This overlooked personality trait is crucial to your success at work


It’s quite common to come across a person who is greatly skilled at his/her job, has the technical know-how and gets tasks done before deadlines, yet struggles to get proper recognition, a long-awaited promotion or avoid trouble at their workplace. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re lacking one crucial trait: emotional intelligence (EQ), and if you think emotional intelligence is important just for the growth of personal relationships and love life, think again.

For a complete picture, it’s important to understand what the term means in general, and what it means for business. The term was coined in 1990 in a University of New Hampshire article titled “Emotional Intelligence” by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in the “Imagination, Cognition and Personality” journal where it was defined as an individual’s ability to accurately recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others. This means that a person with high EQ can manage relationships more efficiently in comparison to their peers. They have a high level of awareness that they use to gain an accurate perception of their own and people’s emotions and actions and respond in convenient ways.

EQ is getting increasing attention from employers, especially when they’re looking for high-caliber hires. It is deemed valuable to the entire company not just the person, and it is one of the top traits companies now look for. Business Acumen instructor at the AUC School of Business Executive Education Program, Fred El-Khodary, says that throughout years of working with organizations around the world, he observed that the smartest people in an organization are not always the most effective. “What distinguishes a productive employee from an average one is their emotional intelligence,” he added.

A Capgemini Research Institute survey found out that 74 percent of executives and 58 percent of non-supervisory employees surveyed believe that EQ will become a “must-have” skill in the next 1-5 years. Moreover, on average, demand for EQ is expected to increase by as much as six times during these years, and the financial services sector will be the one to see the highest increase, according to ABC News.

This goes well with the fact that people with higher EQ are more likely to get hired, promoted and earn better salaries, according to the website of Australian La Trobe University. Although intellectual intelligence (IQ) used to be regarded as the most important trait for career success, this notion is slowly changing as EQ gains equal or even higher attention in the labor market.

Daniel Goleman wrote a book in 1995 titled “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” to prove this notion. In this book, Goleman says that EQ is as important as IQ for success, including in academic, professional, social, and interpersonal aspects of one’s life. Consequently, lower EQ can cause some harm to a person’s life, especially their career.

What can this harm look like? We asked El-Khodary who gave an elaborative example: “Remember the famous player Zinedine Zidane and his famous head-butt kick in the world cup final match in 2006? That is an example of someone losing control over their emotions. The incident haunted the famous player for years after it happened, and changed his legacy forever. Can you imagine what acting like that in your organization or place of work could cause to your career, colleagues and the organization as a whole?” El Khodary added that in 2003, a Harvard Business Review reported that 80 percent of competencies that distinguish top performers were in the domain of EQ.

For his part, Ayman Mahanna, Human Resources (HR) management and strategy consultant and instructor at the AUC School of Business executive education program, Ayman Mahanna, says that studies have found that there is no correlation between IQ and success in practical life. “People are now realizing that there are different kinds of intelligence and EQ is an important kind. People get hired in companies now based on three criteria: IQ levels, technical abilities, and soft skills (which are basically their EQ),” he said. He added that people with limited soft skills that do not get improved usually end up feeling left out and are usually unable to take on managerial positions or get the promotion they dreamed of.

Luckily, to enhance your EQ there are several things you can still do, and one thing your boss can do for you so you overcome that obstacle. “Start with recognizing that you have a problem and that it will require some work from your side. Once you do that, there are plenty of development, coaching and mentoring programs that HR can provide you with. In turn, your employer can give you continuous feedback so you know where you’re standing” Mahanna said.

El-Khodary shares with Mahanna the same opinion. He believes that an employer plays an important role when it comes to helping employees work on their EQ levels. “Employers should provide feedback, on an ongoing basis, about the areas employees don’t usually see. They are also responsible for creating an environment where employees feel safe sharing their emotions and can freely reflect on them. It is also an employer’s responsibility to show their employees how EQ would help their careers, and offer training and coaching opportunities to develop their skills,” he added.

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