Organizations exist in a competitive environment and they have to keep increasing their performance in order to survive. The role played by individual members of the organization to ensure this future survival is great. In addition to the technical skills required by the employees to fulfil their roles in the business, they should also possess interpersonal skills.
Carblis (2008) acknowledges that changing patterns of economic competition have led to greater emphasis in “soft” skills which include: personal attributes of teamwork, work ethics, flexibility, and ease of adaptation to change. These desirable interpersonal skills can be conceptualized within the context of emotional intelligence competencies. This paper will set out to critically review Emotional Intelligent (EI) and evaluate the arguments made for and against this concept.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The concept of emotional intelligence was first introduced by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990 where they highlighted it as a form of social intelligence that is different from general intelligence. According to them, Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability of an individual to “perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; access and generate feelings when they facilitate thought; understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Yaghoubi and Hadi 2011, 120).
Emotional intelligence has been shown to play a role in the way in which people develop in their personal and professional lives. It has an impact on the social skills of the person and it determines the manner in which the individual handles frustration, coexists with other people and also controls his/her emotions.
Researchers agree that emotional intelligence is the element that differentiates an intelligent manager from a brilliant one. EI will dictate how the person responds to emotionally challenging situations, how he/she deals with other people and their understanding of other people’s emotions. The significance given to EI is demonstrated by Yaghoubi and Hadi (2011, 120) who reveal that while traditional IQ contributes only 20% to a person’s success, emotional quotient contributes 80%.
Relevance of Emotional Intelligence
The leadership ability of an individual is greatly impacted by the EI. High EI will enable the leader to rightfully gauge the mood of the staff or team and act appropriately. Low EI might cause the leader to be insensitive to the mood of the followers and this will lead to frustration and lower the output of the team (Wilson 2004, 237). This is because followers are likely to give their best efforts to the organization if they feel that their leader is genuinely concerned about them and is sensitive to their needs.
All employees incur varying amounts of stress as they engage in their work. This stress has an effect on job performance with research indicating that job stress is negatively related to job performance (Yu-Chi 2011, 28). However, individual difference variables also determine how stress will affect the job performance of the person.
Research by Yu-chi (2011, 29) demonstrated that emotional intelligence has a positive impact on job performance by moderating the impact of stress in the individual. Employees who demonstrated high emotional intelligence are more likely to reduce potential negative effects of job stress on job performance to an acceptable degree.
Such individuals would therefore be able to deal with stressful matters associated with their jobs without letting them negatively affect their overall work productivity. In some cases, highly emotionally intelligent individuals might view stressors as a challenge and this will lead to internal arousal, which will result in better performance outcomes. However, for employees with little emotional intelligence, the stressor will be viewed as an unpleasant experience and this will result in negative work outcomes.
The emotions that an employee undergoes in the course of their work life impact not only their physical and psychological health but also their attitude towards duties and the organization in general (Moon and Hur 2011, 1087). Workers are prone to burnout which is caused by emotional exhaustion, diminished personal accomplishment, and depersonalization (Moon and Hur 2011, 1088). Burnout results in issues such as decreased concentration and cognitive difficulties in the employee.
All these decrease the individual’s performance reducing the overall organizational productivity. It helps employees to effectively manage the factors such as stress and dissatisfaction and, therefore, reduce their risk of burnout. As such, individuals with high levels of EI are less likely to suffer from burnout; their work performance as measured by organizational commitment and job satisfaction can be expected to remain at high levels.
Organizations are forced to change in order to adapt themselves to the market environment. The modern organization must be able to quickly adapt change so as to enhance its competitive position and ensure its survival in the competitive business environment. However, change comes about with some emotional implications for the employees.
The range of emotions experienced during organizational change and how they are reacted to might have major consequences to the organization. Successful management of these emotions is therefore a key objective of managers during organizational change. EI can positively influence the change management process since it increases self-awareness and the ability of the individual to manage negative emotions. Research by Jordan (2004, 464) demonstrates that EI might contribute to successful organizational change.
Moon and Hur (2011, 1088) note that an employee must at all times express the organizationally demanded emotions to customers and senior managers. While the employee might be able to do this naturally, there are times when they will have to make an effort and exert control to display the appropriate feelings even if this is not what they feel inside. EI has a bearing on how the employee displays the emotions that the customers expect and, therefore, positively contributes to the organization’s productivity.
Organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) in the workplace that goes beyond role requirement as stipulated in the work contract, is becoming increasingly crucial in the businesses today. Yaghoubi and Hadi (2011, 119) asset that due to the positive impact that OCB has on the overall organizational effectiveness, employers are today seeking workers who have this extra-role behaviour that predisposes them to impulsively take actions beyond the stated job requirement.
Research by Yaghoubi and Hadi (2011, 121) revealed that EI had a positive correlation with the conscientiousness of employees. Employees with high EI are more likely to demonstrate Organizational citizenship behaviour, which will translate to higher productivity for the organization.
Organizational learning is today a very important issue and it is considered crucial in achieving competitive advantage. It is one of the instruments that allows the organization to quickly adapt to the changing internal and external environment. Rafiq, Zainab, and Ali (2011, 321) assert that emotionally intelligent employees ease organizational learning, therefore, increasing the chances of the organizations to maintain the desired competitive advantage.
EI plays this significant role by helping managers and employees to manage the change by identifying their emotions and properly managing their relationship with others. Emotional skills are needed to successfully achieve learning. High EI will therefore promote organizational learning by helping employees to manage destructive emotions and promoting their convergent and divergent thinking (Rafiq, Zainab, and Ali 2011, 321)
Arguments Against Emotional Intelligence
Since the topic of emotional intelligence was proposed in 1990 by Salovey and Mayer, it has become a popular subject for research with various measures and inventories of EI being used by organizations. Sungwon, Choi, and Kerry (2011, 270) observe that these overwhelming attention has been given to EI since it is believed that it predicts important life and work outcomes. Overreliance on EI tests can be detrimental to the wellbeing of an organization.
There is a significant risk of self-distortion in the self-report EI measures. Sungwon, Donald, and Kerry (2011, 270) point out that self-report measures are susceptible to self-enhancement bias or socially desirable responding which greatly undermines their predictive validity. When an individual’s employment prospects or their chances of getting a promotion are dependent on their EI score, then these respondents have motives to distort self-reports.
The individual will offer the most socially desirable answers in the self-report which will render the attained EI score useless. If the organization goes ahead and uses this information for its organizational decision making process, the decisions reached will be faulty since they are based on wrong information. The self-enhancement motive of a person will affect the validity of self-report EI since the individual will demonstrate a tendency to distort self-report in a favourable direction (Sungwon, Donald, and Kerry 2011, 271).
As a result of the popular notions concerning EI, it can be expected that activities such as hiring, promoting, or retaining staff are influenced by it. Antonakis (2004, 172) surmises that more organizations are basing decisions on these activities on EI models whose credibility is in question since the models lack adequate scientific backing. In spite of the popular interest in EI, the scientific status of emotional intelligence in organizational research is still not well grounded.
Antonakis (2004, 171) notes that too many academicians and practitioners have been fascinated by the supposed benefits of EI despite the fact that most of the claims made in support of EI have not been substantiated. Zeidner, Matthews, and Roberts (2004, 393) warn that most of the roles attributed to EI are misleading and following them rigorously might negatively affect an organization.
Critics argue that EI is not a necessity for leadership or organizational performance and the claims made contrary to this are often exaggerated. For example, the claims made that EI tests can help differentiate exemplary leaders from average performers are unsubstantiated. Antonakis (2004, 172) notes that such claims do not have any scientific backing and they only serve to misled organizational leaders who are not trained to critically evaluate research findings.
The EI models commonly used such as the Mayer, Salovery, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and the EQ360 self-report measure exhibit major weaknesses. Antonakis (2004, 176) observes that the ability based EI measure as obtained from the EI scale was weakly predictive of work performance which greatly diminished the appropriateness of the scale.
In addition to this, the results obtained from a number of performance measures such as the MSCEIT were similar to those obtained from well-known constructs such as the “big five”. This shows that EI is not unique and its application in measuring human performance is therefore overstated.
EI has emerged as an important concept in organizational behaviour. Due to this realization, organizations have made use of a number of EI models to assist in organizational decision-making. Even so, the significance of EI can only be assured if the validity and reliability of the models used is unquestionable.
As such, for EI to continue to play a positive role in organizational success, it is important for researchers to support their claims with scientific data and refrain from making exaggerated claims about the role of EI.
Recent years have witnessed a surge in research on EI in order to provide the scientific backing needed to ascertain the validity and reliability of EI. Murphy (2006, p.189) declares that objective and critical evaluation of the claims made regarding EI is paramount to ensure that the validity of this construct is affirmed.
All models have some inherent margin of error and this should is therefore not a valid reason to discount the importance of EI. Ashkanasy and Catherine (2005, 442) reaffirm that EI is today grounded in science and specifically in “the role emotion plays in organizational behaviour”. Its role in organizational behaviour research is therefore important and the importance can be expected to increase even as future research in the field is undertaken.
This paper set out to analyze arguments made for and against the concept of Emotional Intelligence in order to underscore the important of this concept in Organizational Behaviour. It began by defining EI and proceeded to discuss its relevance to individuals and organizations. The paper has noted that EI has positive impacts on the individuals as well as the organization since it assist in mitigating the negative impacts of emotions such as stress, anger, and frustration.
The paper has also delved into some arguments made against EI. It noted that most of these arguments are with regard to the lack of reliability and validity of EI. Increased research in EI has led to more reliability as the concept becomes more scientifically grounded. It can therefore be projected that EI will be playing an even more important role in organizational behaviour in the future.
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