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Caroline Stokes, founder and CEO of Forward Executive Search & Executive Coaching, at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby, B.C., campus.Alia Youssef/The Globe and Mail

In the new workplace world order, IQ is not exactly out, but EQ is very, very in.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) deemed emotional intelligence one of the top 10 most important skills for the future, and that was before the last two years unleashed the greatest global reset since World War II.

”Emotional intelligence is arguably more important than IQ,” says Caroline Stokes, founder and CEO of Forward Executive Search & Executive Coaching, based in Vancouver and Montreal.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to control and express one’s emotions, as well as the ability to understand, interpret and respond judiciously to the emotions of others. And while it’s a combination of IQ and EQ that leads to the greatest success in the workplace, Ms. Stokes says this is the era of EQ in our pandemic-weary world.

”People have evolved so much during the short time of COVID-19 happening,” says Ms. Stokes, who is also the author of Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies to Save Your Company.

“It’s like everyone had a massive adjustment and we were all at that starting block at the same time.”

Women tend generally to score higher on emotional intelligence than men, Ms. Stokes says. It’s both natural and learned behaviour. And it’s time for women to rise to the challenge of the post-pandemic workplace, she adds.

”I think this is a global emotional intelligence test,” she says. “And women are great at being able to lead the charge, because they’ve got that level of ambient awareness.”

Bringing emotions to the office

In putting the spotlight on EQ, WEF pointed out people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 per cent of the time. Seems counterintuitive? Research credits that better performance to the “soft skills”of understanding our own and others’ emotions.

But there is more to it than simply understanding, says Ivona Hideg, associate professor and Ann Brown chair in organization studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. You have to know how to use that knowledge to manage relationships, she says.

”We are all human beings and emotions are an inherent part of ourselves,” Ms. Hideg says. “We all bring our emotions to the workplace.”

She notes that someone who is very high in EQ would be able to understand that emotions are an integral part of everything we do at work, influencing our relationship-building and decision-making process.

”[They would] also know how to use their emotions to be better at work, and better manage other people.”

Using EQ to build connection

The 20th century was the century of logic and reason but the 21st century is all about emotion, says David Cory, a leadership performance consultant and founder of the Calgary-based Emotional Intelligence Training Company.

”Technical skills will get you in the door, but it is your emotional intelligence skills which will cause you to be effective in meetings or in a one-to-one interaction, and it’s your emotional intelligence which will allow you to build the kinds of relationships that are going to help your career to go where you want it to go,” he says.

Mr. Cory says there are dozens of EQ assessment tools available, including his own which tests 15 emotional skills in five main categories: self-perception, self-expression, relationships, decision-making and stress management.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not have an emotional side and a nonemotional side, notes Mr. Cory. It’s all emotional.

”It’s understanding that and being more aware of the emotions we’re feeling, then finding ways to appropriately deal with that with others,” he says. “Find ways to talk more about what’s going on emotionally, and share your worries and your concerns and your fears and your hopes and your dreams and your passion. Because when we share that brings connection, which is something we all want.”

Well-equipped to lead the way

Five years ago, WEF’s Future of Jobs Report predicted that by 2020, social skills including persuasion, emotional intelligence and the ability to teach others would be in higher demand than technical skills.

That future is now, says Ms. Stokes. And women should realize that they are well-equipped to lead the way.

”Women have far, far more power and influence than they can possibly imagine. They just need to find that spark,” she says. “That is the starting block of creating a cause worthy for us to get out of bed in the morning and feel excited. That’s where the magic happens.”

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