How good are you at reading another person’s emotions? $50,000-a-year good? Or $150,000? Your level of emotional intelligence may predict how much you earn, finds a new study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.
The researchers looked at a trait called “emotion recognition ability,” responsible for how well you can sense (and make sense of) another person’s emotions from their face and voice. Researchers tested and measured it along with other interpersonal skills—such as how socially astute they were, their networking savvy and how seemingly trustworthy they were—in 142 German workers.
High emotional recognition was linked to a higher salary, even after controlling for salary-bumping factors like age, gender, education, work experience and work hours.
“This very basic ability has effects on the interpersonal facilitation facet of job performance and, most notably, even on annual income, an objective indicator of career success,” the study authors wrote. “The better people are at recognizing emotions, the better they handle the politics in organizations and the interpersonal aspects of work life, and thus the more they earn in their jobs.”
That could give women, who may recognize emotions better than men, an edge—in theory, at least. One study found that female managers who could more accurately assess nonverbal cues got better satisfaction ratings from their subordinates—an advantage that wasn’t detected in men.