Emotional smarts win the day

Managing emotions at work makes for higher productivity

Book smarts and technical smarts are essential for getting a job. But more and more research is finding that another form of intelligence — emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) — is equally, if not more, important to creating a successful organization.

One emotional intelligence scholar, Reuven BarOn, defined EQ as an array of personal, emotional and social competencies and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands. (For a list of EQ competencies, see sidebar at the bottom of Emotional intelligence at work: Don’t leave home without it.)

“Once we’re in the job, 90 per cent of it’s going to be our emotional intelligence, how we manage ourselves, form relationships, foster relationships,” said Michael Rock, instructor of EQ and the new workplace at Toronto’s Seneca College, the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. “IQ will get us hired, but lack of EQ will get us fired.”

Research has found EQ is a better predictor of business success than either relevant previous experience or high IQ. A study conducted by search firm Egon Zehnder International looked at 515 senior executives in Latin America, Germany and Japan. The study found those executives who were primarily strong in emotional intelligence led 74 per cent of successful operations and only 24 per cent of the failures.

When distinguishing top performers from bottom performers, Daniel Goleman’s 1998 study, Working with Emotional Intelligence, examined more than 200 international organizations and found that, in medium complexity jobs, one-third of the difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability while two-thirds is due to emotional competence. In top leadership positions, more than four-fifths of the difference is due to emotional competence.

There is no job where EQ isn’t important for success, according to Jason Cressey, an emotional intelligence trainer with Vancouver-based Motivation in Mind.

“Even if you’re working alone as a telecommuter in your home office, if that internal sense of well-being is not being looked at or nurtured, your quality of work, motivation and stamina will suffer,” said Cressey, who also lectures on emotional intelligence at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“If you’re working in a team of others, these effects are compounded by strained interpersonal relations and social stressors,” he said.

Someone with low EQ can make the work environment uncomfortable for everyone. While an emotionally intelligent person is able to manage her feelings, someone who lacks that ability, will be very difficult to work with, said Rock.

“Somebody who’s not emotionally self-aware, it’s like a scattergun in the workplace,” he said.

A person with high EQ is able to take the time to process information during a critical moment and respond appropriately, said Rock

“To be able to respond instead of simply reacting is one of the marks of emotional intelligence,” he said.

Someone with low EQ is unable or unwilling to take responsibility for her own feelings and often blames others, is critical of others and is negative in most situations, said Cressey.

“The low EQ person exaggerates or minimizes feelings and will often let things build up, then ‘explode’ or react strongly to something relatively minor,” he said. “They are unclear communicators, rarely letting you know where you really stand, and this can make them very uncomfortable people to be around.”

Finding out who is and who isn’t emotionally intelligent can be a useful exercise for employers. There are various EQ assessments that can be used in the hiring process or for professional development.

However, Rock cautions these assessments should only be used as a development tool and not as an evaluation of a person’s ability. That’s because, unlike IQ, EQ is fluid and changeable.

“But it doesn’t mean it’s statistically invalid,” said Rock.

While certain major life events, such as a divorce or death, will affect a person’s EQ score, day-to-day stresses shouldn’t make a difference. It’s only through training that a person can significantly change his EQ score, said Rock.

That’s why he likes to use group EQ assessments, where a group or department is evaluated and all the results are anonymous. The manager is able to see on which EQ competencies the group scores the lowest and can then target training to improve those areas.

Cressey would rather just skip the assessments altogether and provide overall emotional intelligence training to an entire department or organization.

“I simply make the assumption that EQ is such a rich field with so many layers to it that anyone and everyone can benefit from EQ training, and the principles can never be reinforced enough,” he said.

The work pie

Elements for a successful workplace

According to Michael Rock, an emotional intelligence trainer, a successful workplace can be split into three pie pieces, with emotional intelligence (EQ) making up the biggest piece. Strategic intelligence (SQ), the ability to set clear goals, makes up the next biggest piece and mental intelligence (IQ), the ability to understand the business and how it works, makes up the smallest piece.

Case for EQ

The business of emotion at work

The evidence is building for the business case of emotional intelligence. Cary Cherniss, a professor of organizational psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, compiled 19 different EQ studies. Below are some examples of how EQ boosts profits and productivity. (All figures in U.S. dollars.)

•The U.S. Air Force used an emotional intelligence assessment to select recruiters and found the most successful recruiters scored highest on EQ competencies of assertiveness, empathy, happiness and emotional self-awareness. The air force found that, by using EQ to select recruiters, it nearly tripled its ability to predict successful recruiters at a cost savings of about $3 million a year.

•L’Oréal sales agents selected based on certain emotional competencies sold $91,370 more than the salespeople selected using the company’s old selection procedure for a net revenue increase of more than $2.5 million. The high EQ sales people also had 63 per cent less turnover in the first year.

•American Express financial advisors who completed the EQ training program grew their businesses by 18.1 per cent in the following year, while those who did not receive the training grew their businesses by 16.2 per cent.

•Research by Richard Boyatzis, a professor at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, found experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm who scored above the median on nine or more EQ competencies delivered $1.2 million more profit from their accounts than did other partners.

•Research by Hay/McBer ¬Research and Innovation group found insurance sales agents who were weak in emotional competencies such as self-confidence, initiative and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000. Those who were strong in at least five of eight key EQ competencies sold policies worth $114,000.

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