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Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes: EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and the New Workplace

By Michael E. Rock, Ed.D. |

Imagine the following: You are the Director of Human Resources and you've just hired what you believe is the most qualified applicant for a particular project management team role. Next, see yourself three months later. You are terminating this same person's employment contract. This person is also the third candidate in the past two years whom you have had to let go in a similar fashion.

The above story is sad, but true. It is also expensive.

I remember recently sitting with the Sr. VP of Human Resources in a large organization. She asked, "Why is it that we keep hiring these bright, technically-driven people, who, on their résumés, have all the right stuff, and then shortly after, we have to let them go?" When I asked her why that series of events was happening, she replied, "They're lacking some of the key fundamentals like respect, courtesy, treating others with dignity, willingness to return e-mail and phone calls, and, above all, they often have a disturbing sense of arrogance."

What this VP of HR was talking about was EQ (emotional quotient, emotional intelligence) -- or, in the case with her employees -- undeveloped emotional and coping skills. The "hard stuff" was in place; the "soft stuff" was wreaking havoc. In the new workplace, the soft stuff (relationships), is the new currency.

What Exactly is EQ?

In the same way that we know that IQ (or intelligence quotient) is a valid and reliable indicator of a person's mental strength and capability, today we have the EQ (or emotional quotient) as a valid and reliable indicator of a person's emotional strength and capability. IQ tells a person how intellectually smart he/she is; EQ tells a person how emotionally smart he/she is. In the new workplace, you particularly want to know that. Your business and your future depend on EQ.

In the new workplace, EQ beats IQ every time. We demonstrate IQ when we speak, write, solve mental challenges. IQ is fairly stable by around 17-18 years of age and does not change.

We demonstrate EQ each and every moment of our lives! We "wear" our EQ for all the world to see and experience. We do this through our attitudes which include our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. How we think influences how we feel which, in turn, influences how we act.


High EQ means Clear Thinking + Healthy Emotions + Appropriate Actions

I like to look at EQ as perspective. It is the ability to reframe life's events. Obviously, in the new workplace, this is a central competency.

The New Workplace

There are many references on TV, in the newspapers, and in magazine articles about the new workplace and the new economy. For some people, this is an exciting time; for others, it is a time for dread. Many of us are in a bind: On the one hand, we are encouraged to buy into the entrepreneurial mythology, on the other hand, to "get a job." In either case, we are left with one inscrutable reality: relationships open and close doors. Perhaps, better said: Our ability to open doors will go a long way to ensure that they remain open.

Some EQ Research and the Workplace

In a very interesting book (Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.), Dr. Blair Justice, who teaches at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, School of Public Health, writes about the "casualties of change": people who cannot adapt, invent a new perspective, reframe their living and working conditions into something more manageable. As a result, they get sick -- mentally, emotionally, physically. Some die.

Dr. Reuven Bar-On, the clinical psychologist who, in 1985, coined the term "EQ," reports on an acculturation study of Hispanics who emigrated to the United States. The research looked at those who would be successful in the transition and those who would not. Two groups were each administered what is called the Short Acculturation Scale. The results allowed the researchers to divide the immigrants into two groups: the High Acculturation Group, and the Low Acculturation Group. When Dr. Bar-On's EQ-i (Emotional Quotient-Inventory) was then administered, it firmly differentiated individuals who were successful from those who were less successful in acculturating.

What were some of the key success factors for the High Acculturation Group? I list them as follows:

  • ability to be independent;
  • ability to withstand stress; and
  • the ability to be in control.
Dr. Bar-On concludes that "one's ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures is a function of one's emotional intelligence." In addition, "The results also imply that the EQ-i can discriminate among individuals who will adjust to and integrate better into a different society and those who will have difficulties in this area" (EQ-i BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory. User's Manual. Toronto: MHS, 1977, p. 73).

Similar results occurred when researchers worked with managers/employees, students, U.S. Air Force recruiters, prison inmates, cardiac patients, Young President's Organization (YPO), chronically unemployed individuals, individuals from the financial services industry, and clinical psychologists.

In addition to common sense on the issue, we can now say with a very high degree of research confidence:
There is a significant correlation between the strength of one's EQ, one's job performance AND one's total work satisfaction (including general satisfaction and satisfaction related to the more physical aspects of the work, such as working conditions, working hours, job security, pay, etc.).

Summary: for companies serious about recruiting, selecting, hiring, harnessing, and growing their human capital -- what we call human capital profiling -- it is absolutely essential that the "soft skills" -- or EQ -- be identified, tested, and integrated. With a well-developed EQ workforce, plus the right technical and intellectual skill sets, there are tremendous financial rewards. (I will be writing on these factors in upcoming articles for CanadaOne).

Click here to read the next part of this article - a case example from Intel's Andy Grove.

Other articles by Michael Rock:

The 90% Factor: EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and the New Workplace
The Right Stuff (Part 1 of 5)
Take Charge -- of Yourself! (Part 2 of 5)
I Count -- I Count You! (Part 3 of 5)
Stress EQ and Unstress You! (Part 4 of 5)
It's All in How You See It! (Part 5 of 5)

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