Engineers have IQ mastered, but do they have emotional intelligence (EQ)?

An engineer takes to a popular engineering online forum and writes: “I can’t get a job because I’m too awkward. Has anybody else been turned down for a job because they lack people skills and/or emotional intelligence?”

The big question is: Do engineers need well developed EQs? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. As the forum writer above points out: the need for it begins with the interview. Then there are engineers in the workplace completing projects in teams, negotiating with clients etc – all of which requires some emotional intelligence.

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Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) are terms created by two researchers in 1995 – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. Psychologist and behavior science journalist, Dr. Daniël Goleman, then introduced the concept to the public and popularized it in 1996 with his book simply called “Emotional Intelligence”.

Goleman was merely using a pithy phrase for what was already known as the ability to recognize, understand and manage our human emotions. The definition has grown to include the understanding and influencing of others. This aspect of EQ would be familiar to engineering managers; and they would understand the inherent difficulties involved.

The blunt truth is that engineers who struggle with EQ may indeed hinder their career growth potential. According to Talent Smart, people with higher EQ make an average of $29,000 more per year than people with low EQ. Not only is EQ good for career success, but it can dictate success when it comes to entrepreneurial endeavor too.

Can it be taught?

Corporate Training International has summarized the kinds of skills people need to hone in order to function efficiently in the corporate world:

  • Self awareness
  • Self regulation
  • Self motivation
  • Empathy

EQ is a big help when it comes to making and sustaining relationships in the work place. In an engineering sense, working together efficiently and all being ‘on the same page’ are elements crucial to a synergetic workforce.

There are steps that we can take to contribute to our own well being and to the well being of a workplace. Conflicts, for example, can threaten the equilibrium within a team if handled without emotional intelligence. The following may be useful when attempting to establish a healthier EQ:

  • Form new habits
  • Care about others’ feelings
  • Keep your emotions in check
  • Integrate yourself into others’ lives sensitively.
  • Take and accept criticism
  • Learn from your mistakes

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The Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Steve Mackay, reckons that engineers must be happy in their workspaces, but understands that work pressures can dampen an engineer’s enthusiasm. Mackay calls it the Rule of Two Thirds for Happiness - and thinks engineers should live by the rules and re-evaluate according to the rules every week.

  • Are you satisfied with your job?
  • Are you comfortable with where you live?
  • Do your have fulfilling relationships?


If you can manage two of those three, you should count yourself happy, says the Dean. And, interestingly, happiness is the best environment for a maturing emotional intelligence. A depressed, clouded mind is less likely to make a contribution at work whereas an engineer who has reasons to be positive will become more emotionally astute and resilient and consequently, more productive at work.

Thanks very much to Henlie Holm who inspired and contributed to this article.


Other works cited:

Wallace, Brian. "Emotional Intelligence Is Necessary for You, in Any Field; Here Is Why." Business Standard. Business-Standard, 18 July 2017. Web. 07 Aug. 2017.

CORPORATE TRAINING. 2017. Emotional Intelligence -  Training material for trainers. www.corporatetrainingmaterials.com Date of access:  23 June 2017.

The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is dedicated to ensuring our students receive a world-class education and gain skills they can immediately implement in the workplace upon graduation. Our staff members uphold our ethos of honesty and integrity, and we stand by our word because it is our bond. Our students are also expected to carry this attitude throughout their time at our institute, and into their careers.