Can a new approach of Emotional Intelligence help the construction industry to hit its targets?

A constant plague on the construction industry, as on any industry, is poor project performance. Particularly in an industry which relies so heavily on teams and interpersonal relations, effective leadership and people management is key.

Can a new approach of Emotional Intelligence help the construction industry to hit its targets?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has a proven business case in industry in general, and companies that embed it in their practices are found to have increased morale, motivation and job satisfaction, which in turn increase productivity, reputation and profit.

Emotion plays a large part underneath an individual worker’s professional front. We all have a natural instinct to react emotionally to happenings in the workplace and these emotions have consequences on our work and in our professional lives. Understanding this, and employing skill sets such as self awareness, empathy, social skill, motivation and self regulation, leaders can create strong teams, delivering above and beyond their brief.

EI trickles down from leaders to their teams

EI applies most effectively to leaders and has a trickle down effect from leadership teams to their subordinates, resulting in increased motivation, productivity and satisfaction, which in turn is likely to make the subordinates below them feel the same way. In the construction industry the employees who are lower in the hierarchy have roles more dependent on skill and technical knowledge. Here the application of EI would be a lot less effective though still beneficial.

EI can be learnt

Critically for the implementation of EI in a corporate context is that unlike IQ, it can be learnt. So companies can embed it in their practices through recruiting managers who are high in EI and training those who find it a struggle. Measuring people’s EI when interviewing for and promoting to leadership roles and training the established managers would make it possible for the practice of EI to be embedded throughout a company via the HR department. EI in the construction industry would enable construction leaders, project managers, managing directors and site managers.

So what are the road blocks to embedding EI within the construction industry?

The industry so far has not been as receptive as other sectors, and there has been speculation that this is a cultural perception within a male dominated industry to the adoption of ‘soft skills’. There is a need for companies to examine themselves and their cultures before looking at the implementation of EI on a company level. However EI may have the power to change an unreceptive culture is implemented effectively.


The future of the construction industry seems certain to go the way of industry trends in general, with greater focus set on performance targets and deliverables. Unless the construction industry can learn from other industries it seems uncertain how it will shake off its reputation for poor performance. And as the business case for EI continues to build in other sectors and as more women come into the industry as managers and team leaders, the culture of the construction industry will inevitably change. A construction model of EI, tailored to the nature of the industry, will surely benefit the sector in the long run.

Nathan O'PreyThis article is a summary from a research paper written by Nathan O’Prey, who recently graduated from a Construction Management degree with 1st Class Honours, and was awarded the ‘Lend Lease Prize for Best Results in Final Year Construction Management Examinations.”

Nathan plans to apply his technical knowledge of the built environment to a career in Facilities Management and is currently seeking experience. His main areas of interest are emotionally intelligent leadership, and business and sustainability.

If you would like to find out more about Nathan, please visit his LinkedIn profile.

And, if you’d like to receive a copy of the full report, please email him.


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