Last week in this space, I wrote about how placing too much emphasis on “emotional intelligence” can lead hiring managers to hire someone they want to be friends with, rather than someone who can actually perform the job. But in my search to find HR experts to talk about this issue with me, I found just as many who said, “Hey, wait a minute! Emotional intelligence is hugely important.” So I thought I’d take a look this week at some of the reasons that people in charge of hiring would be foolish to completely ignore EQ.
Emotional intelligence, or EQ (or EI, depending on who you talk to) is essentially the skill of discerning and reacting to other’s emotions, and managing your own. A recent CareerBuilder survey last year found that 71% of employers value this more than the traditional measure of aptitude. In the modern workplace, EQ trumps IQ.
But not everyone is on board. “We talk about EQ, but we don’t really define it,” psychology professor and management consultant Stephen Balzac told me last week. “As a result, we get all manner of bad interviewing and poor hires. Each person brings their own definition to the table and hires the person who makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
That may be, when EQ screening is done poorly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Emotional Intelligence may sound like a trend, but it’s actually a skill set that is sought after in potential leaders,” management consultant Joni Daniels told me. “The ability to be self aware is a good indicator of reflection and self-knowledge about one’s own strengths and development needs.”
Daniels acknowledges that a resume can be a good predictor of ability, but “the past does not always provide a good foundation for what lies ahead.” She explains that “resumes highlight accomplishments and responsibilities but they don’t reveal how someone achieved what’s on their resume.”
Leaders with an EQ of zero are also in danger of mishandling an increasingly diverse workplace. “You can end up with someone who is technically proficient but unable to manage a diverse workforce,” Daniels points out. “It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ world. Much of what people value in their work is the relationship with others, specifically their manager.” With a tone-deaf but technically brilliant leader, a team is in danger of falling apart.