Last updated June 28, 2024

Here are our favourite emotional intelligence activities for employees that you can use for training, workshops, and seminars in the workplace. Likewise, if you are holding a training session on wellness involving training related to emotions, these activities will work too.

Emotional Intelligence Activities for Employees

Why Use Emotional Intelligence Training Activities?

If you have used the emotional intelligence training materials to train employees or to train other people in workshops, activities help to:

  • Break up the training so that you can keep the attention of the participants through engagement and various teaching methods.
  • Give those learners who learn best through doing things, the chance also to get the most out of the training.
  • Act as an icebreaker to settle the atmosphere at the start of a training session so that everyone is relaxed.

Emotional Intelligence Activities for Employees

So here we go. Here are 17 great and easy-to-use activities for training on emotions and emotional intelligence.

1. Emotional Intelligence Quiz

Emotional intelligence quiz

Number of People: Any number of people.

Time Needed: 15 minutes

Intention: A simple self-reflective quiz to test your emotional intelligence.

How to Run the Activity: Distribute the emotional intelligence quiz to participants. If you need a copy use the free version I have created for you that you can download here –> Free Emotional Intelligence Quiz.

I recommend giving everyone 5 minutes to complete the test.

Once finished, allow 10 minutes for people to discuss the results in pairs or small groups, focusing on strengths and areas for improvement.

Items Needed: Printed quizzes, pens.

2. The Conference Break Icebreaker Game

Conference Break Icebreaker

This activity is a simple icebreaker aimed at sharing your imagination and feelings and listening to others as they share their thoughts.

In terms of emotional intelligence, this is an activity you can use early on in the session to enable participants to get to know each other.

In other words, it can be used as an icebreaker toward the start of the training session.

Instructions

In this activity, people will work in pairs (you can have one team of three people if you have an odd number of participants).

Ask the participants to imagine that their boss has just told them that they must work from abroad for 3 months and it can be anywhere in the world.

Working in pairs, one person will talk whilst the other person listens for 3 minutes each. They will then rotate, i.e. the talker will become the listener and the listener becomes the talker.

The Scenario

Imagine that your boss has just told you that you will be going on a conference to talk about your work and that this conference will take place abroad.

You must use your imagination and decide what place in the world you would present at. It can be anywhere in the world and the setting can also be anywhere.

You must talk about your feelings and your emotions about this place and imagine the setting and situation and express how you visualize the talk going.

You might for example be giving a presentation at the base camp of Mount Everest because you are giving a talk on motivation and leadership. In this case, what is it like emotionally, and atmospherically?

  • What was the experience like and what emotions flooded through you during this extraordinary experience?
  • What emotions did you feel after the trip?
  • What did you gain from the trip in respect of emotional learning?

3. Emotional Intelligence Role-Playing Scenarios

Role-playing scenario activity

Number of People: 2 or more people (no upper limit)

Time Needed: 20 to 40 minutes

Intention: Practice responding to emotional situations and develop emotional regulation skills.

How to Run the Activity: Provide the participants with a handout (or digitally if teaching online) with various role-play scenarios involving emotional conflicts or challenges.

Let me give you one example of a scenario that you could do:

Scenario 1: Supporting a Stressed Colleague
Situation: Shandra, a team member, has shown signs of stress and burnout. Denzel, a colleague, notices this and wants to offer support.
Objective: Develop skills in recognizing emotional cues, showing empathy, and offering support.
Role 1: Shandra (Stressed Colleague): Shandra shows signs of appearing overstressed and seems more irritable than normal at work.
Role 2: Denzel (Supportive Colleague): Notices these signs and wants to help without overstepping boundaries. You feel that she might be suffering exhaustion and this you have noticed is resulting in decreased productivity in her work. You are worried about her wellbeing.

Divide participants into pairs or small groups and assign roles, i.e. in the case above one person is Shandra and one is Denzel.

Each group acts out their scenario for 10 minutes.

If you wish to make the activity longer, you can reverse the roles or have them try a different scenario.

Next, have an open group/class discussion on how the emotions were handled and potential alternative approaches.

(This is also one of the best emotional intelligence activities for managers).

Items Needed: Scenario handouts (or cards)

4. Active Listening Exercise

Active listening activity

Number of People: 2 or more people

Time Needed: 20 minutes

Intention: This activity is handy for developing and working on your active listening skills and helps your emotional understanding of others.

How to Run the Activity: March people up into pairs.

For the activity, one person shares a recent emotional experience for 5 minutes, while the other practices active listening (no interruptions, maintaining eye contact, nodding).

(Note: This speaker does not need to use any example that is traumatic. It might be an emotional experience based on the excitement of a recent holiday or trip, or the outcome of a sporting event. Anything that they can talk about that brings some form of emotion.)

After sharing, the listener reflects on what they heard and how they perceived the speaker’s emotions. Switch roles and repeat.

Items Needed: None.

5. Emotion Wheel

This is one of the most common and classic emotional intelligence activities for employees in workshops and office-based training.

Plutchik-wheel

Number of People: 4+ people

Time Needed: 15 to 20 minutes

Intention: The emotional wheel helps to increase awareness and understanding of different emotions and how they manifest in us.

How to Run the Activity: Distribute emotion wheels to participants. (You can buy copies as needed on Amazon and other shops, although you could also print the free-to-use Wikipedia image.)

Have participants pick an emotion and write down a time they felt this emotion, describing the situation in detail.

Then, pair participants and have them share their stories with each other based on the emotion they picked.

Encourage everyone to discuss how they recognized the emotion and what they did in response.

Items Needed: Printed emotion wheels, pens, and paper.

6. Empathy Mapping

Empathy mapping

Number of People: 3+ with as many people as you want (as you’ll divide them into small groups).

Time Needed: 45 minutes

Intention: This activity can help participants develop empathy by better understanding the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others.

How to Run the Activity: Divide participants into small groups of 3 to 5.

Then provide each group with a specific scenario (e.g., a coworker receiving negative feedback).

Let me give you one example of a scenario that you could do:

Example Scenario: Coworker Receiving Negative Feedback
Situation: Rochelle, an employee, receives negative feedback during a performance review. Maria, the manager, needs to deliver the feedback constructively, while Jamie, a coworker and team lead, will support Sam in processing and acting on the feedback.
Objective: Enhance skills in receiving and processing negative feedback, offering peer support, and fostering a growth mindset.
Roles:
Maria (Manager): Delivers the negative feedback to Sam.
Rochelle (Employee): Receives the feedback and may initially feel defensive or upset.
Jamie (Coworker/Team Lead): Supports Sam after the feedback session, helping them understand and act on the feedback.

Instructions:

Ask each group to create an empathy map with sections named “Says,” “Thinks,” “Does,” and “Feels.”

The group then needs to discuss each of the sections (i.e. “Says”) and fill out the empathy map.

Next, each group will present their empathy map to the larger group, giving insight into the person’s experience.

Items Needed: Large paper, markers, and scenario handouts.

7. Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation activity

Number of People: 4+ people.

Time Needed: 20 minutes

Intention: This activity helps to build self-awareness and emotional regulation through mindfulness practice.

How to Run the Activity: In this activity, you will guide participants through a mindfulness meditation session.

Begin by providing a brief explanation of exactly what mindfulness is and the benefits of mindfulness.

Then lead a 10-minute meditation focusing on breathing and body awareness.

Afterwards, discuss the experience, how it felt, and how mindfulness can be used to manage emotions in daily life.

Items Needed: Quiet room, meditation cushions or chairs, guided meditation script or audio.

>> See the Emotional Intelligence Training Course Materials

8. Emotional Charades

This is another very easy one of those emotional intelligence activities for employees that you can organise and run with very little effort. Employees also often really enjoy this activity/game.

Number of People: 4+ people. If large groups then break down into smaller groups.

Time Needed: 20 minutes but adapt timewise to suit your needs.

Intention: This activity is useful for recognizing and expressing emotions non-verbally, and for improving emotional recognition skills.

How to Run the Activity: In the day or two before the training session, write down different emotions on pieces of paper and then put them in a small container such as a small box.

Ask one person from each group to grab a piece of paper from the box and then, without saying anything verbally, act out the emotion that is on the piece of paper.

You can have each person do 1 or more emotions and you can rotate it so that each person gets the chance to act out an emotion.

At the end of the activity, have a general group discussion about the experience and how easy or hard it was to convey each emotion. Some emotions will be much easier than others to convey.

Items Needed: Slips of paper with emotions, small box or container.

9. Emotions Journaling Session

Emotions journaling

Journaling is popular when it comes to emotional intelligence as journaling can give employees the opportunity to get their thoughts down on paper, which in itself, can be a way to avoid bottling things up.

Number of People: 4+ people

Time Needed: 30 minutes

Intention: Enhance self-awareness and emotional processing through reflective writing.

How to Run the Activity: Provide journals and then ask participants to write about a recent emotional experience, focusing on what happened, how they felt, and how they responded.

Allow 15 to 20 minutes for writing, and then follow this with a small group discussion to discuss common themes and insights gained from the exercise.

Items Needed: Journals or notebooks, pens.

10. Positive Affirmation Circle

Number of People: 8+ people. If a large group then break participants into groups of 8 to 10.

Time Needed: 20 minutes

Intention: This emotional intelligence activity helps to foster positive self-talk and enhance emotional resilience.

How to Run the Activity: Ask the employees to form a circle. Each person takes a turn saying a positive affirmation about themselves.

Encourage others to share affirmations for their peers as well. Discuss the impact of positive affirmations on emotions and self-perception.

Items Needed: None.

11. Emotional Storytelling

Emotional storytelling

Number of People: 10-25

Time Needed: 60 minutes

Intention: Enhance emotional expression and understanding through storytelling.

How to Run the Activity: Ask participants to prepare a short story about a significant emotional experience.

Each participant will then share their own story with the rest of the group.

Then discuss the emotions involved, how they were managed, and what was learned.

Provide feedback on emotional expression and storytelling.

Items Needed: None.

12. Emotional Vocabulary Expansion

Number of People: 10-25

Time Needed: 30 minutes

Intention: Expand emotional vocabulary to improve emotional expression and understanding.

How to Run the Activity: Beforehand, you will need to prepare a list of nuanced emotional words. Include a variety of emotions, both positive and negative, such as “elated,” “disheartened,” “wistful,” “exuberant,” “melancholic,” “content,” etc.

In the classroom, have participants pair up and ask them to spend 10 minutes discussing situations where they have experienced and felt these emotions.

Then spend 10 minutes to allow each pair to share one or two thoughts with the larger group on things they learned from their discussion.

This could include unique emotions they discussed, surprising discoveries about their own emotional responses, or how identifying these emotions helped them understand their experiences better.

Then facilitate a 10-minute group discussion on emotional words. The discussion can revolve around:

  • Improved Communication: How being able to accurately describe emotions can lead to better communication and stronger relationships.
  • Self-awareness: How identifying specific emotions can increase self-awareness and self-regulation.
  • Empathy: How understanding a wider range of emotions can improve empathy and interpersonal connections.

Items Needed: List of emotional words printed on A4. If you want to avoid printing or are running this activity online, you can put the words onscreen.

13. Conversation Starters

Conversation Starters

Number of People: 6+ people

Time Needed: 30 minutes

Intention: This type of emotional intelligence activity helps participants to build rapport, improve their communication skills, and to foster a greater sense of teamwork.

How to Run the Activity: Before the activity, you will need to either buy or prepare (they are easy to make) a set of cards (or pieces of paper will do fine) with different conversation starters written on them.

These conversations can be questions, prompts, or scenarios designed to encourage discussion. Some examples include:

  • What is one book that has influenced your life and why?
  • If you could go on holiday and meet a famous person by the pool and have a cocktail with them, who would it be?
  • Describe a memorable vacation you’ve had.
  • What are you most passionate about and why?
  • If you could be tele-transported (instantly transported) to anywhere in the world for 5 hours, where would it be and why?

Put people into pairs randomly so that they are less likely to end up paired with someone they are already friends with.

Then hand each pair one of the conversation cards (or pieces of paper).

The pairs will then spend 5 minutes discussing the topic on the card. After 5 minutes they can pick up another card and discuss it.

After this, rotate the pairs and run as many times as you want.

Then allow 10 minutes for a group discussion where you allow participants to openly discuss interesting or surprising things they learned about their partners or group members.

Ask them how the activity felt, what participants learned, and how it might impact their interactions moving forward.

Items Needed:

  • Conversation Starter Cards: A printed set of cards with conversation prompts.
  • Optional: Timer or bell to signal when to rotate pairs/groups.

14. Emotion Regulation Strategies

Number of People: 10 + people

Time Needed: 30 minutes (but you can adapt the time to suit your needs).

Intention: One of the best emotional intelligence activities for employees to learn and practice strategies for regulating emotions at work.

How to Run the Activity: Present different emotion regulation strategies (e.g., deep breathing, cognitive reappraisal, mindfulness). (See the Wellness and wellbeing training materials).

Have participants practice each strategy through guided exercises.

Discuss which strategies were most effective and how they can be applied in daily life.

Items Needed: None (although you will need a basic understanding of these areas of wellness if using this specific activity).

15. Emotional Debriefing

Number of People: 10+ people

Time Needed: 20 minutes

Intention: This activity provides a chance to reflect on and learn from recent emotional experiences.

How to Run the Activity: Ask participants to think of a recent emotional experience.

In pairs or small groups, have them discuss the event, how they felt, and how they handled it.

Share strategies for managing similar situations in the future. Facilitate a group discussion on key takeaways.

Items Needed: None.

16. Emotional Triggers Identification

Number of People: 6 or more people

Time Needed: 30 minutes

Intention: Identify and understand personal emotional triggers to improve self-regulation.

How to Run the Activity: Ask participants to reflect on situations that commonly trigger strong emotions.

Have them write these down and discuss them in pairs.

Then facilitate a group discussion on common triggers and strategies for managing reactions to them.

Items Needed: Paper and pens.

17. If I Was You

Number of People: 2 or more people

Time Needed: 15 minutes

Intention: If you are looking for emotional intelligence activities for managers in particular, this is a good one as it focuses on thinking about how others feel and trying to put yourself in their shoes.

How to Run the Activity

Put everyone in the training room into pairs and then hand each pair a couple of scenarios as handouts.

Example of a scenario that you could do:

Situation:
Zach from marketing has sent an email to you sounding anxious about a task you asked him to do. You feel the task should be simple, manageable and quick to do. On seeing his reply, you were initially taken aback.
Action:
What might you do to better understand Zach’s response?
Example Solution
As an emotionally intelligent manager, you could do several things such as:
– Re-read the thread in case you, perhaps, have misinterpreted the response, i.e. you read it too quickly.
– You might call Zach in and ask if he needs any help or if everything is okay.
– You could think carefully about Zach’s situation. Maybe one of your other staff is off sick and on taking time to consider it, you realise this has put some extra work onto Zach and that has put too much pressure on him.
– You might think about his situation and then realise he is going on holiday/vacation tomorrow and that he’d struggle to get the job done.

Items needed: Scenario handouts or a digital version.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

I hope you found the emotional intelligence activities for employees that we listed above useful.

Are you also interested in emotional intelligence and leadership?

Emotional itelligence training PowerPoint slide
>> From the Emotional intelligence training PowerPoint slide

This is a slide above from our Emotional Intelligence training materials, from one of the PowerPoint slides in case you are looking for emotional intelligence courseware so that you can provide workshops on Emotional Intelligence.

Training course materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
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