Do you have emotional intelligence, or do you just think you do?

A survey on emotional intelligence in the workplace shows where and how people with high EQ work.

Photo: Matheus Bertelli

Emotional intelligence – the ability to identify, manage and express your own emotions and the emotions of others – is becoming more and more important in hiring because it predicts performance. The World Economic Forum rated EQ as one of the top 10 skills workers would need most by 2020.

Paychex did a survey of 1,017 individuals, “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace,” and found that people are also likely to overestimate their level of emotional intelligence. Men were more likely to overestimate their own EQ (20.6%, versus 17.1% for women), while women were more likely to underestimate it (13.7%, versus 10.7% for men). The study also assessed the styles of working and management of employees with high EQ.

Hard to tell if you’ve “got it”

The surveys chart the “estimated” vs. “actual” EQs of both generations and industries, which reveals that it’s exceedingly difficult to predict one’s own EQ – people rate themselves all over the place. However, some get closer than others.

An inordinate amount of the finance and insurance industry and medical/healthcare workers rated themselves highly in EQ – and proved themselves right, with high EQ scores. The same was true, to a lesser extent, in education. Another group that followed the same pattern of high-high confirmation was Baby Boomers.

Who has it, and where do they work?

Baby boomers Emotional intelligence seems to get keener as you get older. 39% of Baby Boomers have high EQ, followed by 31.2% of Millennials and 29% of Gen Xers. And indeed, research shows that emotional intelligence develops throughout your life, reaching its height when you’re about 60.

These industries are full of high-EQ people: 

  • Arts and entertainment
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Medical and Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale and Retail

How do people with high EQ work?

Emotionally intelligent people, unsurprisingly, have different work styles. People with above-average EQ prefer their direct feedback straight-up, in a 1:1 meeting with their manager. People with lower EQ prefer indirect, written communication, like email or a note.

Emotionally intelligent employees like autonomy at work, but they understand they need supervision, as well. Those with lower EQ like to be more closely managed.

Check your head

Stop guesstimating your emotional intelligence – if you’re interested in taking a test of your own EQ, start here.

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.