Mental & Behavioral Health

EQ is the New IQ: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Greg Okhifun
Associate Editor
Corporate Wellness Magazine
Emotional Intelligence

In today’s workplace, workplace performance and career success – and even employee health - which were once thought to be a function of one’s intelligent quotient (IQ), are, in fact, corollary to one’s emotional intelligence.

But what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is an individual’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage his or her emotions and those of others. The emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) is the measure of that ability.

Emotional intelligence takes root in Darwin’s work, which states that emotional expression is prerequisite for one’s survival. Emotional intelligence involves a mix of several competencies that help an individual become aware and have control of his or her emotions and behavior.  This explains why the most successful people in the workplace are those with high emotional intelligence.

Core Competencies of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is founded on two broad competencies– personal competence and social competencies. These broad competencies provide the required skill set for managing one’s self and others effectively.

Personal Competencies

Personal competencies equip an individual with the skills to manage one’s self. These skills include self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation.


Self-awareness is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence. Identifying one’s strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and intuitions gives a sense of clarity, ensures good decision-making, and provides an individual with a sense of worth.

Regardless of one’s academic degrees or fund of knowledge on a subject in the workplace, a poor sense of self-awareness impairs one’s ability to thrive and succeed at the workplace. Accurate recognition of one’s emotions and thought processes forms a strong basis for building on one’s strengths and capabilities to make smart decisions


Self-regulation is also an offshoot of self-awareness. Self-regulation is a skill that helps an individual manage their disruptive emotions, manage stress appropriately, become more adaptable and flexible, and open to innovative thoughts and approaches. In other words, self-regulation is an individual’s ability to influence their thoughts and emotions to become more efficient and productive.

Such individuals are equipped emotionally to handle stressful situations. They are better at accepting failure and moving forward. People with a high EQ are also able to hold off a reflex emotional response to a stressor until later.

This restraint comes from understanding that immediate response to a stressor is often negative and irrational, and inhibiting a reflex reaction at that time often allows one to rethink and express their response in a mature and positive manner.


Self-motivation is one of the key principles of EQ. An intrinsic drive to achieve one’s goals is a critical factor in workplace success. Employees with intrinsic motivation are more likely to be optimistic about their success, more committed to individual and shared goals, better able to recognize and use opportunities, and more likely to take initiatives and make smart decisions in reaching goals.

Social Competencies

These are skills that help an individual manage relationships effectively, and since the workplace is all about building and maintaining relationships, employees who have the highest EQ are better able to create a productive work environment. These social skills include intuition, empathy, and social responsibility.


Intuition refers to the ability to understand others’feelings and perspectives. It is the ability to pick emotional cues of others and to recognize the basis for another’s behavior. In this regard, emotionally intelligent people are better equipped to understand and meet customers’ needs, help others recognize and boost their strengths, and create a better work environment by leveraging diversity.


Empathy is a clear sign of emotional intelligence.  This is a corollary to valuing oneself and having intuition. Valuing one’s self and recognizing one’s sense of worth reflects on how we value others. Recognizing and valuing other people’s needs and concerns is fundamental to creating a thriving work environment; by promoting mutual respect and compassion towards co-workers or subordinates, and encouraging others’individual and professional growth.

Social Responsibility

A sense of social responsibility creates an adeptness to motivate desirable behaviors in others. Employees with this skill have influencing tactics to make people produce the desired results. Such individuals are seen as change catalysts, inspiring and motivating others to be the best they can be.

These employees are also better able to handle and resolve conflicts involving themselves or between others. As a result of their commitment to the shared vision, emotionally intelligent people build bonds and foster collaboration between co-workers, driving all else to achieve the goals. This makes them more open to other people’s ideas and less likely to be bossy.

To date, many employers and organizations have used interviewee’s educational attainment, work experience, and knowledge base as their selection criteria during recruitment, with little consideration for how the individual relates with others or how they handle stress and failure, for instance.

However, many organizations are beginning to take a different look at this all-important factor, with several studies confirming the link between high EQ and excellent work performance.

A Fortune 500 company had prioritized personality assessment tests for selecting candidates for many years, despite the high-turnover in the sales department. After incorporating emotional intelligence-based criteria to the recruitment process and emotional intelligence training for staff, it recorded an increase in annual profit by about $32 million, with 67 percent retention of staff in the first year.

This is because of the high employee engagement found in high EQ work environments. Low EQ environments, on the other hand, breed employee burnout and reduced productivity.

One study conducted by a company in Dallas to compare the productivity levels between employees with low EQs and those with high EQs discovered that workers with high emotional intelligence were 20 times more productive than those with low scores.

Emotional intelligence is the single, best predictor of the success of an organization across all levels. Regardless of the academic portfolio of prospective employees, chances are that without a high EQ, these workers performances will stall, imparting the bottom line negatively.

Employers should, therefore, rethink recruitment and the workplace culture, prioritizing not only academically sound employees but also those with high EQ to optimize results and improve the bottom line.

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