Emotional Intelligence (EI)
EI, or Emotional Intelligence (also known as EQ), has been gaining ground for years over IQ (Intelligence Quotient) as a more accurate predictor of employee performance and career success. Yet while businesses continue to use IQ testing, aptitude testing and personality testing to improve their recruitment and succession strategies, too few of them are harnessing the predictive power of EI testing.
EI is defined as the ability to recognize and express emotion, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others (Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000). Fundamentally, EI can be viewed as a skill which allows a person to recognize and use one’s own and others’ emotional states to solve problems and regulate behaviour (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). People who score highly on EI tests are generally the ones who keep calm in a crisis, who know what to say to make people feel better and who can inspire people to achieve goals and objectives. It’s often said that IQ gets you hired and EI gets you promoted. But if we are promoting top performers because they exhibit elements of EI, why aren’t we testing for EI as a means of recruiting top performers?
What happens when EI is low?
As a HR practitioner, I often come across the devastation left in the wake of a manager who’s lacking the common aspects of EI. The effects on their team often include staff that feel undervalued, believe their boss doesn’t communicate well or think their boss does not “get” them or their daily struggles. I’ve been in meetings where the manager dismisses a suggestion or overrides employee feedback with a devastating lack of insight into the emotional aftermath for both that employee and the team who witness the encounter or who hear about it later in the tea room. Typically it’s that employee who either lodges a bullying complaint or resigns. But worst case scenario is the formation of an “us and them” workplace culture where the divide between staff and management erodes good will and drains resources, both mental and emotional.
What are the most common EI traits?
Traits commonly associated with EI include self-awareness, independence, assertiveness, empathy, social responsibility, problem-solving, impulse control, flexibility, stress management and optimism[i]. An EI “star” is good at reading the emotions in a room, can effectively handle an exchange between two or more people and has a high level of awareness of how they “land” for others. They are good at directing conversations in a positive way and gaining engagement and commitment. They can identify negative emotions in others such as stress and dissatisfaction and redirect those emotions into positive channels. They make excellent leaders because they understand their team and actively promote team efficacy. They can also effectively steer their team through change and workplace challenges. But most importantly, EI is a skill that can be learned.
How can EI improve management performance?
There are various EI tests available for use in both personal and workplace settings. An excellent summary can be found here. If EI is not a strength there are various courses available which are designed to teach emotional awareness in oneself and in others. These skills can then be leveraged to improve team engagement and minimize workplace conflict. There is a strong correlation between high EI scores and effective leadership. With the right person heading the team, workplace culture can be influenced over time to both recognize and positively manage the emotional aspect of work which can often interfere with the business of being in business. If we test for and control those aspects of top performers which are highly correlated with success, then we actively promote high performance in our workplace.
[i] EQ-I 2.0®