According to the Turkish Language Association definition, intelligence is all of a human’s ability to think, reason, perceive objective facts, comprehend, judge, and draw conclusions. But is intelligence always a good thing?
Harvard Business Review authors Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adam Yearsley have written an article about emotional intelligence not always being an advantageous trait. Describing the process through Gemma, an employee with high emotional intelligence, the authors listed the disadvantages of being emotionally intelligent as follows:
Gemma is extremely caring and sensitive. She attaches great importance to the feelings of others is kind and considerate. Gemma is also quite optimistic. It remains positive even in the face of bad news. Colleagues like to work with her because they see her as a sign of calm. Gemma is enthusiastic and never loses her composure no matter how much stress and pressure there is at work.
Gemma’s boss says she rarely complains about things and is an extremely reliable employee. Moreover, even when Gemma’s boss doesn’t do a very good job managing her, Gemma herself is already working on getting things done. Who wouldn’t want to hire such a hardworking person? In many ways, she seems like an ideal employee with excellent potential for a career in management. Most people see Gemma’s personality as a great asset, not just in a business context. The main reason for this is Gemma’s high emotional intelligence (EQ), which explains all the qualities described above.
Although definitions vary, emotional intelligence always includes personal and interpersonal skills, high adaptability, sociability, sensitivity, and common sense.
Thousands of scientific studies have tested the importance of emotional intelligence in various areas of life and provide convincing evidence for the benefits of higher emotional intelligence for work, health, and relationships. For example, emotional intelligence is positively associated with leadership, job performance, job satisfaction, happiness, and well-being (both physical and emotional). Moreover, emotional intelligence is negatively associated with unproductive work behaviors, psychopathy, and a tendency to stress.
Is high emotional intelligence always beneficial? The disadvantages of a high emotional intelligence are largely unexplored. But too much emotional intelligence can have negative effects. Everything should be as it should be, and every human trait has a downside. Let’s focus on Gemma again and examine some of the less favorable consequences of high EQ.
There are lower levels of creativity and innovation potential.
There is a negative correlation between emotional intelligence and many of the traits that predispose individuals to creativity and innovation. Creativity has long been associated with qualities characteristic of low EQ: artistic moodiness, disharmony, hostile impulsiveness, and an excited (“bumpy”) personality. While it is of course possible for creative people to be emotionally intelligent, the more common pattern for people like Gemma is to be great at following processes, forming relationships, and working with others, but lacking the necessary levels of inappropriateness and impulsiveness.
It is difficult to give and receive negative feedback.
At first glance, it may seem like people with high EQ scores like Gemma do a good job of giving and receiving feedback. Because both involve social interaction. But when you scratch below the surface, you’ll find that Gemma’s high interpersonal sensitivity and empathetic concern can make it difficult for her to give critical or negative feedback to others. In addition, people with high emotional intelligence like Gemma can be so highly agreeable and cool that they are indifferent to any negative feedback they receive.
They are not good enough for the leadership role.
One of the main reasons Gemma’s personality is attractive is she epitomizes the many qualities we look for in people. While people like Gemma are psychologically well-equipped for entry-level or mid-level management jobs, they often fail because it requires the ability to make unpopular choices, bring change, and focus on results. In addition, senior leaders and managers must be innovative. This entails making unpopular unconventional decisions, and people like Gemma who focus more on agreement than progress are less likely to make them.
It is a well-developed ability to manipulate others.
Gemma’s high emotional intelligence can help her empathize and deliver a message that feels right to the audience, which is usually a good thing. However, if it goes too far, it may shift from influencing others to engaging in manipulation
tactics. The risk of overusing one’s social skills is to neglect the logical arguments and more procedural aspects of communication and focus heavily on the emotional aspects of communication. In this sense, the dark side of emotional intelligence helps malicious people be overly persuasive and find their way. As with charisma, we tend to view emotional intelligence as a positive trait. But it can be used to achieve unethical as well as ethical goals.
They avoid risk.
Most innovative ventures require a balance between risk-taking and risk aversion. People like Gemma act more confidently and avoid bold choices. This is because higher emotional intelligence is associated with higher conscientiousness. In other words, the higher your EQ, the more likely you are to resist impulses and make measured decisions. EQ is associated with greater self-control, but excessive self-control will turn into counter-effect perfectionism and risk aversion.
To be clear, Gemma is undoubtedly a highly desirable employee. But his extremely high EQ makes him better suited to roles where it’s crucial to regulate his own emotions and to be able to sense and adapt to the emotional needs of others. Salespeople, real estate agents, customer support representatives, counselors, and psychologists all benefit from EQ like Gemma’s. By contrast, Gemma’s profile may not be advantageous or even a handicap in jobs that focus on creativity, innovation, leading change, or taking risks. That doesn’t mean someone like Gemma can’t aim for a senior leadership role. She can, but this will require a fair amount of self-coaching. For example, she needs to start looking for negative feedback and take it seriously, stop worrying about avoiding conflicts, and challenge the status quo.
There is no doubt that emotional intelligence is a desirable and highly adaptable trait, and it is understandable that we often prefer emotional intelligence to be high over low. They have a lot of amazing features. This will make them great employees and good managers. But don’t expect them to be visionary leaders or change agents.
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