The Value of Emotional Intelligence... Even for Engineers

By Melanie Vargas | Leadership, Human Resources, Recruiting, Emotional Intelligence | No Comments


According to the World Economic Forum's "Why you need Emotional Intelligence"

“90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence (EQ). On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.”

We used to think…

We used to think that emotional intelligence (EQ) was only an important factor in how we manage and lead people. While this is still true, it is equally important that individuals learn the value of EQ in their individual contributor roles.

But who are they?

Having worked as a human resources executive for over 20 years in technology companies, I am continually amazed at how organizations focus on the value of technical skills exclusively. While I believe those technical skills are vital, what about their behavior? Would you agree that people are hired for what they know but fired for who they are?

Behavior and culture

I have found that many organizations don't teach their managers to hire for culture, values, or for behavior. A hiring process needs to include a technical screen, but more importantly, it needs to include behavioral-based questions, as well as questions specific to your organizational culture.

Engineers struggle

Many engineers struggle with their interpersonal skills and it affects their productivity in meetings and communication with co-workers. Unfortunately, no one has the luxury of sitting at their desk creating things without interacting with others. We all have to work together. In all of the many years I have worked with the most brilliant engineers, I have heard many times "Yes, I know he blows up in meetings, behaves inappropriately, but we can't fire him because of our deliverables."  What cost does this have on our organizations in terms of engagement and productivity?

Equipping engineers

In addition, colleges and universities need train their students on soft skills in engineering-focused degree programs. Many new grad engineers enter the workplace and struggle to be successful based on their lack of soft skills. We need to equip engineering students with self-awareness, so that they can learn to be adaptable to working with others. Even engineers have to "sell" and "influence" others on their ideas.

Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan developed a course inside Google, Search Inside Yourself, that teaches engineers emotional intelligence (EQ). The framework was developed around the five components of leadership skills: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills. 

Fast Company says:

"The course focuses on what's happening in the brain when you're having certain thoughts and feelings, and encourages reflection rather than reaction."

The mitigation for this and my hope for the future is that we help engineers grow and expand with soft skill development and enhance their EQ. 

EQ is a balance between the rational and emotional brain, and one has the ability to increase your EQ just as you can hone hard skill sets.

About the Author


For the last 20 years, my career focus has been partnering with entrepreneurial companies and helping them to achieve their goals through their greatest assets. I absolutely love working with startups and building teams from the ground floor. My greatest joy has been working with leadership teams and creating pathways for them to be their best.

- Melanie R. Vargas, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, President

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