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Emotional Intelligence

EI Trends and Ideas in Business

We used to believe that people with the highest IQs were destined to be the most successful. But we now know that intellect alone does not predict who will become a star performer.

In his 1998 book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, which collected data from over 500 companies worldwide, psychologist Daniel Goleman found that emotional intelligence, more than any other factor — more than IQ or expertise — accounts for 85 percent to 90 percent of success at work.

His research suggested that at best, IQ leaves about 75 percent of job success unexplained, and at worst, 96 percent.

What this suggests is that IQ may be no more than a threshold competence. You need it, but having a high IQ doesn’t automatically make you a star. Emotional intelligence can. Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. But unlike IQ, your EQ can be improved over a lifetime.

But contrary to pop psychology definitions of EI peddled by some “corporate emotional intelligence consultants,” being popular among your co-workers or possessing a handful of key personality traits doesn’t mean that you automatically have emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is more than a handful of personality traits; it requires a deep understanding of one’s own emotional life and an intuitive grasp of the inner emotional lives of others.

Why EI Particularly Matters Now

In the current, stripped-down, every-job-counts business climate, emotional intelligence matters more than ever. As organizations shrink through waves of downsizing, change has become a constant. And as business changes, so do the traits that workers need to excel.

The ever-escalating trend of workforce globalization has increased the need for employees who can intelligently navigate a socioculturally diverse environment. “Strong emotional intelligence skills” may not be a typical resume highlight, but perhaps it should be. Employers often complain about the lack of social skills in new hires. A survey of American employers revealed that more than half of all employees lack the motivation to keep learning and improving in their job. Four in ten are unable to work cooperatively with fellow employees, and just 19 percent of those applying for entry-level jobs show sufficient self-discipline in their work habits (Goleman, 1998).

In the new economy, many businesses are striving to develop holistic corporate cultures with employees who understand the customer’s aspirations and know how to stimulate an emotional response to products.

Managers who focus on the rational, financial and structural aspects of the company have been found to benefit from surrounding themselves with employees who have a knack for aesthetics, creativity and emotionally engaging the customer — employees who have high emotional intelligence.

New challenges demand new talents. For many older workers who were taught that education and technical skills were a permanent ticket to success and that career advancement is based on meritocracy, this new way of viewing the workplace may come as a shock. Today, career success requires more than intellectual excellence or technical proficiency. Personal qualities such as resilience, initiative, optimism, flexible thinking, and adaptability are taking on a new importance. In an increasingly turbulent job market, we may need greater emotional intelligence to survive, and certainly to thrive. The employee who collaborates well with colleagues is more likely to be successful than the lone-wolf genius.

In today’s corporate world, IQ may get you hired, but EQ is more likely to get you promoted.

Ideas & Trends

Recent studies have the many ways that emotional intelligence impacts business success…

‘Leaders of the pack’ have high emotional intelligence.

Traditionally, leaders were assumed to have traits such as a high IQ, a gregarious personality, or a dominant personality. But two recent studies of commerce students found that, in groups with no formal authority, it’s also about being able to process and understand other people’s emotions. Study participants were organized into groups to complete projects, then asked to identify which of their peers showed the strongest leadership qualities. Those identified as leaders scored coincidentally highest on emotional ability tests, which included tasks such as rating the effectiveness of different emotion regulation strategies and identifying emotions from facial expressions. The study also found that high emotional intelligence was independent of other leadership qualities, such as high IQ, cooperativeness, openness to ideas and conscientious (Lopes et al, 2010).

L’Oreal’s emotionally intelligent sales agents sell more.

L’Oreal sales agents who were hired on the basis of their emotional competencies outsold sales agents hired in accordance with the company’s traditional hiring practices by $91,370 more annually, increasing the company’s net revenue by more than $2.5 million. The emotionally intelligent group also experienced 63 percent less turnover during the first year than their less emotionally intelligent counterparts (Spencer et al, 1997).

EI doubles insurance sales.

Insurance agents at a national insurance company who were strong in at least 5 of 8 key emotional competencies sold policies with an average value of $114,000, compared to policies valued at $54,000 sold by agents with weak emotional competencies (e.g, self-confidence, initiative, and empathy) (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, 1997).

EI reduces manufacturing accidents and grievances.

One study of a manufacturing plant found that when supervisors were given emotional competency training (including, for example, learning to listen better and help employees resolve problems on their own), accidents resulting in lost time were reduced by 50 percent and formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 to 3 per year (Pesuric, Byham, 1996). In another manufacturing study where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17 percent, compared to no increase in supervisors who didn’t receive EI training (Porras & Anderson, 1981).

EI predicts strong job performance.

In 2010, a comprehensive analysis of all published research on emotional intelligence concluded that not only is emotional intelligence a strong predictor of job performance, it increases job performance over and beyond cognitive ability and the Five Factor Model (FFM), measures traditionally used to predict job performance. (The FFM includes psychologist Gordon Allport’s Big Five personality factors: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.)

Employees with high EI are more dedicated and satisfied at work.

A study of 809 employees and managers in four private sector organizations found that employees with high emotional intelligence are more dedicated and satisfied at work and more committed to their organizations, compared to their lower EI counterparts. Emotional intelligence was also found to promote positive attitudes towards the workplace and prevent undesirable work attitudes, such as burnout, desire to leave, and negligent behavior. But the effects of high EI weren’t limited to work attitudes. High EI also had an impact on various aspects of organizational politics. For example, employees with higher EI level perceived the organizational politics at their workplace as less severe than their colleagues. They also had better “political skills” and were less likely to use forceful influence tactics (Meisler, 2010).

For a case study on how Sahaja meditation increases corporate social responsibility, including qualities such as empathy, see: Social Consciousness: How Sahaja Meditation’s Thoughtless Awareness Helps Corporate Managers Develop a Social Conscience.


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Goleman, D. (1998) Working with Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books, New York.

Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group (1997). Research provided for Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998) by Daniel Goleman.

Lopes, Paulo N., Salovey, Peter, Miners, Christopher. Leadership Quarterly. Leaders of the pack display high ‘emotional intelligence.’ (2010, June)

McClelland, D. C. (1999). Identifying competencies with behavioral-event interviews. Psychological Science, 9(5), 331-339.

Meisler, Galit, Vigoda-Gadot, Eran. University of Haifa. Emotions in Management and the Management of Emotions: The Impact of Emotional Intelligence and Organizational Politics on Public Sector Employees. 2010.

Ernest H. O’Boyle, Ronald H. Humphrey, Jeffrey M. Pollack, Thomas H. Hawver, Paul A. Story. The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2010.

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