Why emotional intelligence is so important in your job


Emotional intelligence has long been underestimated in being one of the predictors of job success. Even now, the hiring process of new employees focusses more on IQ than on their Emotional Intelligence. Capacity tests are much more common than tests for Emotional Intelligence, although this is becoming increasingly popular. In this article, I’ll briefly tell you more on what Emotional Intelligence is and then I’ll give you 7 things that you should stop saying which hold you back in your career.

What is Emotional Intelligence

The definition of Emotional Intelligence is a person’s capacity to understand other people’s emotion and to manage his or her own emotion. Emotional intelligence can roughly been broken down into 4 elements, according to an article of Goleman (one of Harvard Business Review’s must reads):

  1. self-awareness (e.g. emotional awareness, self-confidence)
  2. relationship management (e.g. developing others, persuasiveness)
  3. self-management (e.g. initiative, emotional self-control)
  4. empathy and social awareness (e.g. service orientation)

The difficulty with Emotional Intelligence, also for employers, is that it cannot be measured against one quotient. It has multiple facets. For instance, somebody can be super confident, but have no or little empathy for other people. Therefore, it is really important what traits are required for a specific job.
The 4 elements of Emotional Intelligence above can be broken down into many more subcategories, of which I’ve provided a few examples above. I’ll not bother you with the full overview, but if you’re interested I advise you to go to this page.

Why Emotional Intelligence is a better predictor of success than IQ

So, given the elements of Emotional Intelligence as mentioned in the previous section, it is easy to predict why it is so much more important than raw intelligence alone. As you could imagine, employers and customers love someone who is Emotionally Intelligent. An example is service orientation, which is part of social awareness. Service orientation is the capacity to predict what your customer / employer will need in the future and anticipating on that. Clearly, this is highly valued by all types of stakeholders and combined with other traits like “achievement” (so being goal oriented), this will more than compensate for an “mere” average score on IQ.


Checking your own Emotional Intelligence with a questionnaire

I was lucky enough that as part of my personal development my employer(s) facilitated several tests to assess my Emotional Intelligence. If you’ve never taken such a test, I definitely recommend doing so and asking your employer to support this. It is definitely a powerful way to show that you take your development seriously and you can use this in personal development plans. If you’re interested to fill in a short and free questionnaire on Emotional Intelligence, you can visit this site. You can fill this one out quickly and there’s also a more extensive one available on this site if you have a little more time. These tests both rank you on the 4 elements of Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness, relationship management, self-management and “empathy and social awareness”). My advice is to fill them in honestly as the results of these tests can ofcourse also be faked.

7 mistakes that hold you back at work

I’d also like to mention a few mistakes you might be making including application suggestions that may help you in improving your Emotional Intelligence. In case you regularly make one of these mistakes, it’s likely to hold you back in your career now or will be holding you back at some point in the future. I’ll mention at least a few tips in each of the 4 categories of Emotional Intelligence. If you find one or 2 of the tips helpful, I definitely recommend that you commit yourself to changing your behavior for that specific item. For more information on changing your habits, read another one of my blogposts here.

Mistake 1: Taking on too much work (Self-management)

Taking on too much work can be detrimental for your creativity and your stress levels. When you notice you’re constantly taking on too much work, it’s best to say no more often and to discuss this with your manager.

Mistake 2: Having multiple priorities (Self-management)

Make sure to set one or two goals that you want to achieve next week (not more). Make sure to actively plan time for those goal(s) your agenda. Once the week is done, reflect on what you’ve achieved and if that is in line with your pre-set goals. If you’re not happy with the result, determine why and identify improvements for the week to come.

Mistake 3: Only trying to create a network “up” (Relationship management)

If you’re only managing up, you run the risk that you don’t build enough meaningful relationships with the people of all levels of seniority. However, these are likely the people that you will encounter throughout your whole career. Therefore, on the long run it is definitely worth to actively engage with people of all levels.


Mistake 4: Not asking for help (Relationship management)

When working in a team, it is likely that other team members have different skill sets from your own. It is important to lean on each other to come to the best possible solution in any given scenario. So make sure to help others when appropriate, but also ask for help from someone who is better than you in a certain topic. People actually like to help you, so it has the added benefit of building a relationship in the meantime if done properly.

Mistake 5: Creating a negative image of yourself (Self-awareness)

It’s important to let other people form their own opinion of you. Do not make disclaimers upfront, such as: “I’m not an expert, but..”. Also, when people give you a compliment, graciously accept instead of discounting it by saying “oh, it wasn’t that difficult”. You do not need to be overly arrogant, but at least give other people a chance to actually get a positive impression of you.

Mistake 6: Acting too much like you’re at home (Self-management)

Try to assess the environment you’re in. For instance, making rude jokes can be awesome (and I know it 🙂 ), but definitely not everyone appreciates this and these type of things can really ruin relationships.

Mistake 7: Making negative assumptions (Empathy)

When receiving feedback or somebody makes a joke about you, don’t always assume the worst. In most cases this is not meant to make you look bad. In case you receive feedback, it definitely is appropriate to ask questions to make sure you’ve understood. I’ve written more posts on how to handle criticism and feedback if you’re interested.

That’s it for the post of today. Make sure to hit the like and share button and I’ll see you back here next week!

Further reading:


  1. Great article, too bad so few employers understand the value of EQ. I have always felt that this often more important than IQ intelligence, most people can learn a job, learning how to work on an emotional level is much more challenging.

    • Thanks Maria! Indeed, it would be best for both employer and employee to focus more on building emotional resilience –> which is definitely possible. Fortunately, more companies are starting to see this and doing something with this knowledge.

  2. Great advice – I fully admit that the area that needs the most work for me personally is my self-awareness. My self-focused negativity often holds me back or makes my life more challenging. Something to work on each and every day!

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