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December 13, 2017

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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Why It Matters More than Personality

Part 1 of 3

Emotional Intelligence Quotient, or EQ, is a term being used more and more within human resources departments and which is making its way into executive board rooms. This article will help shed some light on what EQ is, how it is different than personality, and how it has proven to impact the bottom line in the workplace.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence Quotient is defined as a set of competencies demonstrating the ability one has to recognize his or her behaviors, moods, and impulses, and to manage them best according to the situation. Typically, “emotional intelligence” is considered to involve emotional empathy; attention to, and discrimination of one’s emotions; accurate recognition of one’s own and others’ moods; mood management or control over emotions; response with appropriate (adaptive) emotions and behaviors in various life situations (especially to stress and difficult situations); and balancing of honest expression of emotions against courtesy, consideration, and respect (i.e., possession of good social skills and communication skills).

Additional, though less often mentioned qualities include selection of work that is emotionally rewarding to avoid procrastination, self-doubt, and low achievement (i.e., good self-motivation and goal management) and a balance between work, home, and recreational life. In essence, EQ is the pattern of how people’s biases in their thinking leads them to think one thing or choice is better than another, as well as their clarity in differentiating within those biases to exercise clear and sound judgment.

“People see what they want to see.”—Red Barber

How is EQ Different from Personality?

In psychology, personality refers to the emotion, thought, and behavior patterns unique to an individual. Personality influences one’s tendencies, such as a preference for introversion or extroversion. Like Intelligence Quotient (IQ), personality cannot be used to predict EQ. However, as EQ can identify both the biases and clarity in one’s thinking patterns that allow them to make good sound decisions, personality only refers to the biases in the behaviors themselves.

Personality tests typically only distinguish four categories of temperament but do not distinguish which melancholy person is actually high in ambition. For example, business people know that they want an extrovert to fill the sales position, but they cannot tell from a temperament test which ones will be persistent from those who will be insistent. It is desirable for salespeople to have persistence, which allows them to have the energy, drive, and thick skin to develop and close new business. Less effective, however are insistent salespeople who 1) turn off prospective buyers because they are too pushy, and 2) cannot give up on a prospect who is not going to buy when they could be focusing their efforts on more promising opportunities. We know we want an extrovert, sensor, thinker, and judger (ESTJ) from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the vacant leadership role, but we cannot tell which ESTJ will make sound judgments under stress and which ones will maim everyone in his/her path when under stress.

An employee with a “good” personality may be fun, social, energetic, and outgoing. However, having a “good” personality doesn’t necessarily equate to success in the workplace. A “good” personality tells you nothing about the fact that the employee can also make errors in judgment due to lack of “clarity” when making decisions within their own biases. This is why people with varying personality styles can successfully perform the same job. It boils down to their ability to exercise clear and sound judgment in those situations their job/role presents on a regular basis.

An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her own impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations. These employees also have empathy, remain optimistic even in the face of adversity, and are gifted at educating and persuading in a sales situation and resolving customer complaints in a customer service role. This “clarity” in thinking and “composure” in stressful and chaotic situations is what separates top performers from weak performers in the workplace.

As managers and business executives we have often asked ourselves the following questions: Why do certain employees get into accidents more often than others? Why do they violate company ethics and policies? Why do they ignore the rules of the organization? Why do they use illegal drugs while on the job? Why do some people cause conflict while others are so gifted at resolving it? Why do they put self-interest ahead of the organizational values? Why do some salespeople build large books of new business with ease while others struggle to do so even though they seem to be putting forth the required effort?

In many cases the answer to the above questions lies in “emotional intelligence” rather than the individual’s “personality type.”

“Unmet emotional needs cause the majority of problems at work.”—EQI.org

The 5 key competencies will be covered in the next issue.

-Mike Poskey

Mike Poskey is vice president of ZERORISK HR, Inc., a Dallas-based human resources risk management consulting firm specializing in the identification and retention of Top Talent. For more information, visit www.ZERORISKHR.com or call Mike at 800-827-5991 x 347.