It’s not a no-brainer: Employees with average IQs may be better

Emotional intelligence significantly impacts employee performance

Posted October 4, 2016

If given the choice between individuals with average or high intelligence quotients (IQs), many organizations would opt for highly intellectual individuals, assuming that that quality leads to high performance. However, that may not be the best logic; research has found that individuals with the highest IQs are outperformed by individuals with average IQs a surprising 70 percent of the time.

What gives?

While this finding may seem highly irregular — even illogical — it’s important to remember that IQ isn’t the only type of intelligence. Emotional intelligence (or EQ, for emotional intelligence quotient), along with factors like an individual’s personality, can combine to make a higher performer out of someone with an average IQ and a lower performer of even the most intellectually intelligent individual.

Emotional intelligence describes a person’s ability to understand their own and others’ emotions and respond appropriately. Individuals with high EQ use this awareness to manage their own behavior and their relationships with others. They are more likely to read a room accurately, positively influence and motivate others, and inspire confidence.

On the other hand, individuals with low EQ may struggle to gain trust and respect, develop social bonds, navigate organizational obstacles, and get results from others. The resulting struggles for individuals lacking in EQ explain how even the smartest of individuals can still fall flat in terms of performance.

Today, many experts believe that EQ is actually a better predictor of success in the workplace than IQ.

EQ presents opportunity

A person’s IQ tends to be fairly stable (relative to others of the same age) over the course of his or her lifetime. In contrast, EQ can be developed. To bolster your EQ, try the four strategies listed here:

  1. Spend time checking your own emotions. If you find yourself reacting to a particular situation, take a moment to identify what emotions you are feeling and why they might be surfacing. Is self-doubt causing you to feel angry or jealous? Is fear making you feel trapped? Recognize patterns in the things that trigger emotions and how your emotions typically progress. As you begin to understand where certain emotions come from, you’ll be better equipped to manage your reactions and express emotions in a positive way.
  2. Use emotions to learn and grow. For instance, rather than responding to anger by ignoring constructive criticism or lashing out at others, you might acknowledge that your anger actually comes from insecurities about the skills in question and commit to improving them. When your own emotions are running high, take a moment to ensure that you’re reacting to facts rather than negative assumptions or fears.
  3. Show a sincere interest in others and their feelings. Essentially, you can’t use emotions to navigate the world around you if you’re not genuinely interested in others, how they think and feel, and what drives them. Recognize that others’ feelings typically don’t need to be “fixed,” but do need to be acknowledged. Work to accept that emotions that differ from your own are still valid and significant.
  4. Go beyond putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagining how you would feel in a certain situation is only half the battle. To develop EQ, go beyond how you would feel and consider how the individual experiencing the situation might feel differently and why. Think about what might be going on that you didn’t initially notice, factoring in the individual’s personality. The more you pay attention to perspectives that differ from your own, the easier this will become.

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