Why EQ may be more important than IQ at the office

At work, as in life, it pays to be smart. Increasingly it also pays to have heart.

Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ) as it’s often referred to, is much more than just the latest buzzword. According to research from OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, nearly all HR managers (95%) and workers (99%) stated it’s important for staff to have high emotional intelligence. In addition, more than one in five employees (21%) believe EQ is more valuable in the workplace than IQ.

The survey was conducted by independent research firms and includes responses from more than 600 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees, and more than 800 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments in the United States and Canada.

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” notes Jim Jeffers, metro market manager for OfficeTeam in Madison. “Higher emotional intelligence translates to more self-awareness, better listening, and more effective communicating — all attributes that are crucial for professional success.”

Additional findings from the research include:

  • Ninety-two percent of workers think they have strong emotional intelligence; only 74% believe their bosses do.
  • Three in 10 HR managers feel most employers put too little emphasis on emotional intelligence during the hiring process.
  • HR managers identified increased motivation and morale (43%) as the greatest benefit of having emotionally intelligent staff.
  • Forty percent of HR managers said soft skills, such as communication, problem solving, and adaptability, are more difficult to teach workers than technical abilities.
  • More than six in 10 employees (61%) admitted they’ve let emotions get the better of them in the office, and 86% of workers said when a colleague doesn’t control his or her emotions it affects their perception of that person’s level of professionalism.

“As a manager, it’s important to evaluate your team’s emotional intelligence and identify some areas that could use improvement,” Jeffers says. “Suggest professional development courses to employees who would benefit from them and let your staff know they can come to you if there are issues they want to talk through. Set an example by demonstrating your own strong emotional intelligence and ability to effectively communicate.”

Building EQ

Because EQ relates to how effective you are at controlling and expressing emotion to others on the job, it’s important to understand how other people at work feel so you can use that insight to interact with them more effectively.

Here are five strategies courtesy of OfficeTeam that a manager or employee can use to help elevate their EQ at work:

1. Boost your self-awareness
Do you know how you typically react to the stress of a pending deadline? When frustrated by a fellow employee who isn’t listening to your ideas, don’t simply assume that you know how you come across to other people. Make an effort to objectively gauge your reactions and ask trusted colleagues for their candid take on your behavior. As a manager it’s especially important to be aware of how your level of emotion, management style, and behaviors affect your team to avoid being perceived as a bad boss.

2. Think before reacting
Emotional outbursts can cause your credibility with colleagues to plummet. If you’re leading an initiative or a team, consider the bigger picture before having a visible emotional reaction to something that upsets you in the workplace. If you walk away from the situation for a few minutes, it can give you a chance to regain composure.

3. Impart a sense of motivation
When you’re leading others remember that they depend on you for inspiration. Take steps to enhance your mood before starting work, whether by exercising, talking to upbeat coworkers, or other forms of self-care. Help keep the people you lead motivated by working with their strengths and providing them with the resources they need.

4. Listen more
Emotionally intelligent professionals know it’s important to empathize with the feelings and viewpoints of others in the workplace. Yet you can’t understand someone else’s wants and needs without really listening to that person. To lead with higher EQ in the workplace, be a better listener. Avoid interrupting and tune in to what someone is saying before you speak.

5. Improve your social skills
Active listening is just one part of having a strong set of interpersonal skills to help you lead with greater EQ. You can also work on improving your communication skill level by managing difficult conversations, resolving conflicts proactively, and maintaining a friendly demeanor when interacting with other people on your team.

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Hiring for EQ

If you’re a manager, it’s worth considering EQ as a factor when hiring a new employee. Thirty percent of HR managers responding to the OfficeTeam survey said they feel like most employers don’t put enough emphasis on emotional intelligence during the hiring process.

“Candidates who have strong soft skills should aim to showcase them during the application process,” advises Jeffers. “To demonstrate your own emotional intelligence, be prepared to highlight your abilities to adapt and collaborate with coworkers — also think about providing examples of how you’ve handled conflict in the past. Be ready to answer behavioral interview questions and have professional references prepared who can speak to your strong communication and interpersonal skills.”

There are a number of tools that managers can use to gauge the EQ of job applicants. In the survey, 70% of HR managers said they use reference checks for help in determining a candidate’s EQ, 55% use behavioral-based interview questions, and 32% use personality or psychometric tests.

“Companies use a variety of methods to screen candidates and some do include a personality test in the hiring process,” Jeffers explains. “Applicants should view these tests as an extension of the in-person interview and answer questions honestly without overthinking responses. The tests are designed to find a good fit for the role, so it’s in the candidate’s best interest to be up front with all their answers.”

Personality tests are rarely the sole deciding factor, adds Jeffers. Though they can be one piece of the process, companies tend to put the most weight into in-person interviews when it comes to evaluating whether a candidate is truly the right fit. Reference checks are also extremely telling and remain an important part of the decision-making process for employers.

You can learn more and test your own EQ here.

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