The link between emotional intelligence and income

Four business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting

A recent study at the University of Bonn has concluded that being cordial with co-workers might lead to earning more money. Researches from the UB Department of Psychology found that the ability to recognize emotions makes one more likely to be viewed positively by their managers, thus increasing their chance of a promotion.

Published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, the authors displayed 24 pictures of faces and 24 voice recordings of actors and children making various expressions to the 142 members of the test group. The participants were asked to recognize the expression, determining whether it was angry, sad, happy, scared or any other type of emotion.

On average, 77 percent of the participants succeeded in guessing the correct emotion for the expression or sound. Participants who were correct in 87 percent of the cases were considered to be “good” by the researchers, while those who succeeded in more than 90 percent were labeled as “really good” (with everyone below 60 percent labeled “not good”). After the recognition task, researchers asked the participants’ co-workers and supervisors to assess their political skills by answering questions about their communicational and networking skills as well as how socially well attuned, sincere or influential they were.

“Although managing employees and dealing with people often involves reading their emotions and determining their moods, not everyone is good at it. It’s the same as foreign languages or athletics: some people are good at it, while others aren’t. Most people can do a sit-up. But not everyone is an Olympic champion,” said Dr. Gerhard Blickle of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bonn.

The results indicated that those who had the better ability to recognize emotions were considered to be more socially and politically skilled than others by their colleagues and managers. Not only did their co-workers think more highly of them, but they generally had a higher income than those who were more stoic.

While past studies have examined the relationship between promotions and emotional IQ, this one was unique, as it ruled out any alternative explanations for why a person could make more money. Various factors affect the income of an employee including gender, age, training, work hours and position in the company. The effect of emotional IQ on income remained constant even with the UB study taking all these factors into consideration. Just to be sure, the authors validated the study’s findings by performing an additional independent study with over 150 participants, replicating their results.

Can emotional IQ be trained?
Although the researchers suggest that more value should be placed on the ability to recognize emotions in the selection of managers, there is no evidence of whether it is possible to enhance emotional IQ. Techniques exist to increase the ability to read others’ emotions, but none have indicated the ability to show an improvement in developing emotional intelligence; this is most likely due to researchers assuming people have mastered interpreting basic social cues, which may be an overestimation for many adults.

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