June 6, 2023
Read time: 8 min.

How Working with Emotional Intelligence Researchers from Yale Transformed the EQ Culture at Waverley

by Iryna Hladun, Content Writer at Waverley Software

Emotional Intelligence, also called EQ, when compared to IQ, is the ability of a person to stay aware of the emotions they feel, the emotions other people may feel, and align their actions accordingly. At Waverley Software, we came to embrace this topic, when our team started work on a software product devoted to training Emotional Intelligence as a must-have skill. The more we learned about it, the clearer it was that we need to make EQ a part of our company culture. This is the story of how the Waverley team got inspired by a client’s project and leveraged Emotional Intelligence to step up our corporate communication. 

How it started: Oji Life Lab 

Oji Life Lab is a software project initiated by a serial entrepreneur Matt Kursh and his business partners Andrea Hoban – a learning professional, Robin Stern, Ph.D., and Marc Brackett, Ph.D. – researchers from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Years of research and practice in this field showed that for achieving success, a person’s soft skills are just as important as their hard skills, if not more. This inspired the group to create an e-learning app for businesses which could help their employees boost their EQ by teaching them to be aware of their emotions and emotions of people around them.

Kursh’s aim was to transform people’s emotional awareness from a temporary learning experience, which usual e-learning solutions can provide, into life-long habits, which is much harder to achieve. This required not simply programming a standard learning path. Instead, the product had to adapt to the concerns of individual learners. Thus, the solution combined a learning course and live sessions with professional coaches. 

Waverley and Oji

As our team moved on with the development for Oji Life Labs at Waverley, we came to realize that the communication inside the Oji team became somewhat different from the rest of our teams. They were more likely to listen to each other, respect their colleagues’ emotions, and avoid blaming others. 

“Sometimes, when everything goes, ehem… contrary to the plan, I try not to get carried away by emotions but instead understand why this is happening and what influenced these people’s decisions,” says Eugene, a developer from the team. 

This means Eugene has learned to be empathetic. Newcomers to the Oji team could also feel this emotional maturity. 

“When I joined the project, I began reading literature on Emotional Intelligence. Relationships between the team members also influenced my behavior and communication strategy,” commented Eugenia, the team’s new PM.


Getting going with EQ 

Our team was enthusiastic about growing their Emotional Intelligence and felt this could improve communication with clients and each other. Waverley’s management also knew that cultivating Emotional Intelligence in the company could bring benefits and a competitive advantage.

As a result, it was decided to make EQ cultivation a part of the company’s corporate culture. In fact, Waverley’s execs pioneered the practice: the board members started with offsite meetings facilitated by a psychology coach to learn empathetic communication – a skill they can pass on to their subordinate teams.

When a certain practice comes as an initiative from company leaders, it gets adopted naturally by the entire team. This is the phenomenon of leading by example. 

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

It’s critical that we help our team members build their EQ experience based on proven assumptions. Here are some of the bearing points that we promote across the team:

  • Empathy is the starting point. Creating software for people, we must be able to see it from their perspective. When communicating – step into the shoes of your opponent in a debate, be it your colleague or your client. 
  • There are no good or bad emotions. There are emotions that we want or don’t want to feel at the moment. One must learn to acknowledge, deconstruct, identify, and analyze emotions in order to control and be able to benefit from them.
  • Emotion control lets you build effective coping strategies.
  • Life-work balance cannot be neglected. In order to be productive, one must have the time to recharge by doing what gives them energy: a favorite hobby, sport, travel, family, or even completely nothing.  
  • Perfectionism, rigid planning, and inability to delegate lead to frustration and exhaustion. Instead, focus on good enough results, flexible approach, and cooperation with others. This perfectly aligns with the agile practices, which make the core of software development. 

Cultivating EQ at Waverley

Today, we’ve implemented a number of practices that help us promote EQ at Waverley and have it as a natural part of our corporate identity. 

Involve everyone

First, it was key to have all of our team members feel engaged, make them create their own learning and growth environment, instead of passively consuming information. We set off with an all-team corporate chat channel about EQ to stir up the team’s interest in exploring their own emotions, reflection, self-analysis. It was a place where we could raise EQ awareness across the team in a subtle and interactive manner

People talked about what kind of behavior is NOT emotionally intelligent, what influences our motivation, what coping strategies are and how they work, how meditation can help boost EQ and emotional well-being, which books to read, how emotions physically appear in our brain and manifest in bodies – all sorts of things.

Spread it everywhere

Matt Kursh and the EQ researchers from Yale taught us a valuable lesson: Built habits bring lasting change.

That’s why our next step was to incorporate Emotional Intelligence into as many communication channels as possible: 

  • We watched movies and then discussed them in our English Speaking Club sessions from the emotional perspective, embedding EQ topics in our conversations.
  • We updated our Corporate Communication Guidelines to promote respectful, non-blaming attitude and focus on solving problems, not escalating them.
  • We developed our Diversity & Inclusion policies to make a point on the cross-company level and ensure each team member is aware of and follows these corporate values.
  • When the COVID pandemic hit, our HR team launched a series of internal non-tech talks on emotional well-being and successful work-life balance practices. 
  • Ira Balva, the Managing Director at Waerley Ukraine, held a two-part lecture, unveiling the research-backed foundation of the Oji project, explaining how our emotions work and ways to cope with severe emotions.
  • Team and project managers organized a “reading club” to read together and discuss literature on effective people management with EQ. 
  • Team leads, managers, senior specialists got developing their soft skills and EQ as their goals for performance reviews.

When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine started, we paid close attention to the emotional recovery of our team members. The majority of our Ukrainian staff are from the east of Ukraine which suffered the most. It was the company’s duty to provide support to them, including on the mental health level. This urged us to launch regular sessions with a corporate psychologist to help our team members recover, deal with stress, and talk through what bothers them. Today, we treat these sessions as our regular practice and don’t know how we lived without them in the past! 

Apply it anytime

Engineers. To build software that real users will admire, software engineers must learn to be result-oriented and flexible – to be ready to accept changing requirements and priorities without frustration. They also must successfully collaborate with clients and each other, which demands being cooperative, level-headed, and empathetic. Finally, we make sure our team members are self-disciplined and organized to deliver on time. This is an indicator of maturity as well.   

Team Leads and Project Managers. Communication with people inside and outside their teams is their main function. Leadership, influence, persuasion are the critical skills that help them get across decisions, motivate the subordinates, and set up concord in a team. Well-developed empathy helps them provide honest but sensitive feedback. Ability to see a personality behind each role on the team and showing real interest in them is crucial for creating a healthy and welcoming work atmosphere where people will be comfortable and productive.

Recruiting and HR. The main task of our recruiters is to find people that are not just professional but who will be a cultural fit for Waverley. This requires strong judgment skills, ability to recognize emotions and intentions. Recruiters and HR managers help people open up, both on interviews and one-on-ones, by building trust through genuine respect, care, and honesty. A developed EQ helps them spot and mitigate potential issues long before they emerge. But in a trustful environment, people feel safe enough to voice their unpleasant feelings too, which is an even better result.


At this point, emotional awareness has become our new normal and we continue to promote it. Our senior management is approachable and willing to listen and find solutions. Our leads and managers can see a personality behind each of the roles in their teams. Our team members tend to look for meeting points in their conversations, with a focus on solving problems, not finding the responsible ones. 

How Working with Emotional Intelligence Researchers from Yale Transformed the EQ Culture at Waverley

by Iryna Hladun, Content Writer at Waverley Software Emotional Intelligence, also called EQ, when compared to IQ, is the ability of a person to stay aware of the emotions they feel, the emotions other people may feel, and align their actions accordingly. At Waverley Software, we came to embrace this topic, when our team started […]