Emotional intelligence (EI) is the “ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions” (Desimone, Werner and Harris 2002). There are various debates concerning EI. Some studies claim that EI is innate whereas others suggest that people can learn and improve their EI. Peter Salovey and John Mayer have studied EI since the year 1990.
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According to them, EI is “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey and Mayer 1990).
Salovey and Mayer developed a model of EI consisting of four factors. First, they claimed that the initial stage of understanding EI involves accurate perception of emotions. Perceiving emotions involves understanding nonverbal forms of communication such as body signals. Second, there is also reasoning with emotions.
This stage involves applying emotions so as to enhance mental activities. In this manner, emotions help individuals recognise things that attract attention. Third, there is understanding of emotions.
This is because different emotions may reflect different meanings and people may attempt to interpret such emotions so as to understand their causes. Finally, the model also proposed management of emotions. This entails controlling emotions and responses as well as considering emotions of others.
Salovey and Mayer claimed that they arranged the model from basic to high psychological processes. In other words, the lower levels compose of simple tasks such as perceiving and expressing emotions. Conversely, the higher levels consist of complex processes such as awareness, reflection and controlling emotions.
Proponents of EI believe that both an individual and an organisation derive value from understanding EI effects on organisations and individual productivity. In most cases, majorities of workers devote limited time to personal development due to busy schedules and commitments. This affects organisations.
As a result, organisations must develop employees’ development programmes in order to enhance EI. Organisations benefit from employees who are emotionally sensitive to customers and colleagues. This creates positive business relationships among all stakeholders. Investing in employees’ personal development increases productivity and motivation of the workforce.
Individuals also benefit from developing EI in terms improving their relationships at workplaces and social life. At the same time, they also develop a better understanding and handling of emotional situations of others.
The concept of EI also applies to organisational behaviours. It is relevant in the field of industrial and organisational psychology (I/O psychology). I/O psychology scientifically studies workforce, organisations, and workplaces (Robbins 2005). EI and I/O psychology enhance organisational development through improving the workplace environment, employees’ satisfaction and their well-being.
Organisations can rely on I/O for improving their hiring processes, educative programmes, and develop employees’ behaviours and attitude. In addition, studying organisational behaviour is also important for organisations during changes and developments.
Thus, human capital, emotional intelligence and organisational behaviours relate to understanding workplaces and positive behaviours of employees. Positive behaviours of employees have positive contributions to organisational objectives.
Relevance of Emotional Intelligence to individuals and organizations in the context of Organisational Behaviour
Organisational goals about employees’ behaviours aim at transforming employees’ behaviours in an effective manner (Desimone, Werner and Harris 2002). In organisations, the focus has been on employees’ behaviours that improve performance and behaviours that enhance teamwork and unity.
Most organisations focus their efforts on employees’ behaviours that improve organisational performance. Emotional intelligence falls in the second category of organisational behaviours that focus on improving teamwork and relationships.
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However, ever since the works of Salovey and Mayer and later Goleman, EI has gained considerable recognition in modern organisations. EI has become relevant in the modern workplace. We can attribute this interest among organisations to their desires to enhance business performance and desire among management to predict employees’ behaviours.
The works of Mayer and Salovey have continued to influence the field of EI. They have created a link between emotions and mental capabilities of subjects and concluded that the two are inseparable. Thus, they concluded that emotions and cognitive were important in studying decision-making processes among people as they influenced how people react to situations.
The challenge with EI is the concept of measurement. This is because measurement remains the main source of controversy in studying EI and its application in organisational behaviours. Past studies have relied on testing as the basis for measuring EI. However, we have to acknowledge that EI remains a matter of personal experience.
Based on personal experiences, the measurement of EI is prone to personal bias due to self-assessment. However, self-reports have remained effective approach in measuring EI in a given context as Jordan and Troth noted (Jordan and Troth 2004).
These studies maintain that assessing factors like emotional awareness can only be accurate when self-report is the tool of measurement. This is because people can identify their own behaviours and reactions in certain situations. As a result, they can measure such situations from lack of interest to situations that demand attention.
According to Jordan and Ashkanasy, combination of self-reports and peer reports as tools of measurements of EI can provide the valid measure of emotional self-awareness among teams (Jordan and Ashkanasy 2006). These tools of measuring EI are at initial stages of development. However, studies claim that such tools have psychometric validity. Thus, they give reasonable and valid results of EI measures.
Application of EI in organisational behaviours relies on empirical data that can prove findings and claims most scholars in this field advocate. However, critics believe that EI lacks sufficient data to prove such applications in organisations.
Such critics argue that potential applications of EI in organisational behaviours have not undergone thorough testing to prove their validity due to infancy stage of such measurement tools in relation to other areas of measuring personality and intelligence (Locke 2005). In addition, these critics also claim that proponents of EI applications in organisational settings rely on data based on flawed models of EI.
These models are not consistent with the original definition as Mayer and Salovey suggested. In addition, some of these studies have wide coverage than the original model of Salovey and Mayer. Such studies have created opportunities for critics to dismiss claims by proponents of EI applications in workplaces (Daus and Ashkanasy 2003).
EI remains a controversial issue in relation to organisational behaviour as Daus and Ashkanasy discovered (Daus and Ashkanasy 2003). Landy and Locke have criticised popular models of EI (Landy 2005; Locke 2005). These researchers view these models based on their shortcomings. Landy and Locke argue that modern models of EI originated from discredited views of Thorndike which are more than 80 years old.
This was the source of social intelligence. Some of these criticisms fail to consider recent scientific works on EI with reference to organisations. For instance, Ashton-James concurs with the definition of EI in the works of Ashkanasy (Ashkanasy and Ashton-James 2004).
However, he criticises the methods and abilities of how to measure EI. According to Ashton-James, any attempt to measure EI should put emphasis on respondents’ abilities to experience emotions that they should give their feedback on during EI tests. However, we must recognise that Ashton-James criticise EI from its original definition.
This is necessary because various proponents and critics promulgate their own definitions of EI as the case of Goleman and Bar-On (Goleman 1998; Bar-On 1997). According to these critics, EI is a modern reflection of social intelligence. These scholars further argue that any model of intelligence that relies purely on intellectual capabilities cannot sufficiently explain human behaviours and capabilities in practical situations.
Locke fiercely criticises the EI that it is an approach that has a political motivation through egalitarian ideas as “everyone will, in some form, be equal in intelligence to everyone else” (Locke 2005).
Landy also supports this idea. Locke notes that EI is not an appropriate field of scholarly study and should not apply to organisations. However, proponents argue that Locke still cling to outmoded models of the past where such research relied solely on mental processes and behaviours in order to provide explanations for organisational behaviours.
Studies that support EI and organisational behaviour emerged after the work of Ashforth and Humphrey as forms of support to their idea (Ashforth and Humphrey 1995). According to Humphrey and Ashforth, EI is influential in areas of service provision, and leaders may also engage emotional labour so as to motivate and influence moods of their employees and improve performance of the organisation.
These studies suggest how EI is significant in the service industry where employees interact with customers and other employees. We can see the rapid growth of service sector. In this field, EI is useful for employees who serve customers as they can be able to manage different emotions in order to meet given core values of organisations.
This is how we can link job performance to employees’ EI as their abilities to control emotions may aid them cope with work requirements. Later studies have raised interest in the subject and referred to such works as affective revolution in organisational behaviours. In addition, studies of Robbins show latest research that supports EI in organisational contexts (Robbins 2005).
From the renewed interests in the subject, we can argue that EI is not a new form of social intelligence or another theory to study intellectual intelligence.
EI has emerged as a strong area of study in the field of I/O psychology and studies in organisational behaviours. Thus, we can use EI to predict and understand behaviours in organisations. These studies prove the relevance of EI in understanding and predicting organisational behaviour.
We can observe how critics like Ashton-James have changed the definition of EI. However, we should look at EI from the earlier perspective of Salovey and Mayer. This is the ideal definition of EI that future researchers should base their criticisms.
At the same time, scholars interested in understanding EI should review scholarly works that focus on EI in order to understand theoretical underpinning of the concept. This shall enable them understand EI and its application in organisational behaviour.
We have noted the development of EI and its practical application in understanding and predicting organisational behaviours. This implies that the concept of EI shall continue to evolve in organisational behaviour studies. The field has gained recognition after the study by Ashforth and Humphrey.
The focus on emotional abilities of employees continues to influence the field of organisational behaviour. Organisations find EI useful in their attempts to enhance workforce productivity and predict their behaviours. At the same time, organisations find EI relevant in recruitment and selection of employees that can adapt to different situations.
This enhances team effectiveness and organisational output (Jordan and Ashkanasy 2006). Some studies have also shown that organisations that focus on EI have improved their healthy relationship among employees (Goleman 1998). Goleman’s applications of EI in workplace using concepts of self-management, empathy, self-awareness and social skills demonstrate the positive application of EI in organisations.
We must also appreciate the works of critics that claim distract the theory of EI. Such criticisms lead to further studies in the field of EI and organisational behaviours. Thus, some scholars have concluded that emerging studies are good indicators of developments in this field of study and claims by critics lack substantial grounds.
Organisations using EI tests to assess and predict behaviours of their employees face difficult tasks in developing strategies for EI testing, methods, and processes.
In addition, EI lacks official body that can control types of tests subjects take. Still, these tests may be subjective and have different meanings depending on personal experiences of the subjects. To this end, we must also note the inherent bias as subjects may not provide true responses due to ambiguities with some of the test materials.
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Bar-On, Reuven. Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory: A measure of Emotional Intelligence, Toronto: ON: Multi-Health Systems, Inc, 1997.
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