Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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You think you're so smart

Being a brainiac may not necessarily be the keys to the kingdom when seeking a government job, according to one recent survey.

In the survey, sponsored by job search company CareerBuilder Government Solutions, 70 percent of government employers said they value high “emotional intelligence” over high IQ. The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, surveyed 267 hiring managers and human resources professionals across various levels of government, including federal employers.

According to the survey sponsors, emotional intelligence (EI) is “a general measurement of a person’s abilities to control emotions, to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions, and manage complex relationships.”

In addition to indicating that they put a higher value on EI, 62 percent of respondents also said they would not hire someone who has a high IQ but low EI.

Most of the survey respondents also indicated they probably would favor high EI employees when promotion time came—77 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to promote the high EI worker over the high IQ employee.

In addition, 34 percent of respondents indicated that they are placing a greater emphasis on high EI for hiring and promotion decisions in the current post-recession environment.

Why is high EI is more important than high IQ? Respondents to the survey listed a number of reasons, in order of importance:

  • Employees with high EI know how to resolve conflict effectively.
  • They are more likely to stay calm under pressure.
  • They are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly.
  • They know what touches and motivates others.

So how do these government employers identify high EI individuals? Apparently it’s mostly through simple observation. Here are some of the top characteristics that employers said help them single out high EI individuals:

  • They admit and learn from their mistakes.
  • They can keep emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues.
  • They listen as much or more than they talk.
  • They show grace under pressure.
  • They take criticism well.

Of course, none of this means that there is anything wrong with being a brainiac. Being smart certainly is not a detriment in the workplace—as long as it does not come with a swelled head. A typical “know-it-all”—whether highly intelligent or operating under the illusion that he or she is—probably would have none of the characteristics in the second list above.

So—what do you think? How do the new hires around you measure up on the EI scale? Does it look to you as though hiring managers really are looking for these characteristics? Or is EI just HR hokum?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Aug 23, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Sun, Sep 4, 2011

Having a high EI just means that the person estimating the EI likes you. It's just another term for likeablity. So it comes down to the fact that people hire and promote people they like, provided they are minimally qualified, and if their skirt is short enough, they don't even need those minimal qualifications. Most jobs don't require much cognitive ability anyway, so you might as well hire someone who relates well to others and is easy on the eyes. Hope this is not too cynical ...

Fri, Sep 2, 2011

The governmental "environment" does not keep EI and IQ in balance. People in the "Leadership" roles are less "in touch" due to the "promotion" processes within government. When you have people in leadership roles that are not "in touch" with their own feelings, along with more rounded life experiences, in combination with not having good government process skills, you have a receipe for failure. In my government work experiences, "scientists" were promoted to boss just because they had a degree in the area/resource of that office/dept. Being a "good" engineer or a "good" biologist does not make one a leader or people person. The degree & their "experiences" did not prepare or lend them to be bosses/leaders.(How are their skills being measured, who is doing the measuring)? How I see it, is it's all a part of the "good ol'boys" mindset and I might add, if you are not "like" them YOU DON'T FIT. So are these the people who are "deciding what we need to be like, are they the "judges" of all the rest of us? In my experience, they cause those somewhat "prone" to being emotional to be even more so....because what one person will not address, someone else will "act" out for them! Don't place people over others that do not have the insight and abilities to handle it! Scientists should be left as scientists, etc.. To ignore other people's abilities and to allow others to be "defined" by people who "lack" insight,compassion & varied life experiences, doesn't work! There are surveys that draw very respected conclusions as to people's abilities to "lead"! A degree does not a leader make! Wake up folks!

Fri, Sep 2, 2011 Ginny

A prerequisite of emotional intelligence is empathy. When you are 'high EI", it can interfere with being "tough", because high EI is often accompanied by a desire to be liked. Also, a high EI manager is curious about people, and understands their struggles. I supervise many employees with physical, personal, emotional, and family problems, and I empathize deeply. Makes it hard to "crack the whip."

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 Basically Brainy

New to fed service, under 3 years. Noticing that the 'constant process improvement' mind I have--always seeing ways to make operations/procedures/service delivery more efficient--isn't appreciated. Neither is a background as an entepreneur and Fortune 100 executive. Although I just received another award, as before, it was a COWORKER who submitted my name, not anyone at a higher level [I'm a 12]. I definitely have EQ skills too. Out-of-the-box thinking is simply too threatening in this environment.

Thu, Aug 25, 2011

In my opinion, EI basically amounts to the interviewer's/panel's PERSPECTIVE of the personality/traits. It is very subjective. Personally, the definition of the word "normal" in today's EI environment is another way to take individuality out of the equation of humanity and make us warm-blooded robots. If you look back at history, you'll more than likely find that most of the men and women who have contributed highly to mankind, i.e. Einstein, Galileo, Curie..and so forth, were ALL defined in society ("EI") terms as "not normal" because they saw something "outside the box" and believed in it. If we continue with this process, we are going to lose much of the capability for scientific advancement and so on. Everyone is an INDIVIDUAL made up of inherited genes and life experiences NOT, human perception, race, color of skin, religion, etc. We are born with our basic personality and EXPERIENCE further defines us. While those experiences may be shaped by perception, race, color of skin, etc - those particular things do NOT define who we are. My comment to people who make the comment of "you/that person/that thing is not normal" is...And whose definition of normal are you going by? Yours or mine or society's?!

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