Why is EQ ignored in the Singaporean workplace?

EQ in the workplace may be much more important than IQ – an undue amount of attention has been paid to the latter which few companies take the time to measure EQ in employees. In our meritocratic society, those with good grades usually get the top jobs and then managerial promotions. However, straight As shouldn’t be the only criteria for leaders.

At work, employees do not work in silos and their constant interactions with their colleagues can be positive or negative, creative or destructive. These interactions have an effect on a company’s performance in its vertical and a key driver to maximize positive exchanges is EQ is an individual’s Emotional Quotient (EQ), or Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Daniel Goleman, who wrote the renowned book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, says that 90 percent of success in people’s lives can be accounted for by measures outside of IQ.

Goleman writes in his book that the foundation of emotional intelligence holds four pillars:

  • Self-awareness – identification of an individuals own emotional cues
  • Self-management of behaviors, such as body language, word choice, facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Social awareness, which is the ability to perceive other people’s emotions.
  • Relationship management – a combination of the first three pillars to effectively manage successful interactions with other individuals.


Naturally, Singaporeans being emotional creatures, can be understood with EQ. Leaders, in particular have to exercise the elements of self-management and social awareness, such as in public speaking where an unexpected ringtone could halt an otherwise insightful presentation. A leader could react negatively with an eyeroll, but Indiana University of Pennsylvania speech pathologist Shari Robertson suggests that regulation of emotions from the speaker by ignoring the interruption or addressing it quickly and politely would have much better impact on message delivery.


A high level of EQ aptitude in a work environment can give rise to high degree of group efficiency as more employees can partake in a near-mystical, otherworldly state of concentration described recently in Fortune magazine as ‘flow’ or what most would refer to as ‘being in the zone’. This nirvana-esque state of mind is in fact a neurochemical experience that can be described with several psychological markers such as concentration, decreased self consciousness and dilation of time which can exist on a micro-flow level in individual tasks or on a macro level where employees are extremely engaged with a common project. Flow is one of many ideal goals for adequate EQ application in any company given that it generates an optimal productive state and happiness.

According to Ted talks alumnus Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, getting employees into a state of Flow can be reliably induced through keeping individuals in an active state of mind between arousal and control which involves an interplay of high degree of skill meeting a high degree of challenge. Organizationally, this maybe the intersection of a high collective staff CQ and EQ meeting each other with an aligned goal (i.e.: The challenge)

As institutions globally recognize the value of EQ/EI for strategic management as well as better alignment of human resources, the mastery of EQ has become essential in career progression. For instance, managers, such as those in Johnson and Johnson (US), were identified for leadership potential often have higher EQ competencies than their peers as they were able to fluidly manage more resources while avoiding conflicts in the face of increasing cultural diversity. Why aren’t we doing the same here?