Emotional intelligence often seems to come across as something of a marmite subject. Followers will suggest it’s crucial to the wellbeing of any group of people, whereas naysayers will point out the various examples of people succeeding despite a notable lack of people skills.
Indeed, this is a topic I touched upon in a recent blog where I looked at a new study that explored the emotional requirements of innovation, and in particular whether you needed to be a bit of an ass to drive through change.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that in an environment that’s largely hostile to change, being forceful can be an advantage, but it’s much less so when the environment is supportive to new ideas.
A second study, from a team of German researchers, looked at the importance of emotional intelligence for career success more broadly.
Contrary to the perception that it’s generally our technical smarts that get us ahead, the team actually found that our emotional intelligence was often the key to a bigger pay packet.
“The better people are at recognizing emotions, the better they handle the politics in organizations and the interpersonal aspects of work life, and thus the more they earn in their jobs,” the researchers say.
This should perhaps not come as that much of a surprise. After all, I wrote late last year about the importance of emotional intelligence in understanding the right time to buck the norm.
The study found that whilst it’s generally a good thing to be proactive and to be seen as something of a doer in the workplace, it’s crucial that we understand the right time to do so or run the risk of being branded a pain in the backside by our bosses and our peers.
This appears to be reflected in the wages employees can command, with those in possession of good social and political skills tending to be rated much higher by their peers, which in turn led to higher salaries.
“Numerous factors affect the income of an employee: biological sex, age, training, weekly working hours, and hierarchical position in the company,” the researchers reveal. “We controlled for all these variants. The effect of the ability to recognize emotions on income still remained.”
The study concludes by suggesting that more should be done to recruit people with such skills, particularly in an environment where we are increasingly social at work.
“If our study has one overriding message, it is that seeing what others feel and using this information to navigate through the social world of organizations help make people successful at work,” they suggest.