When we often think of things like emotions at work, it’s easy to believe that they have little place, and this is probably true even with the rising appreciation of emotional intelligence (EQ).
A new study suggests however that not only is your EQ hugely important, but it is a strong determinant of how much you will earn in your career.
The international research, conducted by a team from the University of Bonn, should provide a stark wake up call for anyone out there thinking that emotions have no place in our professional lives.
"Although managing employees and dealing with people often involves reading their emotions and determining their moods, not everyone is good at it," the researchers say. "It’s the same as foreign languages or athletics: some people are good at it, while others aren’t. Most people can do a sit-up. But not everyone is an Olympic champion."
About the research
To accurately gauge how successful we are at recognising the emotions in other people, the researchers trawled through a collection of recordings and images of people expressing their emotions clearly.
These expressions were then shown to a group of nearly 150 professional adults, who were each asked whether they could recognise the expression being shown, whether that was an angry expression or a sad one, a happy one or a scared one.
"On average, the participants succeeded in 77 percent of the cases," the paper reveals. "People who succeeded in 87 percent of the cases were considered to be good, and people who succeeded in more than 90 percent of the cases were considered really good. Those below 60 percent, in contrast, were seen as not so good in recognizing emotions."
Emotional intelligence and political aptitude
Next, the colleagues and bosses of each participant were recruited to give feedback on how skilled each person was politically. Were they influential in the workplace for instance or exceptional networkers? The aim was to try and match up emotional intelligence with political skills.
Indeed, that was what emerged. Feedback from colleagues revealed that those who had scored best on the emotional test were also rated as more politically astute by their peers. What’s more, it also emerged that the income of each emotionally smart participant was higher too.
The researchers went to great lengths to try and exclude any other possible explanations for their results. So things like the age of each participant, the amount of training they’d received or the number of hours they worked each week were discounted. Even when these factors were removed, the trend towards higher EQ individuals earning higher salaries remained. What’s more, the findings were replicated in a second study.
So can emotional intelligence be trained and developed?
Suffice to say, this is pretty important for anyone that wants to get on in their careers, so is it a skill that can be learned? The research points to a number of methods that claim to boost our emotional intelligence, but cast doubts on the effectiveness of many of these methods.
"I know of no study of high scientific standards that showed that the recognition of emotions lastingly can be improved," they conclude.
All of which suggests that if you have a naturally high EQ then you’re in luck.
Image: Loner Wolf