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IQ vs EQ? Why employees need a good balance to succeed in the workplace

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Gone are the days when employees were told to leave their emotions at home. No more.
Today, managers are beginning to recognise the value and role played by emotions,
particularly its contribution to the making of a good leader or employee says Michelle Hunter.

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March 26, 2013 5:38 by



Have you ever wondered why SOME of the most highly intelligent (IQ) people lack social and communication skills while others with moderate IQ manage to succeed? What makes for the psychological engineering behind this effect? Empirical research suggests that the underlying reason for this lack can be attributed to one’s level of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EQ).

So, what is EQ and why has it not been placed on an equal footing to that of IQ?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions of self and other. Individuals who possess high emotional Intelligence, as described by the originators of the theory, Mayer and Salovey, are able to:

1) Identify emotions of self and others
2) Generate emotions and then reason with this emotion
3) Understand complex emotions and emotional “chains” and the transition from one step to the next
4) Manage the emotions in self and in others

Who cares and why does this matter?
Considering the major strengths of individuals who have high EQ, it is no wonder why organisations and its members would benefit more from employing these types. After all, an organisation is nothing without its people, and people function best, and perform well when morale is high. Aside from this, an organisation is
a social organism, therefore a pre-requisite to aid and promote its healthy functioning,  requires adept people with good social skills as a means to maintain its smooth functioning.

Does one take precedence over the other? Or, is there a working relationship between EQ and IQ?

Many of the reasons why IQ is still prioritised over EQ stems from the mere fact that we have a tendency to associate the importance of IQ with the history of its origins. Conversations about IQ date back to the early 1900s  compared with that of EQ, which is approximately only two decades old. At this point, I think it best to clarify a few things: emphasising the importance of EQ, is in no way intended to discredit the benefits and value of employing those who posses high IQ.  Rather, the awareness I am raising is that, organisations should consider taking a more balanced approach when it comes to selecting employees; both  EQ and IQ should be considered.  After all, EQ is not the opposite of IQ, and the case presented here is certainly not the triumph of head (IQ) over heart (EQ) – it is the unique intersection of both that matters most.  Placing the two on an equal footing, helps to aid our understanding of the flow between them, and how they can complement each other.

For example, while having a high IQ may make individuals more employable, EQ will help individuals to be successful in their job role. Equally, IQ may help individuals to convey information in a factual manner; EQ can help individuals to communicate via use of reasoning.   For example, people who manage their emotions well do not get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. Most times, they are excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition.  Further to this, high EQ types are usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.

How is IQ and EQ measured?
IQ tests measure cognitive ability, which indicates the level at which an individual is able to understand, learn and apply info in a meaningful way.  This includes the ability to solve problems and understand concepts, which is also necessary for success at work. A score of 70 = below average; 90-100 = average and; 130 = above average/high.  EQ, measures the part of a mental abilities that concern the way in which make sense and interpret emotions.  Overall, the factors thought to predict EQ, include self-awareness, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-actualisation, assertiveness, relationship skills, empathy, self-control, flexibility and optimism.  Surprisingly for some, IQ and EQ are measured using similar tools, such as situational-judgement tests, and/or item-questionnaires.  The popular instruments used to measure EQ, include the ‘Emotional and Social Competence Inventory’ (ESCI), the ‘Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test’ (MSCEIT), and PsyTech’s GENOS and the 15FQ.

The instruments mentioned above will provide you with a better understanding of your EQ, in the form of a profile report which can be interpreted and explained to you by a trained Psychologist.   However, you might find it pleasing to know that If your profile indicates a low EQ score, all is not lost; Unlike, IQ and the compelling research, which suggests that it cannot be developed, the opposite can be said for that of EQ.  EQ can be improved!  So, you can rest assured knowing that change is possible. To express this sentiment, I quote the work the famous Humanist and British Writer, Aldous Huxley:

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving… and that’s your own self”

Key points to take-away:

Being aware of your EQ and developing it has the potential to make you more successful and happy at work, and in life

Unlike IQ, EQ can be learned and developed

It takes more than technical and analytical abilities (IQ) to  make you successful; a combination of EQ and IQ is the perfect recipe. for success

Michelle Hunter is  Consultant Business Psychologist, and Coordinator on the MSc Business Psychology Programme at Heriot-Watt University.



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