If you still feel that emotional intelligence is just some over-hyped theory, maybe this finding will get your attention.

According to a recent study from the University of Bonn, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in November 2014, individuals who displayed emotional intelligence were more likely to bring home a bigger paycheck than their emotionally-stunted colleagues.

Yes, that’s correct.  Earning more, getting a raise, or securing that next promotion may have more to do with emotional intelligence than acquiring that pedigree degree and building the resume.

Let me start here with what exactly emotional intelligence is.  I’ll keep it simple – it’s the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It’s a measure of your self-awareness and the awareness of others. It’s the ability of people to manage difficult situations and get this done – while remaining focused, motivated, positive and cool under pressure.

Like it or not, emotions are a part of us.  You can’t check them at the company door, stuff them in a locker, and pick them up on your way home. I love this quote by Janet Matta that I picked up on one of her LinkedIn posts;

“Emotions are like shampoo in your suitcase. You put some pressure on them and they WILL come out, no matter how tightly you think you twisted up that bottle. They will spill all over the place and you will be a disgusting mess.”

Whether it’s being managed and leveraged into getting things accomplished or raging out of control like a rebellious adolescent, emotions are everywhere – sometimes working for the good of the company and its employee. And at other time, it’s distracting and dysfunctional.

If everyone has them and they can’t be ignored, then the best option is to understand them and learn to manage them.  (Notice I didn’t say control. You don’t control your emotions – only drugs do that!  You manage them.)

To understand the role emotional intelligence plays in modern work environments, the researchers tested a group of working adults. The participants were divided into those with high emotional intelligence or poor emotional intelligence.

The researchers then asked the participants’ colleagues and supervisors to assess the social and organizational skills of each participant—whether they were socially well attuned, influential, and sincere. The results indicated those who had a good ability to recognize emotions were also considered more socially and politically skilled by their colleagues. They all had significantly higher income than those who scored low on the emotion recognition test.

What this tells us is that emotional intelligence is not just this warm and fuzzy ability to get along with others better, but it’s also about the ability to influence others effectively, to collaborate and cooperate better, and to achieve greater career success.  Ultimately that leads to higher income.

How do you increase your emotional intelligence?  It begins with self-awareness or as Stephen Covey describes it in his 5th Habit – Seek first to understand, then to be understood. The road to self- awareness begins with a trip down self-assessment lane.  To learn more, click here.