Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Emotional intelligence and job performance

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Emotional intelligence and job performance:
What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. US Department of Labor, projected unemployment statistics 2010

The early 21st century global economic crisis has triggered a rise in unemployment and increased competitiveness for positions. This has highlighted the importance of tools such as emotional intelligence (EI) assessments to distinguish between an abundance of job applicants. Since the introduction of EI in 1990 by Salovey and Mayer, empirical research has highlighted the relationship between EI in the workplace and positive outcomes such as increased job performance, job satisfaction and leadership abilities (Al Ali, Garner & Magadley, 2011; Joseph, Jin & Newman, 2015).

It was not until 1995, however, that the concept of EI exploded into popularity with the release of Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ, which has been described as one of the most influential business management books of all time by Time Magazine (Joseph et al., 2015). Beyond the popularity of Goleman's work, EI consulting services have become a multi-million dollar industry, with estimates suggesting over 75% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted EI related services (Weinzimmer et al., 2016).

Figure 2. Goleman's EQi-2.0-Model

This chapter compare and analyses different theories of EI, critically evaluate the concept of EI and discuss whether EI does reliably predict better job performance.

History of emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

Ancient Greek philosophers believed that logic was superior to feelings, because whilst people could agree on what constituted a rational argument, they often disagreed on matters concerning feelings or emotions (Mayer, Roberts & Barsade, 2008) . Since the beginning of the 20th century theorists have attempted to integrate emotion and reasoning into a singular construct.

Figure 3. Edward Thorndike.

The evolution of contemporary EI theory can be traced back to the 1920's and Thorndike's concept of social intelligence, which he described as the ability to manage men and women, to act wisely in human relations (Law et al.,2004).

Salovey and Mayer (1990), defined EI as a subset of social intelligence;that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feeling and emotions, to discriminate against them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.

In the 1990's Gardner included social intelligence in his theory of multiple intelliegence's. According to Gardner, social intelligence comprises an individual’s interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence domains. Gardner (1995) stated that the individual utilizes innate abilities to accurately perceive one's own and others' moods and feelings, consequently interpreting the information to inform behavior.

Salovey and Mayer (1997), revised the model and extended their definition to conceptualize EI in the four branch model; as the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer & Salovey 1997). Throughout it's evolution EI has drawn a lot of criticism in the academic community, including; conflicting definitions and models, the need for better measurement and assessment, and the significance of EI as a predictor of important outcomes (McCleskey, 2014).

Despite these criticisms the fundamentals of EI still warrant continued research as; the core of EI remains intuitive and difficult to refute, emotions do play an important role in daily life, people vary in their ability to perceive, understand, use and manage emotions, and these variances may affect individual adaptation in a variety of different contexts including job performance (Schutte & Loi, 2014).

Integrating emotions and cognition; people reason about emotions and use emotions to assist reasoning (Mayer et al., 2008)
Let's see if you have been paying attention?

Which contemporary psychologist included social intelligence in his theory of multiple intelliegences?[spelling?]



Theories of emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Differential perspectives of emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

Contemporary psychological research into the normative interaction of emotion and cognition has divided theorists attempting to identify the mechanisms involved (Weinzimmer et al., 2016). Three main theoretical models exist to explain the mechanisms of EI; the ability model, the trait model and the mixed model. Comprehensive evaluation of each theoretical model is outside of the scope of this chapter, therefore an overview of each will be presented and demonstrated with key points relating to the relationship with job performance highlighted.

Ability model[edit | edit source]

The ability model refers specifically to the cooperative combination of intelligence and emotion in response to situations; it identifies emotional information processing as an essential precursor to emotional regulation (Brackett & Mayer, 2003). This model is designed to capture maximal performance and is measured with the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) which was developed in 2002 (Mayer et al., 2004).

The MSCEIT is designed to measure EI as a mental ability; In this conceptualisation EI is the capacity to reason in regard to emotions and the ability to use emotions to assist cognition. The MSCEIT is considered the gold standard for defining and testing EI, comprising 141 items along four scales (Nelis et al., 2009).

Each scale corresponds to one branch of the Mayer ability model of EI:

  • Accurately perceiving emotions in one’s self and others (emotional perception)
  • Using emotions to facilitate thinking (emotional facilitation)
  • Understanding emotions, emotional language and the signals conveyed by emotions (emotional understanding)
  • Managing emotions so as to obtain specific goals (emotional regulation)

It is theorised that these four emotional abilities fall along a hierarchical continuum as a sequential set of steps, with the perception of emotion occurring at the first step, followed by integration and assimilation of emotion, knowledge about emotion, and lastly management of emotions (Mayer et al., 2004).

The MSCEIT has shown solid psychometric properties and is both reliable and has strong content validity. The MSCEIT has been shown to correlate with a number of criterion measures, including intelligence, empathy, life satisfaction, mental and physical health, social functioning and workplace performance (Cabello & Fernandez-Berracol, 2015; Ciarrochi et al., 1999). Through conceptualizing EI as a set of abilities, the MSCEIT is less impacted by self-presentation biases and does not require the individual to have insight into their own EI (Ciarrochi et al., 1999), it also makes it possible to analyse the degree to which EI specifically contributes to an individual’s behaviour.

In a recent meta-analysis by Joseph & Newman (2011), results showed that the ability model of EI possessed strong theoretical propositions drawing upon decades of research in social and personality psychology.

Trait model[edit | edit source]

The trait model of EI, most recently proposed by Petrides, Perez-Gonzalez & Furnham, (2007), states that individuals possess a number of emotional self-perceptions and emotional traits. The trait model is designed to capture typical performance and is most commonly measured with the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (TEIQue) . The TEIQue assessment has been developed as a result of ongoing research championed by Petrides et al., (2007) and has led to a conceptual distinction between the ability model of EI and the trait perspective. Proponents of the trait model, consider EI to be a multifaceted construct encompassing 15 different emotion-related behavioural dispositions thought to affect the way an individual copes with demands and pressures(Petrides et al., 2007). The questionnaire is comprised of 15 sub-scales, which show good cross cultural validity and are organised under four factors:

Trait EI reflects an individual's self-perception's of their emotional abilities. Trait EI is investigated within a personality framework, in contrast to the ability model that is assessed as an intelligence. Petrides et al., (2007) described trait EI as a constellation of emotion-related self-perceptions and dispositions that are located at the lower levels of personality hierarchies.

Joseph & Newman (2011), showed the trait model to exhibit robust empirical evidence of criterion validity and few cultural and gender differences. The trait model showed great promise for generalisable prediction of job performance, but did lack a theoretical framework. Trait EI was associated with job performance and occupational success in research by Schutte & Loi (2014), findings that were magnified for jobs that required high levels of interpersonal contact.

Extreme high trait EI has been shown to be linked to maladaptive outcomes (Nelis et al., 2009). Research has also shown that low trait EI can be seen as a global susceptibility factor, predisposing individuals to a range of mental abnormalities (Petrides et al., 2007). Global susceptibility factors are clinically useful, because they may account for the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders and consequently contribute to the identification of common aetiologies (Petrides et al., 2007). The suggestion from research is, as with personality factors, a bell curve exists for trait EI with an optimal range for high performance and cut offs at either end of the spectrum (Nelis et al., 2009;Petrides et al., 2007).

Mixed model[edit | edit source]

Goleman introduced the mixed model of EI in 1995; EI is depicted as an array of emotional competencies and skills that drive performance. The Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) was developed by Goleman and Boyatzis in 2007 and provides a behavioural measure of emotional and social competencies.

The model proposed by Goleman outlines five EI constructs:

  • Motivation – The drive to achieve, purely for the sake of achievement.
  • Social skill - Managing other's and relationships to move people in the desired direction
  • Self-awareness - The ability to know one's own emotions, drives, values, goals, weaknesses and strengths, recognizing their impact on others whilst using emotion to guide decisions.
  • Self-regulation - Adaptation to changing circumstances and controlling or redirecting one's disruptive emotions
  • Empathy - Consideration of other people's emotions when making decisions

Within each construct of EI, it's[grammar?] proposed a set of emotional competencies that were viewed as learned capabilities that required training to achieve optimal performance (Moon & Hur, 2011). Goleman believed that individuals possessed an inherent predisposition for EI that determined their potential for learning emotional competencies(Cote & Miners, 2006). This theory of EI, has been heavily criticized throughout the research literature and branded as mere pop psychology (Mayer et al., 2008).

In a recent meta-analysis however, Joseph, Jin & Newman (2015) found strong support for the mixed model of EI and proposed a theoretical reason why EI predicts a variety of positive outcomes, including job performance. Joseph et al., (2015) found that Mixed EI assessment measured (inadvertently) seven separate constructs:

The meta-analysis by Jospeh et al. (2015) showed that mixed EI taps into a [vague] mix of constructs that have a well established relationship with job performance. The results may provide a theoretical explanation for why mixed EI is a strong predictor of performance and Jospeh et al. (2015) believe it may be a result of heterogeneous domain sampling from the seven content domains. This development allows researchers to apply theory from the nomological networks of the seven constituent constructs to explain outcomes of the mixed model of EI (Jospeh et al., 2015).

The researchers concluded that despite the fact the mixed model of EI does not increase scientific parsimony, these results suggest that practitioners could use a single mixed EI measure to capture the criterion related validity usually captured using a battery of seven individual assessments (Jospeh et al., 2015).

The ability model of EI refers to maximal performance, the trait model refers to typical performance and the mixed model refers to learned emotional competencies.
Let's see if you have been paying attention?

Which EI model proposes a hierarchical sequence of steps?

Trait Model
Multiple intelligence's Model
Ability model
Mixed Model


The relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Does emotional intelligence relate to job performance?[edit | edit source]

A long established, empirical link exists between individuals high in EI and positive outcomes such as job performance (Cote & Miners, 2006). Meta-analytical findings demonstrate that EI should be viewed as a crucial predictor of performance. An analysis by O’Boyle et al., (2011) showed the correlation between EI and job performance was considerably higher than other forms of commonly used recruitment methods.

Maslows hierachy of needs.
Maslows hierachy of needs.

O’Boyle et al. (2011) elaborated, stating that EI was found to be a more valid predictor of job performance than the widely used big five personality measurement and measures of cognitive ability. Al Ali et al., (2011) supported these findings, and added that EI has been found to add incremental validity over and above cognitive ability and personality traits in predicting job performance, specifically in high emotional labour careers. Findings echoed in a meta-analysis by Schutte & Loi (2014) who added that individuals with higher EI have both a greater sense of control in their work environment and perceive their work environment as more supportive.

The results of Cote & Miners,(2006) study showed that participants with a low cognitive intelligence performed tasks correctly and exhibited high organisational behaviours if they were high in EI.

Individuals that possessed higher overall EI, and emotional perception abilities according to Crystal et al., (2012) exhibited increased teamwork effectiveness and subsequently higher job performance. The discrepancy among individuals became most apparent in high managerial demand environments, Crystal et al., (2012) proposed that the complexity of the role and the presence of salient emotional cues, not present in lower complexity roles activated emotional capabilities that benefited individuals high in EI.

Emotions are prevalent in the workplace, it would be futile to continue to ignore the role they play in determining performance. The consensus of the literature proposes that individuals with higher EI get further in their chosen career paths,[grammar?] by treating their own and others emotions as valuable data with which to navigate complex workplace situations. Increasing knowledge of EI and further understanding emotions can only serve to increase our workplace performance.

Is emotional intelligence more important in some jobs?[edit | edit source]

The term emotional labour refers to emotive behavior that is performed for a wage, this includes; emotive sensing, evaluating emotions in play, deciding the best response and then behaving in a way to express appropriate emotions (Guy & Lee, 2015).

Figure 4. Individuals experience increased demands in high emotional labour roles.

Over 75% of public services jobs involve high emotional labour work demands, this applies across government and non-profit agencies and is particularly relevant to the everyday experience of street level employees (Guy & Lee, 2015).

The intense emotions involved during emergency response, domestic violence, trauma care, law enforcement, victim services and protective services for abused children to name but a few, require professionals to possess a high level of EI to optimise outcomes (Guy & Lee, 2015).

Al Ali et al., (2011) showed that high EI predicted better performance for work that involves regular interpersonal contact. Findings built on by Moon & Hur (2011), who showed that high emotional labour demands induced emotional dissonance in individuals under constant exposure, higher levels of EI however inoculated individuals from the detrimental effects of emotional dissonance. In a recent meta-analysis Schutte & Loi, (2014), supported these findings and showed that individuals who exhibited high EI, subsequently showed better work performance in high emotional labour roles.

The body of literature shows that high EI moderated the detrimental effects of high emotional labour demands. This indicates that high EI individuals will be best suited to roles that require a high level of emotional labour, whilst low EI individuals are better suited to roles with a low emotional labour component.

Let's see if you have been paying attention?

The correlation between EI and job performance was considerably higher than what other common selection methods?

The big five personality factors
Reference letters
Cognitive ability
All of the above


What does emotional intelligence look like in the workplace (Case example)[edit | edit source]

Suppose you run a small marketing business, cash-flow is tight and a client is refusing to pay an outstanding invoice. The work was completed over 60 days ago and the client accepted the work without criticism but now is refusing to pay.

When you contact the client to request payment, he cites inadequacies in the work and incompetence from your staff as his justification not to pay. How would you act?

A common reaction would be to respond with a long, businesslike summation of the sequence of events, emphasizing the work performed and request payment again.

This is not likely to motivate action from the client, but rather serve to continue the conflict and ultimately the reluctance to pay.

This situation is common and presents two EI challenges to the individual:

  • Whether or not you feel as though you are right, by continuing to engage with the conflict, you only serve to perpetuate the situation
  • An attachment to being right always stops you from moving forward (even if you are right!). Reconciling the need to be right, will facilitate better communication between the parties and allow you to move forward towards a positive outcome.

An individual with high EI may respond by not engaging in the conflict, replying in a short concise manner and objectively. It can be expected that through utilising an EI approach the conflict will loose momentum. An open dialogue with the client, once the conflict has eroded, will enable the conversation to move forward and a speedy resolution can occur.

Know People to Know Profit, Scott Palmer, TEDx North Central College (12:07 mins)

Utilizing emotionally intelligent responses to conflict, often can facilitate faster resolutions and better outcomes for all parties involved
Let's see if you have been paying attention?

According to Scott Palmer (TEDx video), on average individuals with high EI earn how much more annually than individuals with low EI?



What have we learnt about emotional intelligence so far?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

How emotionally intelligent are you?[edit | edit source]

The expansion of EI into the popular vernacular and the lucrative consulting market it has produced, has led to a dearth of EI based assessment tools (Brackett & Mayer, 2003). The most reputable include the MSCEIT, the TEIQue and the ESCI. These assessments are available commercially and must be administered by a suitably trained professional to ensure the psychometric properties (Mayer et al., 2004).

So where to now for emotional intelligence?[edit | edit source]

EI has become a widely accepted quality for job applicants, training, team building and leadership development (Joseph et al., 2015). EI research has shown an increase in incremental validity over and above that associated with personality traits and cognitive ability in predicting job performance (Crystal et al., 2012). The relationship between EI and job performance however is not linear and multiple mediator and moderator variables impact the relationship and need further exploration (see Table 1 for recommendations).

Table 1. Emotional intelligence research

Directions for future research; The relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance.

  • Understand the relationship between extreme high EI and maladaptive strategies in the workplace
  • The mechanisms of when and how EI is utilised in emotionally intense jobs, specifically which aspects of EI are invoked during different uses of emotional labour
  • The incorporation of objective measures in processing as they relate to individual differences such as fMRI changes or Cortisol
  • Longitudinal research measuring the development and evolution of EI across the lifespan
  • Development of an integrative measurement that incorporates EI, cognitive ability and the big five personality traits would be optimal for predicting job performance.

Can I learn to be more emotionally intelligent?[edit | edit source]

Contemporary research indicates that EI can be developed through empirical interventions. Cote & Miners, (2006) found that leading organisations that incorporated EI into their employee development programs experienced reduced turnover, absenteeism and performance problems. Findings supported by Guy & Lee, (2015), who added that increases in emotional self-awareness positively correlated to increased job satisfaction.

Figure 5. Developing emotional intelligence skills.

Interventions and training programs aimed at developing EI are commercially available through a vast network of business schools, technical colleges and universities across the globe. For example:

Reputable programs primarily focus on the Mayer and Salovey four branch model of EI and include short lectures, role plays, group discussions and readings. Self-reflection and introspection in the form of an emotion diary is commonly used and has been shown to reinforce and maintain the longer lasting effects of any EI training (Nelis et al., 2009). Results from a recent meta-analysis suggest that with a proper methodology, which relies on empirical knowledge of emotion and emotional processing, aspects of EI can be enhanced (Nelis et al., 2009; Weinzimmer et al., 2016).

Leading with emotional intelligence in the workplace, Carolyn Stern, (3:37 mins)

The scientific expansion of EI requires three pillars; valid and reliable measurement, process based theory and practical application (Matthews et al., 2004)
Let's see if you have been paying attention?

EI has become a widely accepted tool throughout the business community,[grammar?] in what area does it NOT assist employers?

Leadership development
Identify suitable applicants
Enhance creativity


Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The chapter compared and analysed the different models of EI, discussed EI as a predictor of job performance and critically evaluated the [what?] literature. EI predicts job performance, however job specific variables, such as emotional labour and task difficulty, influence the strength of that relationship. Emotionally intelligent individuals possess skills such as adaptive performance, achievement motivation, organisational commitment and conflict management strategies that help to succeed in contemporary work environments. These skills separate them from less emotionally intelligent individuals with comparable experience and education.

The intuitive appeal of the EI construct and its mainstream popularity may have made EI an enduring target for academic criticism. Whilst debate is ongoing on the most valid method of conceptualising EI, the cumulative evidence suggests that EI can be measured using psychometric tests, it can be learnt and it does predict performance across multiple domains, including job performance.

Regardless of how you conceptualise EI, as either a set of abilities that enable an individual to navigate interpersonal interactions, or a collection of personality traits that facilitate better emotional regulation, or as a set of learned competencies that drive the individual towards success, the practical usefulness in real world settings is apparent.

See also[edit | edit source]

Related book chapters

References[edit | edit source]

Al Ali, O. E., Garner, I., Magadley, W. (2011). An exploration of the relationship between emotional intelligence and job performance in police organisations. Journal of police and crime psychology, 2012(27), 1-8. Doi:10.1007/s11896-011-9088-9

Brackett, M. A., Mayer, J. D. (2003). Convergent, discriminant, and incremental validity of competing measures of emotional intelligence. Personality and social psychology, 29(9), 1147-1158. Doi:10.1177/0146167203254596

Cabello, R., Fernandez-Berracol, P. (2015). Implicit theories and ability emotional intelligence. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1-8. Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00700

Ciarrochi, J. V., Chan, A. Y., Caputi, P. (1999). A critical evaluation of the emotional intelligence construct. Personality and individual differences, 28, 539-561.

Cote, S., Miners, C. T. (2006). Emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence and job performance. Administrative science quarterly, 51(2006), 1-28.

Crystal, I. C., Farh, C., Seo, M. G., Tesluk, P. E. (2012). Emotional intelligence, teamwork effectiveness and job performance: The moderating role of job context. Journal of applied psychology, 97(4), 890-900. Doi:10.1037/a0027377

Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on multiple intelligences. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(3), 200.

Guy, M. E., Lee, H. J. (2015). How emotional intelligence mediates emotional labor in public service jobs. Review of public personnel administration, 35(3), 261-277. Doi:10.1177/073437IXI13514095

Joseph, D.L., Jin, J., Newman, D. A. (2015). Why does self-reported emotional intelligence predict job performance? A meta-analytical investigation of mixed EI. Journal of applied psychology, 100(2), 298-342. Doi:10.1037/a0037681

Joseph, D. L., Newman, D. A. (2011). Emotional intelligence: An integrative meta-analysis and cascading model. Journal of applied psychology, 95(1), 54-78. Doi:10.1037/a0017286

Lam, L. T., Kirby, S. L. (2002). Is emotional intelligence an advantage? An exploration of the impact of emotional and general intelligence on individual performance. The journal of social psychology, 142(1), 133-143. Doi:10.1080/00224540209603891

Law, K. S., Wong, C. S., Song, L. J. (2004). The construct and criterion validity of emotional intelligence and its potential utility for management studies. Journal of applied psychology, 89(3), 483-496. Doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.483

Matthews, G., Roberts, R. D., Zeidner, M. (2004). Seven myths about emotional intelligence. Psychological inquiry, 15(3), 179-196.

Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human abilities: Emotional intelligence. Annual review of psychology, 2008(59), 507-536. Doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093646

Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D. R. (2004). Emotional intelligence: Theory, findings and implications. Psychological inquiry, 15(3), 197-215.

McCleskey, J. (2014). Emotional intelligence and leadership. International journal of organisational analysis, 22(1), 76-93. Doi:10.1108/IJOA-03-2012-0568

Moon, T. W., Hur, W. M. (2011). Emotional intelligence, emotional exhaustion and job performance. Social behavior and personality, 39(8), 1087-1096. Doi:10.2224/sbp.2011.39.8.1087

Nelis, D., Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., Hansenne, M. (2009). Increasing emotional intelligence: (how) is it possible? Personality and individual differences, 2009(47), 36-41. Doi:10.1016/jpaid.2009.01.046

O'Boyle, E. H., Humphrey, R. H., Pollack, J. M., Hawyer, T. H., Story, P. A. (2011). The relation between emotional intelligence and job performance: A meta-analysis.Journal of organisational behavior, 32, 788-818. Doi:10.1002/job.714

Petrides, K. V., Perez-Gonzalez, J. C., Furnham, A. (2007). On the criterion and incremental validity of trait emotional intelligence. Cognition and emotion, 21(1), 26-55. Doi:10.1080/02699930601038912

Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9, 185-211, doi:10.2190/DUGG-P24E-52WK-6CDG

Schutte, N. S., Loi, N. M. (2014). Connections between emotional intelligence and workplace flourishing. Personality and individual differences, 66(2014), 134-139. Doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.03.031

Weinzimmer, L. G., Baumann, H. M., Gullifor, D. P., Koubova, V. (2016). Emotional intelligence and job performance: The mediating role of work-family balance. The journal of social psychology. Doi: 10.1080/00224545.2016.1208141

External links[edit | edit source]