Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Success Depends On Both IQ and EQ

The IQ/EQ balance is important to understand and to optimize.

Key points

  • One's IQ, intelligence quotient, and EQ, emotional intelligence, are co-factors in sustained success in business and corporate life.
  • In some sectors, EQ (often likeability) can become more important than IQ in obtaining raises and promotions.
  • Remote work makes it more difficult to assess EQ, as fewer behaviors are observed.

"Smart" is a summary judgment of common knowledge and common sense. You might be the top dog in your school but average among others. You do not know until in the "ring of life." The term "smart" can be measured as an IQ number but includes social skills never taught. Those are referred to more colloquially as EQ, (Emotional Intelligence). While IQ (Intelligence Quotient) can be measured psychometrically in a way that EQ cannot, both capture valid, albeit different, skillsets.

It is possible to be too smart for your good. If you show up others––even if you are correct––you will be disliked and wonder why a gregarious person got the promotion instead of you. It seems everyone hates or dislikes you. This is where EQ comes in.

Successful EQ

Make others feel comfortable around you, not threatened. The best way to get someone to like you is to listen and not to brag about your accomplishments. This "trick" creates a false intimacy but is a ruse of the corporate trade. All salesmen knows this: If you like the person, you want what the person is selling.

Now, some may argue that social life and manners are devious forms of deception to get ahead. Where do schmooze, sociopathy, and Machiavellianism merge? I don't know. There is a transactional, manipulative factor in many "successful" people. and if too successful, it simply intensifies their worst traits. They become emotionally abusive, insensitive, or "above it all."

Workplace stressors

Before COVID-19 and the advent of remote working, a significant source of stress in the workplace was "going to work." There are many common reasons for workplace stress. Obvious stressors include the commute, type of business, work-home balance, special skill sets, office politics, thwarted ambition, gender inequalities, horrible bosses, the long hours, too many cooks, and authoritarian bosses. But an inability to navigate the workpace socially is another form of workplace stress.

To succeed professionally, one must harness both IQ (and unique skill sets) and EQ (emotional empathy, likability). The other primary variable smart people need is EQ. Daniel Goleman pioneered. EQ is a dimension of sociability and temperament.

IQ and EQ almost always interact, affecting accomplishment and ambition. Your resume and presumed character land you the ideal position, but your EQ sustains it. If your IQ is out of whack with your EQ, you will be less likely to succeed or to flourish.

High EQ people rise faster within a company than high IQ people. In my opinion, the proverbial corner office is not eventually filled by the smartest, but by the most liked, something not taught in school.

Once you have a job, it is incumbent to socialize and establish working relationships with everyone; otherwise, no matter how great you do, you will, when push comes to shove, eventually lose to the gregarious sycophant. And to succeed in academia, one must be political and socialize.

As a new assistant professor, I thought productivity was a be-all and end-all in academia, but I was wrong. It is not. "Smarter" people get the basic accomplished and have time to gossip. I was naïve to believe social skills and politics were not essential elements in a formula for career success.

In my observation, those with relatively high IQ usually start with a better job with more authority and autonomy at a higher income than their less intelligent peers. Still, the competition to rise within an organization is fierce, requiring EQ as well as IQ.

It is not always possible to identify when in a profession or a professional lifetime this shift occurs, but often it does. Over the years, many of my clients were brilliant and highly educated but lacked the social skills to compete among their Machiavellian peers.


Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. 1995. New York. Macmillan,

Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, 1983. New York. Basic Books.New York.

More from Reid J. Daitzman Ph.D., ABPP
More from Psychology Today
More from Reid J. Daitzman Ph.D., ABPP
More from Psychology Today