Unpacking Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

by Mar 19, 2019Blog, Culture, Leadership, People & Potential0 comments

Unpacking Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

“Emotional Intelligence will be one of the “top ten must have skills” to remain competitive in the Industrial Revolution 4.0 realm by the year 2020.” 

This previsionary claim was highlighted in a 2016 Future of Jobs report published by the World Economic Forum. Today we find ourselves just past the halfway mark of 2018, and already prediction is turning into reality. 

Emotional Intelligence (also called EQ, EI, and EIQ) is the buzzword dominating online content as the ‘’go to’’ attribute for success in business. From leadership to workmanship, to entrepreneurship, a soaring EQ score as opposed to an above average IQ count, is being regarded as the new igniting force behind those lucrative career opportunities and promotions in the foreseeable future.

Why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Matters?

There is no lack of verbiage, definitions, and explanations unpacking the concept of Emotional Intelligence and the importance thereof in the workplace. Whether you are a seasoned professional, rookie graduate or a C-Suite heavyweight, a high level of EQ is a crucial component to employment survival during the face-off with artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing, and robotization. 

EQ is perhaps the one aspect of the brain, where us humans would still have the competitive advantage over bots in the coming decades: our ability to read others, process situational nuances and respond to indirect triggers, using our natural instinctive abilities and embedded emotional registries.

In a Workforce of the Future white paper by PWC, just over 73% of survey respondents sharethe notional belief that technology can never replace the human mind. Human behavior depicts as a combination of variable emotions and actions. Even though some basic emotions can be codified to a very limited extent, the non-standard nature our human emotional makeup may just enable us to outwit, outplay and outlast the machine generation with a different kind of smart: our EQ instead of our IQ.

Leading Indicators of EQ Soundness

The five components determining one’s degree of EQ include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and interpersonal skills. Harvard theorist Howard Gardner describes EQ as “the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them,”

Superior emotional intelligence manifests at the workplace in intangible behavioral characteristics such as:

  • Recognizing negative emotions following critique from superiors or negative feedback from peers and to not let these define one’s sense of self-worth or negatively impact confidence levels. Remaining realistic in pressure cooker situations. (Self-Awareness)
  • Owning up to mistakes, thinking before reacting, keeping judgments at bay, and delivering on promises fuelled by an internal locus of control. (Self-Regulating)
  • Displaying a strong drive to achieve and being passionate about your job for reasons beyond money, status, and recognition. (Motivation)
  • Walking a mile in the other party’s shoes, by being sensitive to their viewpoints, causal behaviorsand unique situational perceptions. (Empathy)
  • Focussing on commonalities instead of differences to build relationships and curate collaboration among colleagues to unify and encourage collective efforts. (Interpersonal Skills)

Employers care about EQ

In years to come, employers will continue to place a high emphasis on EQ soundness when hiring those individuals who are in tune with others’ reactions and understand their own impact on their peers, leaders, and subordinates. Emotionally intelligent organizations will achieve maximum effectiveness only with united efforts from staff complement in their entireties.

Hence, the decision to hire, fire and advance are perpetually shifting away from brains and cognitive ability to heart and emotional maturity. Travis Bradberry, the co-authorof Emotional Intelligence 2.0, asserts that 90% of top performers rate high in emotional intelligence. 

Conversely, over 80% of employees categorized as sub-standard performers in the workplace also scored at the bottom of the EQ Scale. Thus, one can safely assume that a positive correlation exists between the variables of performance and Emotional Intelligence.

Hiring managers heavily depend on EQ scores to predict performance potential these days. In a survey by Robert Half, results show that 70% of HR Managers use reference checking tools, 55% rely on behavior-based interview techniques, and 32% apply personality test batteries in attempts to ascertain EQ during the hiring process.

Apart from performance potential, candidates who are emotionally intelligent make for better ‘’culture fits’’ in companies because they are willing to listen, cooperate, set good examples and can take critique in their stride.

EQ Inherited or Learned?

Very few among us are born street smart. If you are slightly anemic (or completely illiterate) in the EQ department, fear not because Emotional Intelligence is a learnable skill which can be cultivated and improved upon regardless of age, stature and personality blueprint.

There are a few ways to better your EQ in the workplace:

  • Two sides of the coin: Developing self-awareness is no easy feat, thus attaining an outside opinion is a well-advised approach when in the midst of a challenging issue at work. Mentors, trusted peers or even a career coach might provide valuable unbiased insight regarding and assist you to see things from both sides.
  • Quit the blame game: Using “I feel’’ statements instead accusations or judgments regarding co-worker behaviors or points of view enables one to frame thoughts and assumptions in a more-self focused way. For example, “I feel that this project could be streamlinedif we do S, Y, and Z” instead of saying, “this project is doomedtofailure.”
  • Don’t feel sorry, aim for understanding: Reviewing a situation from the other party’s perspective is the best way to prevent your own set of ideas and conformities so blindside your judgment. Empathy is a neutral behavioral trait as opposed to sympathy which is based on subjective emotional thought processes.
  • Walk away: Often the most viable manner to handle a pending nuclear explosion in the office is to step away, cool down and better yet, sleep on it. Pressing the pause button allows for better clarity and objectivity.

Emotional Intelligence is a continuous work in progress and not a final state of being. You can never say: “I am now emotionally intelligent,”as there is no finite score to aspire towards. Increasing one’s EQ requires long-termincremental practice and effort.

EQ checked, What’s Next?

Artificially intelligent machines may plant themselves firmly at the board of directors table as soon as 2026. Elevating our emotional intelligence abilities may not be enough totrump the onslaught of AI in the workplace of the future. 

The importance of CQ or Cultural Intelligence in the workplace is a rising topic of discussion among company leaders and executives trying to contend with the challenges of navigating culturally diverse, globalized teams towards success.

Furthermore, CQ’s twin brother Creative Intelligence (CI) will become a must-have trait during this “revolution of disruption” to cope with rapid advances in technology, complete workplace transformation and the unequivocal shifting of business paradigms.

Finally, winking on the horizon of non-negotiable skills for the workplace of the future is the concept of Adaptability Quotient (AQ) which indicates the ability to adapt to change and uncertainty.

Future Intelligence Q’s

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable where uncertainty becomes our new normal pretty much summarises the essence of AQ advocates’ evolutionary schools of thought. Their theories are in direct contrast with the safety and security tier of Maslow’s Needs Pyramid. 

Going forward, the desire to satisfy employment safety and security needs may very well be replacedby the need to increase adaptation and resilience, beforeprogressing further in the quest to reach self-actualizationin our careers. 

Adaptive Intelligence is by no means ‘’a thing’’ yet. For the moment Emotional Intelligence dominates the future world of work narrative together with Cultural Intelligence and Creative Intelligence as the must-haveattributes for the coming decades. 

However, the Adaptability Quotient Score could soon emerge as a prominent predictive indicator of productivity, leadership and performance success in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 era.

One cannot help wondering which intelligence Q is to follow after AQ in our world of work? I guess the answer lies somewhere beyond 2050……..

Mark Lukens, MBA

Mark Lukens, MBA

Founding Partner at Capatus
Mark Lukens is a founding partner at Capatus and located in the New York office. He leads the Capatus’ Global Talent and Advisory practice. He is also an expert in the firm’s research and nonprofit practice. Lukens has more than 20 years of c-level executive and consulting experience delivering strategies and transformational programs to firms ranging from start-up to Fortune 50. He has worked with clients in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. Lukens worked extensively in various product and service categories including health care, life sciences, government, nonprofit, technology, and professional services. He also advises clients in other industries including commercial and industrial, retail, logistics and transportation, media and more. Lukens serves on several Nonprofit Boards and is a professor at the State University of New York where he teaches in the School of Business and Economics with a focus on marketing, international management, entrepreneurship, HR, and organizational behavior to name a few. Lukens has a technical background as a MCSE and earned an MBA from Eastern University.
Mark Lukens, MBA


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