Book smart or emotion savvy: who will survive at work?

Book smart or emotion savvy: who will survive at work?

Have you ever wondered how companies categorise their talents, top performers and workhorses? It’s true that their potential, commitment and IQ are among the determining factors but I can guarantee that EQ is the most effective indicator.

People used to believe strongly that IQ or intelligence quotient was the sole source of smartness; it is what gets you where you are and it helps get you hired as well. That assumption is being challenged studies that have found that people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. The missing link? None other than EQ or emotional intelligence.

In fact, many research studies over the past decade confirm that emotional intelligence is the critical factor that can help distinguish talents from workhorses.

For example, it has been said that 90% of top performers are equipped with emotional intelligence, compared with only 20% of the bottom performers. Moreover, 90% of top performers are capable of managing their emotions in stressful and frustrating situations, staying calm and collected while maintaining a positive outlook to keep things in check.

What exactly is EQ and why should it matter so much at work?

The term “emotional intelligence” itself was coined in the early 1990s to refer to something intangible in each of us which could greatly affect how we manage our behaviour, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions.

These days, when stress is becoming a normal part of many jobs, I am observing that many organisations have started to use emotional intelligence, rather than just academic background, as the key factor in hiring new employees. Google is a great example. The reason is simple: Emotional intelligence allows people to manage their stress levels well. They know when to take a step back if things are getting a bit too heavy; this way, they can easily avoid blowing up and creating further conflicts. Moreover, emotionally smart people can work well with others and are effective in leading change.

Emotional intelligence taps into two main capabilities — personal and social. These in turn can be divided into five pillars, according to psychologist Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence. I’d like to summarise them as follows:

Self-awareness: the ability to accurately perceive one’s own emotions, understand one’s strengths and weaknesses along with how his or her actions affect others. Because of self-awareness, this person can handle constructive criticism and learn from it better than someone with low EQ.

Self-regulation or self-management: the ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and maturely exercise restraint when needed.

Motivation: the ability to self-motivate, driven by inner ambition. He or she will become resilient and optimistic when encountering disappointment.

Empathy: the ability to understand others’ moods, behaviours and motives. It is empathy that allows people to have compassion and leads to a certain emotional connection with others.

Social skills: the ability to build rapport and trust quickly with others. With this skill, people avoid power struggles and backstabbing.

By investing in employing people with high EQ, an organisation can become more engaged and successful with committed employees who not only are technically brilliant but emotionally savvy.

Now, many of you would probably question where and how can we fill the talent pool with people who have highly analytical brains and are emotionally intelligent at the same time. If you’re thinking about hiring new people, it might be easy to set the standard at the beginning during the recruitment process, possibly by using the many available emotional assessment tools available in the market.

But for those looking internally, I have both good and bad news.

Actually, there is no known connection between IQ and EQ. This is to say that, we cannot simply predict one’s emotional intelligence based on his or her IQ. So, if all you ever do when hiring someone is to look at their grades and their IQ, I’d say don’t get your hopes up too much that you can find many equipped with EQ as well.

The good news, however, is that emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice, unlike IQ which is the ability the learn and rarely changes whether a person is 16 or 60. Therefore, even when some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can still develop emotional savvy, even if you are not born with it.

If you are familiar with the story about the three brains, it is the communication between your emotional and rational brain that is the main physical source of emotional intelligence. Once you train your brain by repeatedly applying new emotional intelligence strategies, emotional intelligence behaviours will gradually become habits.

All in all, in a world that relies heavily on interdependence, technical brilliance, academic achievement or book smarts may be what got you where you are today, but they won’t help you move forward to where you want to be. For that, you need emotional intelligence and the ability to build strong working relationships both with your team and your peers.


Arinya Talerngsri is Group Managing Director at APMGroup, Thailand’s leading Organisation and People Development Consultancy. She can be reached by e-mail at or

For daily updates, visit

Do you like the content of this article?

US averts government shutdown one day ahead of deadline

WASHINGTON: The US Congress approved a stopgap funding bill Thursday in a rare show of cross-party unity to keep federal agencies running into 2022 and avert a costly holiday season government shutdown.


US adopts rule that could see Chinese firms leave Wall Street

WASHINGTON: US market regulators on Thursday announced the adoption of a rule allowing them to delist foreign companies from Wall Street exchanges if they fail to provide information to auditors, which is aimed primarily at Chinese firms.


Ronaldo's 800th career goal begins Man Utd revival as Carrick walks away

MANCHESTER: Michael Carrick exited Manchester United with a win as Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed 800 goals for club and country with a double to see off Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday.