The EQ Advantage: How Emotional Intelligence and Friendships Impact Your Bottom Line

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Strategy and Marketing Lead
May 3, 2023

Beyond Resumes and References: Prioritizing Emotional Intelligence in Hiring

Resumes, CVs, cover letters. We often place considerable weight on the data contained in these documents. Still, there is one essential item often missing from traditional hiring deliverables—the emotional quotient—also known as EQ or emotional intelligence

Overvaluing experience while undervaluing EQ is one of the most common mistakes hiring managers can make. 

Especially in rapidly changing environments—in industries that will be particularly impacted by technological advancement and artificial intelligence (which is estimated to be 2/3s of all workers), hiring just for skills (or really tools experience) is an easy mistake to make. Because the tools will keep changing, and they will continue to change faster and faster. In our experience, it is wiser to emphasize hiring for high EQ rather than just experience. 

As markets become highly disrupted by applied ai, companies, and their employees, will undergo a fair amount of stress—it will become essential to employ quick studies with good temperaments. Or, as my mom always said, “Life is often unpredictable and out of our control—the only thing you can control is your response.”

The High Cost of Loneliness: Why Employee Retention Depends on Connection

In 2022, the Harvard Business Review published a piece titled The Power of Work Friends, stating that more than 300 million people don’t have a single friend, and 20% don’t have a friend or family member they could count on. NYU Professor Scott Galloway expands on this point in his recent book Adrift, writing, “Since 1990, the percentage of Americans who report having less than three close friends has doubled, from 16% to 32%. The share who report having no close friends at all has gone from 3% to 12%” 

Broken down by gender: 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women say they don’t have a single friend. 

These are concerning statistics, and they should especially concern hiring managers. Gallup found that “having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control, and employee retention.” Furthermore, the study showed that having a best friend at work had the greatest impact on whether an employee would recommend their place of work, decide to leave, and their overall job satisfaction. 

We often think about employee retention from the perspective of pay, flexibility, and benefits. And you might leverage one or more of these in order to set the table for hanging onto employees. But the number one predictor of whether or not someone will stay in a job is if they have a friend at work.

If employees feel as though they have someone who genuinely cares about them, who has their back, who is interested in their success, and, even more importantly, their life and who they are as a person, they are more likely to stay at their place of employment. 

Not surprisingly, employees with high EQ tend to be better at fostering these kinds of relationships. 

Not only do workplace friendships aid retention, but they are also really good for your employees’ health. According to the National Institute on Aging, loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and has been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years. 

So if you want your employees to enjoy work and live longer—fostering workplace relationships, ideally with people who aren’t jerks, is key. 

Creating a Culture of Camaraderie to Benefit Your Business

Cultivating workplace relationships starts at the highest level of the organization. If the bosses show their employees that they don’t have to shed their personal lives and personalities when they walk through the office door, employees will respond in kind. 

Beyond modeling this approach, bosses have an important role in curating opportunities for workplace friendships to bloom. And as more and more industries move to remote work or hybrid work settings, this becomes essential for management. 

As business thought leader Simon Sinek says, you can’t simply instruct people to trust one another. Trust is built through small interactions over time. Thus, the C-Suite team must become intentional about getting team members together and encouraging social interaction. Host office outings and parties and give employees the green light to go out to lunch or coffee on the company dime. 

The Art of Making Connections: Tips for Finding a Work Friend

If you are looking for a work friend but don’t know where to start. Consider the advice of relationship guru Esther Perel. Perel suggests being bold and cutting through small talk, “so often, we introduce ourselves with what we do, rather than who we are or what’s on our mind. Consider ways to open up new dialogue by asking questions such as what are you passionate about? Or what have you been thinking about lately? Avoid the trap of boring shop talk by focusing on people not things.”

Perel also encourages playfulness at the office. "What is the difference between relationships that survive and relationships that flourish? Playfulness - being able to transcend beyond the mundane,” says Perel.

So next time you get a chance, ask your colleagues to go to lunch, or coffee, or to take a walk and get to know them as a person. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with a new best friend. 

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