The Employee Experience Platform | Culture Amp
 Part 4

How long will this feeling last?

Fig 1. Preparation is key

Facing turmoil with emotional intelligence.

When we’re dealing with turbulent situations over long periods, we may find our moods continually swinging. We can be in a great, stable place one day, only to completely crater the next. The reality is that adversity is going to wear us down over time. There’s no changing that – for us, or those we work with. We can change how we respond, though, and how we help others respond. In this stage of our journey, we explore and develop our emotional intelligence – and use that to better understand ourselves, manage difficult conversations at work, and build a resilient team dynamic.


Embrace your emotions at work

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

  • 01

    Episode 7: Mollie West Duffy

    The new rules of emotions at work

    In this episode Damon speaks with Mollie West Duffy, co-author of the book No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power Of Embracing Emotions At Work. She’s also one half of the workplace culture Instagram account @lizandmollie.

  • 02

    Episode 8: Kelsey Crowe, PhD

    How to talk about grief and suffering at work

    In this episode Damon speaks to Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D., author of There is No Good Card for This: What to do and say when life is scary, awful and, unfair to the people you love. Kelsey and Damon discuss what stops us from asking for help, how to show up for people who are suffering, and coping with grief at work.

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

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The long reads

Original content


Culture amp | 9 min read

Gentzy’s story: facing self-doubt with emotional intelligence

Gentzy Franz portrait

In periods of unrest and change, we’re forced to tune deeper into our internal dialogue. To learn more about how one individual is navigating this period of isolation and change, we spoke with Gentzy Franz, Founder of management consulting firm, LIGHTLY. Gentzy reflects on the dark thoughts he’s faced during this time and shares how emotional intelligence has helped him better understand himself and those around him.


Meeting major life changes all at once

Over the last few years, Gentzy had experienced turbulence in both his personal and professional life. After he spent five years building out the People & Culture team at high-growth startup Uptake, the company downsized, leading to the dissolution of Gentzy’s team.

“During my time at Uptake, I got divorced and experienced a radical change in my nuclear family structure. That on top of being a part of this intense growth within a company and then watching it change trajectory; all of these changes sort of came to a head the day the pandemic set in.”

Gentzy was planning to build out a coaching and consulting practice, and the sudden change expedited his plan.

“My work centers around supporting leaders so that when things get hectic and stressful, they have tools to process what they’re feeling and focus on what needs to get done. The human tendency is for us to feel fear and then transfer that into control, which manifests as judgment. I want to help leaders catch themselves in that process, and continue to lead effectively.”

Gentzy spent the first week of social distancing grappling with the heaviness of both the broader pandemic and the recent transitions in his personal life.

“Leads that I had simply don’t have the budget right now. So here I am trying to put food on the table, rebuild my professional identity, and use my background to build a business in the midst of a crisis.”

Facing down self-doubt

One week in May, Gentzy decided to take a road trip to camp in southern Utah. One night, he awoke to an overwhelming sense of self-doubt.

“I woke up in the middle of the night to the thought: I’m a fraud. I’ve had imposter syndrome before, but this was different. In my experience, imposter syndrome felt like I don’t belong here. Being a fraud felt like I’m actively deceiving people in a way that is slimy.

A battle started in my mind between everything that proved I was a fraud and everything that proved I wasn’t. My body was actually twisting back and forth – it was like there were two attorneys arguing in a courtroom and both sides were compelling. My head filled with questions; like what are you doing asking people to pay you to help them manage their stress during such a stressful time? Are you taking advantage of them? But the other side would argue that this is exactly what the world needs right now.”

Gentzy found himself wrestling with these two arguments both mentally and physically, trying to gain a clearer sense of his intentions, purpose, and self-worth.

“In a time where there are so many unknowns… for any of us to assert ourselves as knowing something, or being an expert is questionable, but that’s not sufficient reason to sit back and ignore our power or expertise.”

“I finally decided to just say out loud that ‘I’m a fraud’ and see what happens. I just kept saying it and the more that I said it, the more I was able to accept that right now we’re in a time where there are so many unknowns. And for any of us to assert ourselves as knowing something, or being an expert is questionable, but that’s not sufficient reason to sit back and ignore our power or expertise.”

This experience was dark, but it led Gentzy to a kind of allowance of emotion. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to get stuck in a feeling that you should feel a certain way, but when you can allow yourself to just feel what you’re feeling (without should-ing), that breaks the unhealthy thought pattern that prevents you from moving forward.

“Admitting that I am a fraud was basically my way of allowing and acknowledging that part of me that does not know, but I will still speak up and will still assert some level of understanding despite so many unknowns.”

Tuning in to your own emotions

Sometimes it can feel easier to empathize with someone else and be emotionally intelligent about how they’re feeling, but forced solitude can help you get in touch with your own feelings.

“All feelings have their place, and the beauty is that when we allow those feelings to come up and sit with them, the feelings teach us.”

Gentzy highlights the importance of distinguishing between feelings and thoughts. Feelings show up in the body, but we tend to take the feelings and analyze them to make them mean something. We start creating stories, which isn’t actually feeling at all, it’s just what we do to make sense of our surroundings.

“Pure feeling crashes over you in the moment. If I want to do something with that thought, I could go crazy. I could start turning it into shame and go down those ‘should’ rabbit holes. But if I can just sit and feel it, knowing I don’t have to do anything about it, it doesn’t have to be this big production.”

This process is obviously not easy or comfortable, but when you can let yourself be present with your feelings, they can teach us so much about ourselves. It’s hard to sit with a feeling that is deeply uncomfortable and yet, there’s almost always something to be learned from it.

“The key is to allow feelings to come in, sit with them, let them go, and then ask what lesson was here for me to learn.”

“The key is to allow feelings to come in, sit with them, let them go, and then ask what lesson was here for me to learn. The more that we can do that, the more emotionally intelligent we are, and the less harm that we cause for ourselves and for others.”

The future of EQ in the workplace

Work and life were already becoming increasingly blurred with the prevalence of technology, and now they’re completely enmeshed. It’s really up to people to draw the lines and decide how they will spend their time. Gentzy sees this shift as an opportunity for people to get vulnerable and recognize we’re always bringing our emotions from home to work and from work to home. It just looks different now than it did before.

“We now know what a 100% remote workforce looks like, and once it becomes normalized it’s going to be the preferred way for many people to operate. But if we don't know how to feel our feelings and move through them, so we can come back to our work, it’s going to be a cluster. In a way, it was already a cluster – people weren't feeling their feelings even though they were there, and now it’s just going to become a necessity.”

With this overlap between the personal and professional, workplaces will need to find ways to support their employees through these feelings. Employees are already looking for their organizations to support wellbeing beyond insurance premiums, a 401k plan, or gym perks.

“Overall wellbeing is deeply emotional. Companies will need to invest in leaders who take the time to have conversations with people and support them at a human level. This doesn’t have to come at a cost of effectiveness or productivity, and in fact, it can enhance those things.”

Gentzy notes that this move toward a more emotionally vulnerable workplace highlights a shift from a largely male-dominant approach.

“The current economy was structured and built in large part by individuals who identify as male. We’re seeing a movement of vulnerability, honesty, and authenticity that is being led by people who identify as women – Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Layla Saad (just to name a few). I believe that this is going to transform the workplace.”

There has been a massive shift in what is okay at work. Companies that embrace this and are willing to explore what it means to feel at work, carve a path for a more complete and gratifying work experience.

“Building more diverse work communities has the power to normalize a lot of our differences. But the only way that can happen is in a space where it’s safe to be vulnerable.”

“I think there is going to be increased openness to what is allowed in the workplace. And frankly, I’m excited. Building more diverse work communities has the power to normalize a lot of our differences. But the only way that can happen is in a space where it’s safe to be vulnerable. The workplace is a perfect place to do this work – spending 40+ hours a week with people from different backgrounds helps you realize that differences need to be recognized, celebrated, and supported.”

Facing future uncertainty with stillness

There is so much uncertainty in the world, and Gentzy challenges us to allow ourselves to sit and be still with whatever that brings up for us.

“Usually when we’re should-ing something we’re doing it because we have some experience that would suggest that it needs to be a certain way. But none of us can rely on that right now. This is a different ball game altogether, and it’s an opportunity to let go and say, I can't show much of anything right now because I've never seen this. We need to give ourselves enough time and space for emotional intelligence to teach us what it is that we need to learn.”

Gentzy sees his experience on his camping trip as a microcosm of the bigger experience happening now. We’re all trying to figure things out, amidst a great deal of uncertainty.

“But here’s the catch, though we think this is different from anything we’ve experienced, it’s actually closer to reality than what we pretended before. We built norms to help create a sense of security and predictability, but underneath all of that is deep uncertainty.”

The fact is that things can change quickly, and when they do, we have to decide whether we will be overcome by it, or maintain a sense of calm and centeredness to move through it.

“This is a great opportunity for us to face the possibility that this reality is a closer reality than the one that is socially constructed. There’s beauty to be found in every moment, and it’s fleeting. We’re all being asked if we can just be with it while it’s there, and allow it to teach and heal us.”

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SIYLI | 5 min read

Why EQ is mission-critical for any HR initiative

We are facing a period of global uncertainty in which many workforces have far higher levels of stress, lower engagement, and a high degree of ambiguity. Simultaneously, many HR leaders are balancing the internal demands of reduced budgets, the need to provide meaningful and time-critical skills to their employees, and a desire to develop a strategic learning vision in the midst of uncertainty.

Smart HR leaders are both asking critical questions about how to best serve employees now, and looking ahead to set their company up to move forward effectively and sustainably in a highly ambiguous business environment.


Emotional intelligence is critical now more than ever

Emotional intelligence is a broad-based skill set that equips employees with the focus, mindset agility, and resilience for what’s ahead. It has been linked to better customer engagement, higher productivity, higher retention, and overall profitability.

Studies such as the Future of Jobs (World Economic Forum), Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey, and Culture Amp all confirm that emotional intelligence is a core ingredient in future-ready workplaces. Of the ten core skills highlighted by the World Economic Forum report, leadership, social influence, and emotional intelligence were called out as specific skills needed for highly dynamic work environments.

Employees also see the direct benefit of emotional intelligence. Deloitte Human Capital estimates that 65% of employees see the ability to lead through influence as a key 21st-century leadership skill. Daniel Goleman, who popularized emotional intelligence, further affirms that sustained leadership is about getting others to produce superior work. IQ alone isn’t sufficient – it’s social capital that lies at the heart of motivating others.

Early indications show that the chronic stress employees are facing during the COVID-19 global health crisis are further exacerbating challenges that already existed in the workplace. Last year Culture Amp estimated that 70% of employees regularly feel overstressed by their work or actively disengaged with their work – leading to lower productivity and company success. At the same time, the World Health Organization added burnout as a syndrome specific to the workplace when classified as a disease. Even before the uncertainty of coronavirus, employers were struggling with stress, burnout, and engagement – all symptoms that can be supported and alleviated with a focus on emotional intelligence as a core part of your organization’s culture.

“By training our attention through mindfulness, we can develop more inner calm and awareness of ourselves and others.”

The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute uses mindfulness as a basis to train emotional intelligence competencies within companies. By training our attention through mindfulness, we can develop more inner calm and awareness of ourselves and others. Data on the impact of our programs, based on a 1500 participant sample, showed that after taking our program the number of participants able to use a technique to manage a stressful situation grew by over 70%. These techniques have broad support both in the industry and scientific communities. In its recent guidelines for employees dealing with job-related stress during COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control explicitly recommended mindfulness as a technique to help with stress reduction and resilience-building.

Emotional intelligence is an essential part of your training portfolio

Emotional intelligence is critical for staff at all levels, but especially vital for people managers and senior leaders who have more influence over people’s experience at work. Emotional intelligence and mindfulness are trainable skills, but most of us have never received any instruction on how to focus our minds, relate to others, or overcome adversity.

This is a level of transformative depth that’s often hard to achieve in corporate learning. It’s important because HR leaders are continually looking to move beyond the ‘tick a box’ programming, towards programming that actually transforms the way that their employees behave and work together.

We’ve found that organizations that do this see higher levels of productivity, collaboration, and team performance. Our data suggests a 19% point improvement in perspective-taking during conversations with others, 9% improvement in their ability to solve difficult problems, and a 21% improvement in resiliency.

Be strategic about embedding emotional intelligence in your organization

In working with clients from tech startups to government agencies to established Fortune 100 companies, we’ve found that there are multiple ways to scale training and embed emotional intelligence inside your organization. In our work with companies in over 50 countries, we’ve found the benefits of scaling emotional intelligence operate at a number of strategic levels of increasing depth:

  • Level 1: Highly productive employees (increasing focus, decreasing stress)

  • Level 2: Engaged and collaborative employees (engagement, individual meaning and purpose, creativity and collaboration)

  • Level 3: Culture that brings out the best of employees (team trust, living up to values, fair systems)

At level 1, we’ve found that foundational programming and routine opportunities to practice is the most effective way to build an individual habit.

At level 2, we’ve found that practice groups, community ambassadors, and deeper module programming can be a helpful way to deepen employees' skill sets and levels of engagement, as well as their sense of connection and willingness to collaborate.

At level 3, we’ve found that building train-the-trainer programs, socializing mindfulness, executive leadership modeling, and introducing programming at scale are highly effective ways to change the behaviors of a company at scale and help your organization fully live its values.

The ROI of emotional intelligence

We’ve tracked the ROI of emotional intelligence training in our data over the past eight years. Our results include powerful outcomes around performance, engagement, and focus. One of our leading clients, SAP, has also found that introducing mindfulness-based emotional intelligence into their company has led to a 200% ROI for their organization.

People often ask us: what is the ROI of emotional intelligence training? Well, what is the value of a team that is engaged, collaborative, and sustaining high performance? You tell us.

Sarah Hunt has acquired and engaged multinational corporate clients to deliver large-scale mindfulness leadership programs worldwide for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Her clients include Fortune 500 technology, finance, energy, transport, and insurance companies.

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From The Heart of the C-Suite

An intimate conversation on how C-level executives are #WorkingThroughIt

In this episode, which features Michael Acton Smith, co-Founder and co-CEO of Calm, we take a deep dive into wellbeing, emotional intelligence, and mental fitness. In a conversation with Didier Elzinga, Founder, and CEO of Culture Amp, and moderated by Chloe Hamman, Director of People Science at Culture Amp, Didier and Michael give their perspectives on how critical wellbeing and EQ is to their team’s success. Tune in to also learn about their own wellbeing journeys during this crisis.



Working through crisis

There’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.


We’re all in this together – resources from our friends and partners

This is an unprecedented time. There are no business strategies or ‘hot tips for working from home’ that can change the fact that many of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. But we can – and have to – work through it together. These resources from our partners and friends will help us do just that.

One Black employee’s answer to “How can I help?”

Alica Forneret

In this resource, you’ll find a comprehensive list of educational tools, consideration, and clear actions that non-Black professionals can take to address the challenges faced by Black employees.

“Don’t tell people you’re an ally, show them that you’re an accomplice.”

Read the article →

Emotional intelligence and peak performance

Goleman EI

Internationally acclaimed psychologist, Daniel Goleman, points out the five habits that will help you develop your capacity for peak performance.

“When we leverage Emotional Intelligence to fuel peak performance, we create sustained and powerful results.”

Learn more →

Great managers balance analytical and emotional intelligence

Harvard Business Review

To effectively lead and support your employees, you need to utilize the two parts of your brain – one that enables task-focused attention and the other that facilitates reflection and connection.

“It is paramount to attend to the needs, fears, and concerns of your employees. It is also vital that you solve pressing problems and make critical decisions necessary to sustain the business.”

Read the article →

How to use emotional intelligence in the workplace

Bamboo HR

According to experts, emotionally intelligent people are far more likely to succeed at work. This piece focuses on how you can improve your EQ with regular training and practice.

“The key for business leaders is to strip themselves of preconceived notions about what a boss is supposed to do and approach every situation with a perspective of emotional intelligence.”

Read the article →

How to find an emotionally intelligent mentor

Fast Company

Everyone wants a good mentor but finding the right person can be easier said than done. If you’re looking for a new mentor, keep an eye out for these five traits, which tend to signal that someone may be a good fit.

“In talking to a potential mentor, you should ask about them not only about their successes but their failures, struggles, and what they learned from them.”

Learn more →


How Jenn, a people leader at HelloFresh is #WorkingThroughIt

Photo of Jenn Yee

Jenn Yee

Senior Director, Learning & Organizational Development at HelloFresh

It takes a self-aware leader to acknowledge they don’t have all the answers, and it takes empathy to listen to others and find ways to support them. During uncertain times, we are leaning into these EI principles to build trust and resilience at HelloFresh.”

How we work

Leading with EQ

In episode four of HOW WE WORK, we spoke about the power of emotional intelligence to guide us through change. How do you develop self awareness? What impact do emotions have on your work during times of crisis? Learn ways to strengthen your EQ skills and debunk common myths about emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Heather R. Younger

Speaker, Best-selling author and Podcast host

Michael Ventura

Founder & CEO Sub Rosa – Author of Applied Empathy

Rich Fernandez

CEO, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) & Co-founder, Wisdom Labs

A conversation series hosted by Culture Amp

Inside Culture Amp

How Culture Amp is #WorkingThroughIt

We spoke with internal and external thought leaders to learn how culture first organizations are weaving emotional intelligence into their people management strategy.

Sahra Kaboli-Nejad

Periods of high stress take a great toll on emotional wellbeing. These days, it’s impossible to ignore our emotions during the workday. EQ has been top of mind for many leaders, but it’s time to put it into practice. Without emotional intelligence, it is impossible to care for yourself or those around you – making it nearly impossible to focus on work. We spoke with thought leaders from Culture Amp and other culture first organizations to learn how they’re letting EQ be their guide through periods of crisis.

“We need to talk about the importance of EQ in the workplace, especially now. If we want to successfully work through all that is happening in the world around us, we have to start getting in touch with our own emotions and understand how they impact others. Culture first organizations can’t be afraid to have tough conversations about topics such as systemic racism, workplace safety, grief, and burnout. We have to enter these conversations with empathy, gratitude, and humility if we hope to be successful.”

Sahra Kaboli-Nejad

Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp

Katelin Holloway

Katelin Holloway

Partner at Initialized Capital

Start with introspection

“Be as honest and empathetic as you’re comfortable being. I encourage introspection in all the CEOs that I work with, and this lays the foundation to develop their culture over time. Culture really shows up when things go south or sideways. In a global crisis, every single culture is being put through the pressure test at the exact same time. Anything that was great is holding strong, but anything that was not great is entirely broken right now.”

Hear from Katelin about what it means to lead from the heart.

Oscar Trimboli

Oscar Trimboli

Author & Speaker

Prioritize communication and listening

“EQ is important all the time, it’s just noticed more in challenging times as anxiety, frustration, and fear are just below the surface. Skillful leaders bring these emotions to the surface rather than avoid or ignore them. Consistency, collaboration, and clarity in communication are critical. Great communicators have the ability to listen to what’s unsaid and help others express what they mean.”

Claude Silver

Claude Silver

Chief Heart Officer atVaynerMedia

Be transparent and empathetic

“As a leader, it’s extremely important to be aware of what your people are going through, understand what it's like to be on the receiving end of company messaging, and provide transparent communication. Empathizing with your employees is important in reassuring them that there aren’t necessarily holes in the ship, but the larger economy is going through a massive upheaval and transition.”

Hear from Claude about what it means to lead from the heart.

Develop your EQ


Emotional intelligence grows through regular collaboration. Enhance yours with the Culture First community.

Check in to find out how other, like-minded people are taking a Culture First approach to working through it.

Find your people →

Working through crisis toolkit

A Culture Amp toolkit for more humanity at workThere’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.


Previous: Part 3

Is anything certain?

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Next up: Part 5

How to connect in a disconnected world

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