EQ, or emotionalintelligence, is defined as a capacity to recognize and regulateone's own feelings and respond appropriately to the emotions ofothers. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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While it's smart to hire people with a high IQ, it's alsoadvantageous to find those with an above-average EQ, according to the Paychexreport, “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace.”

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“The World Economic Forum predicts that emotional intelligencewill rank among the attributes employers covet most by 2020,” theauthors write. “But how many professionals possess an admirabledegree of emotional awareness, and how might businesses findthem?”

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Related: 3 shifts in HR to expect in 2019

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Paychex asked more than 1,000 professionals to gauge their EQ,defined as a capacity to recognize and regulate their own feelingsand respond appropriately to the emotions of others. Respondentswere then were tested to determine the accuracy of theirself-reports, and they also answered questions to determine whichtraits correlate closely with high measures of emotionalintelligence.

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While the majority of respondents correctly assessed whethertheir EQ was above or below average, men were more likely tooverestimate their own EQ (20.6 percent for men to 17.1 percent forwomen), while women were more likely to underestimate it (13.7percent for women to 10.7 percent for men).

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“Accurately assessing one's own emotional intelligence mightprove challenging — in fact, it might even require some degree ofemotional intelligence to do so,” the authors write.

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Both men and women valued honesty and respect the most, whilemen ranked intelligence next and women ranked dependability, goodhumor and compassion more so than men.

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“These findings resonate with recent research indicating thatfemale business leaders are perceived as more compassionate thantheir male counterparts, and that women appreciate compassion inpolitical leaders to a greater extent than men,” the authors write.“The degree to which these findings are shaped by our culture'sprevailing gender norms remains an open — and fascinating —question.”

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Professionals in the arts and entertainment fields had thehighest EQ scores, followed by marketing and advertisingprofessionals, as well as medical and health careprofessionals.

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“Responding to a decline in patient engagement, medical schoolshave begun training aspiring physicians in empathy and effectivecommunication — both core EQ values,” the authors write.

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The industries that had the fewest professionals with high EQscores: construction as well as information services and dataprocessing were the industries in which emotional intelligenceseemed most scarce.

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“Our research suggests that an increased emphasis on emotionalintelligence is sorely needed in some industries,” the authorswrite. “The field of education offers a prime example. Whileexperts recommend that educators impart EQ to their students, ourfindings suggest many teachers may lack EQ skills themselves.”

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Interestingly, Paychex's study found that high EQ scoresinversely correlated with income to some extent. About 45 percentof high-EQ professionals earned $35,000 or less annually, and only12 percent make more than $100,000 per year.

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“This data is particularly interesting because prior studieshave suggested that emotional intelligence positions workers forcareer advancements — which typically entails increasedcompensation,” the authors write. “One explanation might lie incareer selections. Perhaps emotionally intelligent people are drawnto fields that are rewarding but not particularly lucrative.”

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People with above-average EQ scores prefer direct feedback inperson, while below-average EQ people prefer indirect communicationlike email, according to the study. Moreover, people withabove-average EQ prefer managers who allow for independence, peoplebelow-average EQ prefer a manager who closely monitors them.

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Employers can help workers become more self-aware of theiremotional intelligence and how to improve it, according to thereport.

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“That journey is unlikely to be easy, but it can pay greatdividends — for both professionals and the businesses that employthem,” the authors write. “From building a team to growing a baseof customers, the ability to understand other people isindispensable.”

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.