While IQ remains a very strong predictor of career success, our research suggests that people with high emotional intelligence are more likely to have higher wages.
The study, published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour in August 2017, tested US university students for emotional intelligence, or EI, during their studies – and then looked at their career trajectory over the course of 10 years. The results showed us that students who scored highly for EI went on to have better salaries across all industries than their less emotionally intelligent peers.
So why do people with emotional intelligence earn more? EI means being able to understand others’ emotions – at work, this skill allows you to accurately motivate and influence other peoples’ behaviours.
The study showed that people with high EI tend to use their skills to become deeply embedded in the company’s social network – essentially, they make many friends. This gives them access to more information and knowledgeable colleagues, which in turn improves their performance and leads to a higher wage.
Emotional intelligence is also an attractive quality for mentors. Who wouldn’t want to help someone who was self-aware, emotionally balanced and perceptive to other peoples’ needs and emotions? The research found that people with high EI are more likely to have senior mentors, which again has a positive influence on their career success.
Likewise, people with high EI are more open to accepting feedback and learning from their mistakes. By contrast, people with low levels of emotional intelligence are less willing to accept criticism and self-improve: this is likely to hold them back in their careers.
People with high EI also have the ability to perceive, understand and manage their own emotions – which helps enormously in dealing with complex interpersonal situations at work.
While EI is important at all stages of a career, it becomes more important as you climb the professional ladder. More senior roles require individuals to be successful by inspiring, persuading and building rapport with others. So based on the findings of the study, one would imagine EI to have a greater impact on salary the higher up an organisation you climb.
We don’t enter the job market with just our heads: working with others is entirely social. We need to engage our mind and body in these interactions to succeed at work.
So what can you do to build emotional intelligence?
First, you need to develop emotional awareness. Make a conscious effort to be mindful of your own thoughts and emotional reactions to situations. Think about how you will be perceived by others. Make a diary of daily events and reflect on how you behaved each day, what the feedback was and how you can improve your empathy.
Second, make an effort to take part in team activities or roles at work that involve social interaction. This will open you up to opportunities for empathy. If you find social interactions difficult, it will also help you learn how to deal with stressful situations and anxiety.
And lastly, seek out coaching and development opportunities from mentors, teachers and colleagues. This will help you to better integrate into the company’s social network, develop your social skills and set the right mindset for behavioural change. Start asking colleagues for regular feedback and act on it.