Want to make yourself look better at work? Team up with some female coworkers. New research suggests that groups made up of mostly women perform better whether they collaborate face-to-face or online.
In the study, researchers randomly assigned 272 participants to four-person teams tasked with a bunch of collaborative, timed assignments involving skills you use at work, like brainstorming, choice-making, coordination, memory, pattern detection, information gathering, and so on. The point was to assess collective group intelligence and effectiveness.
Some of the groups met in person, and some only worked together online. Researchers tracked how much each individual contributed and tallied the number of words each group exchanged.
Researchers also assessed individuals' emotional intelligence (i.e., the ability to assess others' feelings) by showing them photos of strangers' eyes and asking them about the mental states of the people pictured. Then, researchers combined all the data to calculate group averages and identify ways to predict group effectiveness.
They found some fascinating patterns: First off, people in the smartest groups participated equally and communicated a lot (which makes perfect sense).
Interestingly, the smartest groups were mostly female and had the greatest emotional intelligence overall, regardless of whether members worked together face-to-face (and used facial cues to apply their emotional intelligence) or online (where there were no visual cues). In other words: Emotionally intelligent teams were smarter, even if they couldn't fully put that particular skill to use. Researchers think emotionally intelligent people probably have a bunch of other skills that make them especially effective workers. So if you're empathetic, you're good working from home.
You can also use this info to stack the deck in your favor when you choose your own team at work. Coworkers (male or female) who recognize your feelings (i.e., they can tell when you're having a bad day) could make better teammates than those who are entirely aloof. If you can't get a good read, you might want to partner with a woman FTW.
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