Does how good you are with people, rather than your skill level, determine your career success?

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, people with high levels of emotional intelligence (EI) are more likely to earn more and progress up the corporate ladder faster.

The study assessed university students for their EI levels while they were completing their studies, then came back 10 years later to see how they had progressed career-wise.

Over this 10 year period they found that students who scored highly for EI, on the whole had higher salaries than their less emotionally intelligent peers.


This interesting finding was also consistent across all industries.

Why do people with higher EI earn more?

There are a number of factors why high EI is a critical personal skill to have at work:

Self-awareness — Team members with high EI are happier to accept constructive criticism in a positive way to improve their performance, as well as actively learn from their mistakes.

Emotional management — They can understand and more appropriately manage their own emotions at work, especially during times of high stress.

As you can imagine, this is critical when managing interpersonal relationships at work.

Supporting others — High EI managers are able to understand others' emotions, allowing them the ability to positively motivate and influence behaviours and outcomes.

This is a vital skill for those who are wishing to be a part of a strong, resilient and high performing team.


Stronger network — Higher levels of emotional intelligence helps them to develop more trust with their colleagues, which in turn creates a stronger "friend" network. Over time, this gives them access to more information, better career opportunities and opens more doors that otherwise would normally be closed.

Better leaders — While EI is vital at all stages of your career, it becomes more important as you move up the corporate ladder.

Great leaders are successful through inspiring, persuading and building rapport with their team, so these vital management competencies come more easily to those who have EI as an inherent skill.

Can I improve my emotional intelligence?

You can actually improve your EI through some basic steps.

When you go to work on Monday, make a conscious effort to be aware of your own thoughts and triggers, as well as how you react to specific situations and people.

Secondly, get involved in social activities or work that involves team interaction. This develops trust with your immediate colleagues and extends your relational networks across the business (and industry over the long-term).

Finally find a good EI aware mentor who can help you to develop your own emotional intelligence.

It's nice to see that there is empirical evidence that being a self-aware person who can genuinely develop quality friendships does actually pay dividends in today's corporate world! "Score one" for the nice people…

Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV or LinkedIn assessment or to be your personal career coach. Visit CV.CO.NZ or to find out more.