Employees with high emotional intelligence are prized by businesses (so much so that some have even started testing the EQ of job candidates). Science offers a clear explanation as to why. Studies show that not only do those with a good sense of theirs and others' emotions make better decisions, but they also reveal that personality is a better predictor of job success than skills for many roles.

But if that's not enough to convince you that soft and fuzzy abilities are as important as concrete competencies, then a new study out of Germany might just change the mind of even the most bottom-line focused business person. The research, led by University of Bonn psychologist Gerhard Blickle and published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, nailed down exactly how high EQ benefits individuals financially.

The dollar value of high EQ

Blickle and colleagues determined the EQ of 142 working adults both by asking them to determine the emotion displayed in a series of photographs of actors and children, but also by asking their colleagues to rate their emotional savvy. Those that performed well on the first task tended to get higher marks from co-workers, the team determined, giving a clear indication of who was gifted at interpreting emotion and whose skills in this area could use a tune up.

Once the participants' EQs were determined, the team then compared their emotional abilities to their incomes, controlling for other factors that affect earnings such as age, seniority, and hours worked. The results were clear--higher EQ led straight to a bigger paycheck.

Those who passed the emotion recognition test with flying colors "are considered more socially and politically skilled than others by their colleagues. Their supervisors also attribute better social and political skills to these people. And, most notably, their income is significantly higher," Blickle commented, summing up the results.

Can EQ be improved?

All of which suggests that if you're lacking something in the soft skills department, it might be time to seriously consider upping your game in the area. But can you train to improve your EQ or are these abilities something we're either born blessed with or not? According to Blickle that's a question that still needs more research, though other experts insist that emotional skills can be coached.

While science figures out the best way to exercise and strengthen EQ, you can at least get started on maximizing your own inherent abilities by assessing where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This short quiz should start to give you a sense of whether you're likely already benefiting from your social savvy or could use some (incoming-boosting) work in the area.

Published on: Dec 15, 2014