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Emotional Intelligence in Organizations

Currently, organizations must face, in addition to increased competition, also to exponential technological development and innovation, and to change processes that affect all emotional states of employees. All these challenges, along with the imposed changes and the complexity of organizational and managerial tasks, involve new emotional demands and more effective actions at the corporate level, including by managing emotions in most circumstances. Thus, emotions represent valuable “resources” for innovation and added value in an economic process. (Küpers and Weibler 2005) Emotions were thus given an important role in provoking, moderating or mediating events and interactions in organizations. (Ashkanasy 2004) The different aspects of organizational life are now evaluated through the emotions, (Stanley and Burrows 2001) including in the economic field. (Bowles and Gintis 2002)

The researchers reconsider the processes and the emotional impact as an integral element of the organizational life, (Schreyögg 2004) although they have difficulties in the methodological and epistemological aspects, as well as in the moral-political ones. Fineman argues that the researchers failed to examine the interaction between emotions and organizations for four reasons: because the researchers wanted to “separate conceptions of people from those of organizations”, because they wanted to “reify organizations”, because it was considered important to “separate processes of rationality from those of emotion”, and because they wanted to “suppress, deny or minimize emotions”. (Fineman 2005, 180)

Emotions contradicted the idea of rationality predominating in the economy, (Putnam and Mumby 1993) contradicting Western thinking that could not conceive that emotionality can coexist with rationality. (Oatley and Johnson-Laird 1987) Emotions were viewed as disruptive (Albrow 1997, 30) (Oatley and Johnson-Laird 1987) or a barrier to rational and effective management (Ashforth and Humphrey 2016) and marginalized or considered to be illegitimate or inadequate of organizational life, (Putnam and Mumby 1993, 39) and thus a topic not appropriate for scientific research. (Ashforth and Humphrey 2016) Emotions inform, shape and reflect the life of organizations. They influence the way employees perceive, interpret, control and evaluate their own and shared states and actions. (Waldron 2000) Emotions affect organizations at all levels and in all spheres, including their external relations. (Ostell 1996, 552)

Cote and Miners developed a compensatory model between emotional intelligence (EI) and IQ, (Côté and Miners 2006) which assumes that the association between EI and performance at work becomes more positive as cognitive intelligence decreases. (Relojo 2015) Most researchers agree that EI is an undeniable predictor of traditional employment methods commonly used in companies (reference letter, letter of intent, etc.). (Van Rooy and Viswesvaran 2004) According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence contributes more to career success than IQ. According to Lopes and his colleagues, (Lopes et al. 2006) EI contributes to the development of strong and positive relationships between colleagues and to higher performance in the work teams. Intelligent emotional employees cope better with stressful situations and demanding tasks. Law et al. found that EI is a better predictor of job performance than ability. (Law, Wong, and Song 2004) The concept of EI has gained ground lately, both in secular and academic discourse. EI has become a prominent topic in the specialized literature on human resources management, training and leadership (Dulewicz and Higgs 2004) and has already begun to influence practices in these areas. EI critics argue that its popularity studies is due to media advertising, rather than objective scientific findings. Goleman regards the development of EI as due to recent scientific discoveries (especially brain functioning, (Ledoux 1991) but also to his ascendancy as managerial discourse.

Westbrook defines affection as a “class of mental phenomena uniquely characterized by a consciously experienced, subjective feeling state, commonly accompanying emotions and moods,” (Bagozzi 2009) suggesting that these concepts are closely linked. (Eagly and Chaiken 1993) The researchers noted the difficulties that separate the concepts of affect, emotions, feelings and mood, often used interchangeably. (McPhail and Mattson 1996)

There are several models of how EI is associated with the working criteria: (Lievens and Chan 2010)

  • Generalization model of the validity of emotional intelligence and work criteria: Generalization of validity occurs when the association between a predictor and a criterion (i.e., validity) is constant between jobs and employment settings. (Schmidt and Hunter 1977) The model proposes that EI provide a number of benefits to members of the organization that generally translate into more favorable work criteria. It predicts that EI will present bivariate associations with criteria in organizational contexts and employee dispositions, and that EI will present incremental validity to competing predictors, especially other individual differences, because EI’s benefits are unique. Conclusions: EI has small correlations with several working criteria, but not with transformational leadership. EI presents an incremental validity for some criteria, including the emergence of leadership, the value created and the claimed value in negotiations and affective forecasts, but not for the performance of the workplace. (Côté 2014)
  • The model of the specificity of the emotional intelligence situation and work criteria: An alternative to the validity generalization, whereby the association between a predictor and a criterion varies depending on the work or employment setting. (Schmidt and Hunter 1977) Predict that EI explains the unique variation of criteria when organizational context or employee dispositions facilitate its deployment, (Lievens and Chan 2010) (Wong and Law 2002) and that EI has lower or no criteria at all in the absence of implementation opportunities. There may be conditions where EI implementation is harmful to individuals and/or organizations. (Dasborough and Ashkanasy 2002) (Salovey and Mayer 2016) Employees with certain dispositions may have more opportunities to implement EI and, in turn, will have stronger associations between EI and criteria than other employees with different dispositions. (Côté 2014) Also, EI can have stronger associations with performance in the workplace when high performance is not already achieved through other skills or dispositions. (Côté and Miners 2006) Another hypothesis states that EI is more strongly associated with criteria among motivated individuals than among those without motivation to perform their skills. (Rode et al. 2007) Conclusions: EI is associated with workplace performance compared to competing predictors in emotionally demanding jobs, but not in jobs that have lower emotional demands. (Côté 2014)
  • Moderator model of emotional intelligence and working criteria: The EI levels of the members of the organization shape the way they express their dispositions and how they react to the organizational contexts. Predict that EI serves as a moderator variable that enhances or mitigates the effects of various contextual or dispositional factors on work criteria, and that the moderating effect of EI is unique and will occur in the case of competing moderators. (Kilduff, Chiaburu, and Menges 2010) The model also adapts the possibility that certain organizational and dispositional factors may have more harmful effects on employees with a higher EI than on those with a lower EI. Conclusions: A moderator model is favored that proposes that EI improve or mitigate the effects of contextual and dispositional variables on criteria. EI enhances associations between goals and goal-oriented behavior and mitigates associations between stressors and adverse reactions. (Côté 2014)

Cherniss presents four main reasons why the workplace would be a logical framework for evaluating and improving emotional intelligence: (Cherniss 2000)

  1. Emotional intelligence is essential for success in most jobs
  2. Many people are hired without the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace
  3. Employers have the means and motivation to provide training on emotional intelligence
  4. Most employees spend most of their time at work.

Research in the field of emotional intelligence has focused on leadership, a fundamental quality in the workplace. (Fleishman and Harris 1962) (Mumford et al. 2000) Academic research describes two distinct types of leaders: transformational and transactional. (Mandell and Pherwani 2003) The transformational leader stimulate the interest of colleagues, inspires a different perspective on work, raises awareness of the organization’s goals, develops others at higher levels of ability and motivates others to consider the interests of the group towards their own interests. (Stys and Brown 2004) Transformational leadership comprises four dimensions: idealized influence, inspiration motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. (Bass 1993) The transactional leader is the one who rewards (or disciplines) staff based on their performance. It emphasizes work standards, task completion and employee respect, while relying heavily on organizational rewards and punishments to influence employee performance. (Bass 1993) According to Stys, (Stys and Brown 2004) transformational leadership predicts higher ratings of efficiency and satisfaction, (Hater and Bass 1988) higher group performance, (Keller 1995) and greater effort on the part of the group subordinates (Seltzer and Bass 1990) compared to transactional management. Efficient transformational leaders have developed social and emotional intelligence. (Mandell and Pherwani 2003)

Goleman believes that leaders with high emotional intelligence are the key to organizational success (Goleman 2002) by establishing a special work environment. The research concludes that the most efficient leaders integrate several of the six leadership styles highlighted by Goleman, using one or the other depending on the situation. (McBer 2000) Yiannis Gabriel observes that today’s managers help fill the void of identity, meaning and achievement that results from the discontent of the present – a flexible workplace, with modern institutional networks oriented more towards the “fantasizing consumer” than to the “toiling worker”. (Gabriel 2001) Mike Bagshaw speculates on the implications of EI for the future of work:

“The future role of the management trainer may not just be to codify and disseminate knowledge effectively but also to entertain … [T]he manager’s role becomes one of human psychologist and facilitator where he/she guides people to find their own learning and sense of purpose… [the manager would] ensure the knowledge is gained in an entertaining way that harmonises any conflict between an individual’s and the organisation’s goals. Training companies, consultants and business schools may be forced to compete on how pleasurable, innovative and entertaining their teaching methods are…” (Bagshaw 2000, 181–82)

These statements confirm George Ritzer’s concerns in Enchanting a Disenchanted World about the emergence of “shopping mall high schools,” “… places to meet friends, pass the time, get out of the rain, or watch the promenade. Shopping malls or their high school equivalents can be entertaining places to onlookers with no intention of buying anything”. (Ritzer 1999)

According to Gross, emotional response tendencies can be regulated by manipulating either the “input to the system” (background-focused emotion regulation) or the “output” (response-focused emotion regulation). (Gross 1998) According to Chi-Sum Wong, when these models are applied to emotional intelligence within the organizational framework, employees will be able to modulate their perception of the work environment, focusing on specific aspects of the environment or changing their opinion about it. (Wong and Law 2002)

According to Weiss and Cropanzano, work experiences comprise a succession of events with positive or negative effects. (Weiss and Cropanzano 1996) The effect of ambivalent emotions can also be positive or negative. (Pratt and Doucet 2000)

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Nicolae Sfetcu
Email: nicolae@sfetcu.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/.

Sfetcu, Nicolae, “Emotional Intelligence in Organizations”, SetThings (Fabruary 5, 2020), URL = https://www.setthings.com/en/emotional-intelligence-in-organizations/

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