It’s great that we’re talking more about emotional intelligence in the business landscape – and in the world at large – but are we using it to excuse poor behaviour?

I’ve seen a number of situations where a manager, or someone in a position of leadership, has treated people appallingly and yet, their behaviour has been brushed off as low EQ.

Just in case you’re tired of acronyms and wondering what the latest one means, EQ stands for Emotional Quotient.

According to good, old Wikipedia, it’s all about the capability of others to recognise their own emotions, and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goals.

Whilst EQ is the acronym we’ll see used most widely, there’s also EI (Emotional Intelligence), EL (Emotional Leadership) and EIQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient).

Although the term first appeared in 1964, it started to gain popularity through Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence and, with today’s influencers talking more and more about mental health and emotional wellness, it’s fallen into regular usage.

Got it?

Yesterday’s A-hole?

Essentially, and not to put too fine a point on it, today’s person with low EQ is yesterday’s asshole.

I’m being flippant here, I know. There are a variety of very real reasons why an individual might genuinely have low emotional intelligence – all perfectly understandable and, of course, there’s room for us all on this beautiful planet.

What I take issue for isn’t the fact that some people will naturally have low EQ… it’s that too many people in positions of influence and leadership (or even in relationships if you want to drill right down) are having their poor behaviour brushed away, with a shrug of the shoulders and a muttering of ‘just a lack of emotional intelligence’.

For me, that’s not okay. Not by a long shot!

Remember a few years back when people who genuinely had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were getting pissed off by the amount of people flippantly referring to OCD when, in fact, they actually just liked to keep a tidy desk or not eat chips in their car?


Flippantly referring to OCD, when we don’t actually have proper, medically-diagnosed OCD, has become part of acceptable banter now, right?

That’s what I’m seeing with ‘low EQ’, except it’s an ‘excuse’ with far more insidious undertones.

If we’re not careful, we’ll be excusing away everything from gaslighting to workplace bullying as ‘just’ a case of low EQ.

If someone in a position of ‘control’ over other people is exhibiting what we’re dismissing as ‘low EQ’, it needs to be handled.

It needs to be handled swiftly, compassionately and fairly if we’re not to create a culture of fear, anxiety, stress and dis-ease through our inaction.

A bully is a bully is a bully… low emotional intelligence quotient or not. If their behaviour is adversely affecting others, we shouldn’t be brushing that under the carpet.

And I’m not talking punishment – I’m talking about education, training, coaching, management – helping them to develop into better managers and leaders.

If it’s a personal relationship, well, that’s a different kettle of fish but please, if you’re at the blunt end of bullying behaviour, please do get some help.

There are a number of organisations that can support and advise and, if you’re not sure whether you’re actually seeing signs of abuse, hit up Google – there are plenty of really helpful resources that give examples of emotional/psychological abuse.

Please don’t keep dismissing it – you’re worth more than that, I promise.

What about self-responsibility?

I’m big on self-responsibility – working with our own energy and self-belief so the words/actions of others don’t cause so much damage, but don’t those who mete out ‘bullying’ behaviour need to take ownership too?

I’ve personally been at the brunt of one whose behaviour was verging on gaslighting; changing the goalposts with no warning, telling lies to dent my confidence, berating me in private, praising me in public, etc.

Others noticed the behaviour too, but nobody really wanted a confrontation.

Guess what we all said? Yep. Low EQ.

What’s needed?

What do you all think is needed?

Is it right to excuse poor behaviour and brush it off as ‘just’ being part of someone’s make up?

If it’s at work, aren’t we creating a minefield for future workplace harmony by allowing this?

Maybe, if you’re experiencing something that fits this bill at your workplace, or in an organisation you’re part of, you could forward this article to someone higher up the chain who might be able to help. Use this as a discussion point.

All those excusing descriptors we use… thick skin, low EQ, bark worse than bite.

Does making excuses make the behaviour okay?

I don’t believe it does.

How about you?

Until next time,