People with “emotional intelligence” tend to make more money

Reading others' emotions has its financial benefits

Man and woman in an office holding up happy and unhappy emoticon masks

(Holly Harris/Getty)

Did you notice your colleague Jim was looking a little down the other day? Or did you recognize that Lily sounded really excited about something when you saw her by the coffee machine? According to a new study, your ability to accurately gauge your colleagues’ emotional states might make you more financially successful.

Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany, Illinois State University and Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, found that when individuals displayed emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive other people’s emotions—they were more likely to bring home a bigger pay cheque than their emotionallyunaware colleagues.

The study’s authors set out to understand the impact emotional intelligence plays in modern work environments as more organizations emphasize collaboration and teamwork among employees. They asked a group of 142 working adults to look at a collection of images and recordings of actors and children, and asked them to label emotional expressions. Those participants who succeeded in identifying the emotion in 87% of the cases were considered to have high emotional intelligence, whereas those who scored below 60% were considered to have poor emotional intelligence.

The researchers asked participants’ colleagues and supervisors to assess their co-workers’ political skills, such as whether they were socially well-attuned, influential, sincere, and good networkers. The findings showed that those participants who had a good ability to recognize emotions were also considered to be more socially and politically adept by their peers. These emotionally in-tune workers also had significantly higher income than those who received a low score on the study’s emotion recognition test.

The authors say that the better people are at recognizing others’ emotions the more able they are to influence others effectively and get along with others, which eventually results in greater career success and higher income.

So, the next time you see a colleague looking a little down, you might want to ask what’s up instead of glossing over it. He’ll get a sympathetic ear in the short-term, and it’s likely you’ll benefit in the long run.