by Julie Norwell
Knowing how to read clients and colleagues, and understanding what underlying thoughts and emotions are influencing their actions and decisions, have long been useful skills in business.
These and related competencies, including staying calm under pressure, an ability to manage social relationships, being aware of your emotions and knowing how to channel them productively, comprise the rapidly spreading concept of Emotional Intelligence (abbreviated as either EI or EQ). These characteristics are recognized not only as important components of good business practices, but also a critical skillset in the modern workplace.
Hiring managers have taken note.
A Careerbuilder survey of more than 2600 U.S. hiring managers showed that a whopping 71% of employers value emotional intelligence in employees over IQ, and 34% of them admitted to placing greater emphasis on EQ when hiring and promoting employees. Nearly 60% of them said they’d pass on a candidate with a high IQ but a low EQ.
That survey was published in 2011, but the buzz about emotional intelligence has only grown. Many businesses now study EQ and design programs to educate the masses about its important contributions to organizations and how to harness its benefits. The World Economic Forum even ranked emotional intelligence as one of the top 10 skills in 2020 in the The Future of Jobs report – a skill that didn’t even make the top 10 list for 2015.
It’s clear that when it comes to employment and job seeking, emotional intelligence is now critical to have – perhaps even more so than skills and experience.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is, as it sounds, the intersection of emotions and intelligence. It’s the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, manage the emotions so that they don’t control your own behavior, and use the information in a way that is productive and beneficial to relationships and circumstances.
For example, a manager with high EQ might recognize a worker’s struggle to make a standing 8:30am meeting because the drop-off time of his child’s school conflicts with it. She changes the meeting time to accommodate the worker. The manager has sacrificed little with the schedule change, but has gained enormous appreciation on the part of the worker and even, perhaps, other witnesses, by the gesture.
The theory of emotional intelligence has evolved in different ways since its introduction in the 1980s. Peter Salovey, currently President of Yale University, and John Mayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire, were early pioneers of the theory, publishing a foundational research article in 1989. Daniel Goleman then popularized the concept with the release of his 1995 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.
Goleman identified five core competencies:
- Self-Awareness – Your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and their effect on those around you.
- Self-Regulation – Your ability to manage your emotions and direct your behavior optimally given the situation.
- Motivation – Your ability to channel emotions towards clear goals and work towards them, maintaining focused attention and a positive attitude.
- Empathy – Your ability to perceive, accurately identify, and understand the emotions of others.
- Social Skills – Your ability to manage relationships with people around you to the betterment of all parties.
EQ Goes Mainstream
Over the last twenty years, many experts have tweaked the concept of EQ for professional, academic, and social applications and run with it.
Travis Bradberry, author of best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and co-founder of TalentSmart, a leading provider of emotional intelligence training for businesses, calls emotional intelligence the “missing link” that explains why “people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time.” He also claims that “emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.” TalentSmart boasts clients among 75% of the Fortune 500 companies.
The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute was created at Google in 2007 when a team of leading experts in mindfulness, neuroscience and emotional intelligence developed an internal course for Google employees. It soon became an incredibly popular training program and now serves companies, nonprofits and government organizations worldwide.
And the RULER program, developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, has been sweeping the nation’s schools using an evidence-based approach for integrating social and emotional learning into classrooms.
Global management and consulting firm, McKinsey, has spotted the trend, estimating that, between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26% in the U.S.
Benefits of EQ for Job Seekers
Yes, you still need certain skills and experience to get your foot in the door for many opportunities. But having high emotional intelligence will give you leverage over your competitors. Why? Because hiring managers know that people with high EQ make good decisions, handle change well, respond well to feedback, and are able to effectively solve problems. They stay calm under pressure, support their co-workers, and cultivate relationships that help to create productive work environments.
Hiring managers also know that people with high EQ are more likely to tough out a difficult situation, and direct reports of managers with high EQ are less likely to leave a company – 400% less likely according to one source!
Show Me the Money
Once employed, people with high emotional intelligence continue to be rewarded. The Careerbuilder survey showed that a full three-quarters of employers said they’d be more likely to promote someone with high emotional intelligence over someone with a high IQ.
And, in case you’re wondering, that eventually translates into money. According to a 2017 time-lagged study of emotional intelligence and salary, college students identified as having emotional intelligence turned out to enjoy significantly higher salaries 10 to 12 years later, mainly because EQ helped them acquire the social capital necessary to be successful in their careers.
Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed
Emotional intelligence comes naturally to some people, but, as with music, sports or languages, anyone can learn it with instruction and practice. If you want to boost your EQ, you can peruse the abundance of literature available or take an assessment test. You can also start with the following steps:
- Become self-aware. Learn to identify your emotions as they happen. When you can label your emotions objectively, you can learn how to manage them so that you respond to them productively instead of reacting to them. Figure out your strengths and your weaknesses and learn how to maximize your effectiveness within these parameters.
- Stop and think. You may not be able to stop from feeling an emotion, but you can manage your response to it. Pause before you speak or write back to someone in a moment of anger or frustration. In the face of criticism, warranted or not, ask yourself how you might learn from the situation.
- Train your attention. Life is full of many distractions, but learning to focus on a goal or a purpose leads to calmness and clarity of mind. You can’t stop negative experiences or life stressors from occurring, but you can choose how you react to them. Daily journaling is one excellent way to process your frustrations and put things into perspective.
- Talk less and listen more. The more you understand the perspective of others, the more empathetic you’re likelier to be. You don’t have to agree with the perspective of others, but your effort to see how they see things will result in deeper and better relationships.
- Manage your relationships. Offer feedback, extend praise, and make apologies. Observe your surroundings and relationships and make concessions or accommodations to others, knowing that they your active efforts will result in better relationships and a more productive workplace.
It’s important to continue to practice these steps to maintain a high level of emotional intelligence. But the effort will pay off because people with high EQs have an edge – in business and in all aspects of life.
More articles from The Barrett Group: