healthy relationship with work. Others suffer from low morale and engagement, highlighting the negative impacts of an unhealthy work relationship on an employee’s life and an employer’s business goals.

Here are the key takeaways from the first HP Work Relationship Index that every business leader should know.

Employees are Sucked into an Unhealthy Spiral of Mental and Physical Imbalance

Did you know that just 23% of workers feel their company is OK with people making a mistake in their current roles?

The study surveyed more than 15,600 respondents across various industries in 12 countries. It revealed that the world’s relationship with work is at breaking point. And, its effects are pervasive.

Unhealthy work relationships have a negative impact on an employee’s professional and personal life. 34% of knowledge workers reported that they are less productive, more disengaged (39%), and emotionally disconnected (38%) in their current job roles due to unhealthy work relationships. This effect seeps into their personal lives as well.

48% of knowledge workers were either physically drained or emotionally shattered to complete their routine personal tasks and activities. These lead to a deteriorating physical and mental health. Poor sleep, unhealthy eating habits, limited physical exercise, and obesity are all linked to a non-healthy workplace culture. Slowly, the employees get sucked into a vicious cycle of non-performance, self-doubt, and failing mental and physical health. 55% of respondents feel isolated and consider themselves a failure in life due to this unhealthy work relationship with their current organizations.

Emotional Intelligence is the Future of Work

Employees are comfortable in a workplace where they can portray their authentic personalities without inhibitions.

According to the HP Work Relationship Index, employees want empathetic and emotionally intelligent leaders who can inspire a feeling of belongingness and inclusivity among everyone. While leaders acknowledge the role of emotional intelligence at the workplace as the key to building a resilient organization, employees don’t see it enough at their current companies.

In comparison to the developed nations, the emerging economies fare better in the HP Work Relationship Index 2023.


source: Work Relationship Index 2023
source: Work Relationship Index 2023

India is the healthiest economy where workers have better work relationships. Japan is the least healthy.

At the time of this announcement, Enrique Lores, President and CEO, HP Inc. said, “There is a huge opportunity to strengthen the world’s relationship with work in ways that are both good for people and good for business. As leaders, we must always reject the false choice between productivity and happiness. The most successful companies are built on cultures that enable employees to excel in their careers while thriving outside of work.”

More than Tw0-thirds of Employees Would Leave their Unhealthy Workplaces

76% of employees are contemplating separation from their current organizations. These disgruntled employees are unlikely to promote their companies as a good place to work. The HP Work Relationship Index also mentioned that 83% of people would take a pay cut and move elsewhere where they can rekindle their love for their work and establish an emotional connection with their manager and peers.

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Neutral employees are thinking of quitting too. When employees feel neutral about their relationship with work, more than 71% consider leaving the company. When they’re not happy at all, 91% would leave the organization.

21% of knowledge workers in India are willing to take higher salary cuts to work where they want, compared to mature markets. Gen Z and Millennial workers are leading this trend, seeking more opportunities at their workplace with a healthy outlook toward employee engagement and well-being.

Strong Workplace Culture and Flexibility Now Key in Attracting and Retaining Workers

Employees feel safe when they can trust and emotionally connect with their workplace colleagues and managers. These define the relationships globally. When an organization can demonstrate a strong culture of trust and emotional intelligence, it is likely to attract talent who are ready to work earning less money than their previous employment. According to HP’s report, knowledge workers would take an 11% pay cut to work somewhere with empathetic, emotionally intelligent leadership, and above-average employee engagement and fulfillment. The same group of workers would give up 13% of their salary to work in an organization that allows them to choose “flexibility”.

4 Core Competencies of Emotional Intelligence

A New Type of Leadership is Required to Improve the State of Workplace

In organizational development, emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness are closely linked to each other. The rise of emotionally intelligent leadership contributes to a healthy relationship with work. However, only 1 in 5 workers feel they work among leaders with emotional intelligence. 68% of business leaders agree that the new paradigm requires them to develop and nurture new leadership styles. HP’s report identifies this trend as part of the growing “emotional fluency” among workers and business leaders. Different reports state that emotional quotient (EQ) is more important than IQ; and today, it is a must-have attribute in any candidate.

HP identified six core drivers that influence a healthy work relationship. These are:

  1. Fulfillment
  2. Leadership
  3. Autonomy and people-centricity
  4. Skills development
  5. Tools
  6. Workspace

Employees have a stronger and clearer voice when it comes to demanding more from their current workplace. But, the communication is broken. Only 25% of workers receive the respect and value they deserve from their organization. Incidentally, these workers also find themselves struggling with flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance. 79% of workers feel the onus to improve workplace health depends on the employer and senior leadership. 73% of workers also see themselves playing a bigger role in effecting change in the state of the workplace. Therefore, leadership strategy is required to put a visible roadmap in place where people-centric autonomy and technology enablement in HR could bring employees and leaders together on the same platform.

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Role of Technology in Building a Healthy Workplace for Employees

Technology is the critical component that enables the transition of workplace for employees.

According to Gartner’s 2023 HR Budget and Efficiency Benchmarks, HR leaders would increase their HR budgets in 2023, focusing on adopting and upgrading their HR Technology stacks. For a majority of HR leaders, technology adoption revolves around the digital transformation of their recruitment and performance management activities. Priority lies with delivering positive business outcomes, however, the times have changed very quickly due to economic uncertainties. It is not only hard for organizations to hire new talent, but also retain their loyal employees. That’s why, HR leaders have to optimize their HR Technology budgets with people-centricity and autonomy in mind. HP’s latest report touches on this point.

72% of knowledge workers have a positive attitude toward an organization that provides useful technology and tools to an employee based on needs and feedback. An organization that listens to its employees and empowers them would have far fewer problems with their state of workplace relationships in 2023. Leadership, fulfillment and the other four core drivers create empowered workplaces where employees can feel safe, emotionally connected, and productive without biases or fear of isolation.

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