Over the past decade, there has been a meteoric rise in the
use of the concept “emotional intelligence” or “EQ” in the workplace, which has
led to a wave of unintended narcissism. Just like IQ (Intelligence Quotient),
everyone wants to have high-levels of EQ. I get it – who wants to say they are
emotionally unintelligent? No one.
I was inspired to write on this recently when working with
another leader who has been struggling to coach one of their employees. During
the conversation, I kept hearing that this person had low EQ and how that has
led to their current issues. After diving deeper into this, I recognized we weren’t
talking about EQ at all; it all came down to communication or lack thereof.
In a previous article,
I wrote about how improving employee development starts with ourselves and it
ties into emotional intelligence without even mentioning it!
Remember I mentioned the wave of unintended narcissism that
followed emotional intelligence? At some point, as EQ increased in popularity,
people began to believe that emotional intelligence is the ability to
understand and influence others thoughts and emotions. While some of this may
be true, it shouldn’t be the primary motivator; the point is to be a better YOU.
During my own growth journey as a leader and the development
of my coaching process, I have learned that the most important factor that can
increase your emotional intelligence is your own self-awareness. It’s crucial to understanding your natural behaviors, strengths, blockers, and
thought patterns as you develop yourself. As a result of increasing the
consciousness of our emotions, we can increase our level of empathy towards
Another confusion that needs to be addressed is the use and
understanding of EQ (emotional
quotient) vs. EI (emotional
intelligence). While it is widely accepted to use EQ when speaking of emotional
intelligence, I simply steer clear of the use of EQ. I believe that when
dealing with highly qualitative factors such as one’s level of emotional
awareness, we can’t determine the “quotient” on our gut feelings. I’m using EQ
as part of this essay because it’s commonly understood, not because I advocate
for the term.
Intelligence quotient (IQ) is used as a measurement of one’s
intelligence, but can we truly and accurately measure someone’s emotional
intelligence? In most cases, EQ is thrown around by in the workplace as if there
is a definitive understanding of the emotional intelligence concept.
As leaders in the people space, it’s important we help
inform and educate our teams on the importance of emotional intelligence
training and its purpose. Rather than falling into the trap of labeling an
individual as being “low EQ” or labeling ourselves as having “high EQ”, let’s
focus on educating teams on what emotional intelligence is and how we can
effectively use it to benefit ourselves first and others second.