Why EQ belongs in the workplace

For years, intellectual ability and technical skills were the traits employers sought the most in the recruitment and selection of candidates.

It was a common belief that in the business world, which requires quick, calculated decisions and critical thinking, there is simply no room for emotion and personality. Yet, as the growing literature around the topic suggests, the case for prioritising employees with a high level of emotional intelligence is very strong indeed.

As an oft-quoted study by Pearson and Porath found, employees who lack emotional intelligence – those characterised by incivility, rudeness and poor mood management, for example – can have a lasting impact on colleagues and the organisation as a whole. The pair's research on thousands of employers and employees found that almost two thirds waste time at work avoiding and dealing with a “low EQ offender”.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence and what benefits can it bring to today's workplaces?

What is emotional intelligence?

Many consider emotional intelligence, or EQ, to be the other side of the coin to IQ. It is not enough for employees to show a strong competency in just one of these measures – rather, the best candidates will have a good balance of both.

So if IQ gauges ones intellectual capacity, what exactly does EQ measure?

EQ refers to how adept someone is at reading, managing and responding to emotions, both their own and those of others. Those with high emotional intelligence possess, in equally abundant amounts, self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy with others.

As business never operates in a vacuum, employees at any type of organisation are required to interact effectively with a diverse range of people inside and outside the company.

Why is it important in business today?

1. It improves collaboration and teamwork

Effective teamwork is crucial to the success of any business, and employees with emotional intelligence know just how to work in a group, no matter how diverse it may be.

Emotionally intelligent workers are far more likely to possess the communication, negotiation and other interpersonal skills to ensure group harmony is achieved and everyone can work together towards a common goal.

2. It improves morale

The great thing about emotional intelligence is that, unlike pure intellect, its positive effects can rub off onto colleagues and enhance the psychological wellbeing of the organisation.

This holds true at every level of the organisation, from the employees to the senior managers. For instance, the study by Pearson and Porath revealed that three quarters of respondents' commitment to their employer had waned as a result of them displaying low levels of EQ.

The flow-on effects of emotional intelligence cannot be underestimated, as it can be the glue that holds your staff together and drives their motivation.

3. It boosts frontline leadership

Business leaders are no longer selected solely on the degree they hold or the experience they have under their belt.

In this new EQ-centric age, the best leaders are those that can use their people skills to effectively manage a wide range of individuals – and emotional intelligence is the key requirement for this.

Can it be developed?

Despite conflicting views as to whether emotional intelligence is an innate trait or something that can be nurtured, there is no doubt that just like any other skill, emotional intelligence can be developed.

While personality assessments in recruitment can help you identify the most emotionally intelligent candidates, it doesn't stop there – your organisation can take advantage of a range of team development initiatives, such as co-worker reviews, to help employees identify their levels of EQ and unlock their emotional intelligence potential.