The EI debate continues

Your IQ may not be the only reason you get or don’t get that perfect job. How emotionally intelligent you are may be the deciding factor.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is taking a much greater role in the selection and training and development of leaders in the workplace.

“This awareness of emotional wellness has been one of the missing pieces of the puzzle,” says June Donaldson, author of Emotional Smarts.

“It is unrealistic to expect people to be visionaries, leaders, if in fact they are feeling fearful, anxious, not grounded inside.”

Emotional Intelligence (EI), became a mainstream buzzword following the popular reception of the work of Daniel Goleman, a clinical psychologist and author. Essentially, EI refers to the “soft” or human competencies — self-awareness, self-discipline, persistence and empathy — and is billed as a way to predict individual success at home and at work.

The term was attractive to HR professionals looking to refine their selection processes and training and development schemes.

“A lot of these things become a flavour of the month. (Emotional Intelligence) shouldn’t be, but it could be,” says Fred Pamenter, an HR consultant specializing in recruitment and performance management.

For now it is definitely a hot topic and like every novel idea, not free from debate.

Consider this generic EI question from the Hay Group:

You are an insurance salesman calling on prospective clients. You have left the last 15 clients empty-handed. What do you do?

•Call it a day and go home early to miss rush-hour traffic.

•Try something new in the next call, and keep plugging away.

•List your strengths and weaknesses to identify what may be undermining your ability to sell.

•Sharpen up your resume.

Questions like these attempt to gauge an individual’s EI by “aiming to measure or assess how a person will respond to difficult situations,” says Pamenter. While there are no right or wrong answers per se, employers are looking for personal qualities that will come out of each answer. For example, explains Pamenter, the first and last responses may indicate a person who gives up easily while the second and third may indicate a person who is eager to look at ways to improve or work hard at a task.

The difficulty, and a point much debated around EI, is quantifying these answers into a scientifically-valid measurement.

“I don’t think you can measure (EI) in measurable terms like an IQ. You have to really measure it in subjective terms. It’s more of an assessment that can be done by probing anecdotal evidence,” says Pamenter.

Is EI testing becoming a common practice? Are HR professionals sold on its validity? What’s next for EI?

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