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Asia Gwatkin

AGilis Learning & Development Ltd

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EQ vs IQ in the workplace


I’ve always been fascinated by Emotional Intelligence. Conventional intelligence (IQ) is so obvious, tangible, easy to measure.

Someone is considered smart if they can reel off facts, retain information or have a high level of technical skill of some kind. These people are guaranteed to succeed, right? Not necessarily.

I’ve often come across people who have a high level of intellect yet seem to lack common sense, self-awareness and social skills. Conversely I’ve known others with plenty of the latter but who have a lower IQ. In my experience it’s often this second group who build better relationships and are more successful.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a concept born in the 1960s, made popular in 1995 by Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. Rather than an individual’s intellectual ability or technical know-how, EQ focuses instead on personal qualities such as initiative, empathy, adaptability and social skills.

Goleman’s book Working with Emotional Intelligence takes his insights from his first book into the workplace and reveals that IQ takes second position to emotional intelligence in determining outstanding job performance. Intellect and technical ability are just the beginning. In order to survive and thrive in a competitive job market, qualities such as resilience and initiative are taking on a new valuation.

When recruiting, employers are more interested in an underlying ability to learn, communication skills and interpersonal skills, among other non-academic traits. Growing evidence shows that individuals with a higher EQ are better performers than those with a high IQ, especially in positions of leadership, as they are better at building relationships with others, a core element of success.

Now, we all know that IQ tends to be fixed and changes very little after our teenage years. I always assumed the same of EQ, but not so. According to Goleman, research shows that EQ is not fixed genetically. It seems to be largely learned and continues to develop as we grow older. There is also evidence that in this day and age as children are getting smarter, emotional intelligence is on the decline.

All this reinforces the need for us to turn our attention towards developing EQ, both our own and that of our workforce. As quoted in Goleman’s book, “Out of control emotions can make smart people stupid”.

Please feel free to comment


One Response

  1. My blood pressure has come
    My blood pressure has come down a little since reading this. It is difficult to know where to start. First, the definition of IQ (morphed into ‘smart’)is not one I would recognize or indeed other psychologists. The description here is of attainment rather than G or fluid intelligence. And a little more than internet research might have helped here. Murphy in his excellent Wiley book traces the concept back to the 1920’s. And numerous contributors to this book point out Goleman’s claims are laughable and now in any event discredited. The serious studies have demonstrated the concept (to the extent there is a concept which is agreed, which is a whole other issue) when operationalized adds nothing to the explanation of differences in ratings of for example, managerial effectiveness.

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Asia Gwatkin

Training Consultant

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