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Emotional Intelligence: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Timothee Luong explores the new yardstick that Aussie corporations are measuring new employees with, the Emotional Quotient, navigating the strange idea of “measuring” emotions.

As we move into an age where the sheer amount of good grades and whopping-high GPAs – or WAMs, in our context – becomes so abundant they turn into a barren one-liner on our resumes, employers are looking for the next big yardstick to measure fresh recruits coming into the corporate world. One of those is the Emotional Quotient (or EQ for short).

EQ, to simply put it, is a measure of emotional intelligence in a person, consisting of the components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills¹. The big companies like the Big 4 auditing firms as well as Aussie banks have some form of tests on these subjects for their incoming juniors, labelled as “psychometric assessments.” They promise a fair process of blind recruitment as test results are used as the gateway into the next steps, even before any resumes are even reviewed. 

But is emotional intelligence truly a relevant predictor of someone’s ability to perform?

Human interactions are constructed largely around the social cues and context of the society and culture they live in. How do we prescribe scores and gauge marks, determine good or bad, desirable and undesirable on subjective matters like how we felt about that last contact?

If EQ became the new standard to judge a person’s character in the workplace, then by Australian standards, I would be considered a retard.There are cultural habits and gaps that have moulded and formed my identities for decades, yet make me ill-fitted in conversations with your typical Aussies.

The fancy and abstract psychometric tools that I have to go through as a final year student applying for a job brought me to a conclusion of how it was even more unfair to do it this way. You could have tried hard and punched your way through uni with internships, projects and jobs to get this position or program and all of it would go to waste if you were even the slightest unprepared for a curveball question.

Even more frustrating in this situation is hearing someone preach “you should have practised.” First of all, if entering a single corporation is made so redundantly difficult that you have to practise over and over for their specialised exam, I see it as a complete scam of your time, effort and possibly even money. Second of all, what sort of answer are they getting out of these tests anyway, if we already know what sort of person they want and choose to answer along those lines rather than ourselves? 

Ultimately, this standard textbook definition of emotional intelligence is a measurement of how a person fits into the capitalist standards of a worker, a spectrum of personality traits that conform to the rules and norms of the workplace, a list of behaviours you are supposed to tick off before you can be seen as likeable. Real, raw emotions have no place to be intelligent - everything, everywhere, all at once, they all make up us and our human experiences.

[1] Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 


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