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Executive Voice

How Emotional Intelligence Improves Career Success

The importance of technical skill is well known in any profession.  Yet beyond the ability to complete job duties, there is also a need to develop positive, professional relationships with one’s coworkers, customers, staff, and supervisors.  The ability to form and maintain these relationships is made a lot easier with the help of emotional intelligence, or EQ.

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What is Emotional Intelligence?

The term was officially coined in a 1990 research paper by psychology professors John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey.  In their mind, emotional intelligence is “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships’ and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”  For too long, these abilities were seen as fringe benefits in a workplace.  In truth, people who can manage their awareness of human feelings make great leaders.  As author Daniel Goleman points out, “[t]he most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence….”


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Benefits of  EQ in the Workplace

The data backs Goleman’s assertion up.  Those considered to have high emotional intelligence are 7x as likely to be effective leaders.  A single point increase on an EQ test (emotional intelligence quotient test, modelled after the IQ test) is correlated with $1,300 in additional annual income.  Most telling, a 2021 study of Spanish workers revealed that high emotional intelligence was a stronger predictor of salary than both age and gender. 

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Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Simply put, no one works completely alone.  Every job requires its workers to interact with other humans. The better one is at doing it, the greater success they will achieve.  Those with high emotional intelligence are more likely to embrace cross-cultural experiences, feel positively about those with which they work, and remain with a company longer.  The benefits are especially high in supervisor and customer facing jobs.  Restaurant managers do both, and those with higher EQ generate 34% higher profits, increased guest satisfaction, and improved employee retention. 


Like conventional intelligence, there are people who possess a natural advantage in this field.  Many are socialized to disregard their emotions, making it difficult for them to develop high levels of EQ.  Good news – social skills are just that: skills, which can be learned by anyone.  The first step in improving your emotional intelligence is to understand your feelings.  Practice identifying your emotions in times of stress and consider how your emotions impact your reactions.  Once you are aware, work on monitoring your reactions. 

If you act rashly in times of stress, take a break or wait before responding to a certain issue.  Even stepping away for 5 minutes can improve a situation dramatically.  Some tools that can help men on their path to emotionally intelligent professionalism include mentorship and journal-keeping.  Find what works for you and stick to it.  Many people are smart, but without emotional intelligence, plenty don’t succeed.

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