What’s your emotional intelligence?

The rules of work are changing and it couldn’t be more obvious than in the new yardsticks by which modern workers are being judged. Sure, we’re still being measured by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise. But have you noticed that character – how we handle ourselves and others, and even our ethical values – now counts more, especially in recruitment and promotion decisions?

Educational institutions – even those not tied to religious denominations – have been paying more attention to character. Hiram College, a small liberal arts school in the U.S. midwest, this year established a chairman in ethics after a decade of aggressively infusing ethical discussion into coursework. Kenneth Alpern, recently-appointed professor of ethics and the chair’s occupant, teaches students that ethical issues aren’t simply about right and wrong but also about “making tough choices in a brutal world.”

Among the theories he espouses is the notion that the more people can experience things from different points of views (such as working in a soup kitchen to understand the poor as human beings), or read the writings of those they disagree with to understand the authors’ perspectives, the more effective they’ll be in their professions. Visualize Gordon Gekko sharing tea with Gandhi.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a popular construct that’s being employed by companies to promote character in the workplace. EQ has two components: intrapersonal intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence enables us to make sense of the interrelationships between our thoughts, actions and feelings. Interpersonal intelligence, on the other hand, enables us to tune in to other people, empathize and communicate clearly with them, inspire and motivate them and understand relationships.

Like its counterpart, IQ, EQ can be tested, measured and incorporated into the workplace in productive ways. A west coast communications company recently used EQ techniques to qualify managers to help workers deal with personal problems that were hindering team performance.

Other examples of using emotional intelligence include the following:

Recruitment: EQ measurement is invaluable in selecting and recruiting desirable, high-performance workers.

Predicting performance: some companies are blending IQ testing with scientific measurement of EQ to predict job performance and direct workers to jobs where they are most likely to succeed.

Negotiation: whether you’re dealing with a trading partner, competitor, customer or colleague, being able to empathize and be creative in finding win-win solutions will consistently pay off.

Performance management: 360-degree feedback is a common tool for assessing EQ. Knowing how your self-perception compares with others’ views about your performance provides focus for career development and positive behavioural changes.

Peer relationships: good networking skills are a staple of job effectiveness for the average IT worker. Networking has too often been associated with using other people, but a heightened EQ ensures a mutually-beneficial approach to others.

If teams, departments and individuals at your company are too often locked into conflict or, worse, acting disaffected, bored and unmotivated, exploring EQ may be worth your time.

Remaining optimistic during tough times – be it troubled projects or major economic downturns – is a sign of high emotional intelligence and a quality that few organizations can afford to be without.

Foote (dfoote@footepartners.com) is managing partner and research director at Foote Partners LLC, an IT workforce management research firm and organizational development consultancy in New Canaan, Conn.