Term Paper: Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

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Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

In today's business world, mishandling of human relations can be costly. In addition, because of the complexity of the modern corporation, and also with the need to multi-task caused by increasing knowledge and decreasing staff, it is essential that employees be able to handle their tasks. Increasingly, this depends not only on knowledge of the subject or process, but on the emotional ability to operate in an intricate, but global, business environment. It requires a great deal of Emotional Intelligence. In fact, a study of Certified Public Accountants found that those who exhibited greater emotional intelligence were more valuable to their companies by far than those who exhibited only professional subject expertise. Unfortunately, there are as yet not all-encompassing means to easily measure Emotional Intelligence (EI, or EQ, Emotional Intelligence Quotient). There are, however, training courses and tactics available despite the lack of quantifiable information regarding EI.

Introduction

For years, studies with twins have been used to attempt to settle the nature or nurture dilemma. One of those studies dealt with job satisfaction, arguably one aspect of emotional intelligence, the new frontier for both predicting success and training for it. "Studies with twins have shown us that our satisfaction on the job may be at least 30% attributable to genetic factors. This finding is intriguing because it seems to be related to 'intrinsic job satisfaction' -- questions of challenge or achievement -- rather than 'extrinsic' factors such as work conditions or supervision" (Segal 1999, p. 54). The researcher concluded that the better abilities and opportunities coincided, the greater the level of job satisfaction. However, the question remained: was emotional intelligence a factor in creating this, or was it a result of the meshing of ability and opportunity?

In fact, although the study was not looking specifically at emotional intelligence, its findings do contribute to understanding in the field. "Job satisfaction may also partly be affected by our characteristic happiness levels. Recent twin research showed that the genetic contributions to happiness and stability are about 50% and 80%, respectively, while life events have only a transitory effect on happiness" (Segal 1999, p. 54). The fact that coffee breaks only temporarily helped despondent employees (studied against those of similar ability and job description) points to the probability that the difference in outcomes for equally matched employees studied was based elsewhere. The study revealed the limitations of tests that measure only skill or only intelligence or both. Such tests "cannot, however, capture the unique personal decisions and unforeseen events that all of us face when fashioning our careers" (Segal 1999, p. 54).

When abilities, intelligence and the 'missing link' -- now called emotional intelligence -- do not mesh in the business world it can be costly. In reviewing 'selection failures' at the executive level, Swiercz & Ezzedeen (2004 p. 15+) noted that the cost of selection failure is enormous, in fact, "almost impossible to estimate." A survey of 150 Fortune 500 companies demonstrated that the estimated first-year cost to fill an executive vacancy is about U.S.$750,000. Examples include Jill Barad, who resigned from Mattel with $50 million after 37 months. In addition, there are "the intangible costs of a tarnished organizational image, interrupted patterns of revenue and income, and the invisible yet deleterious effects upon the motivation and morale of key people" (Swiercz & Ezzedeen 2004 p. 15+).

Arguably, one of the factors involved in such cases is emotional intelligence; screening not only for business background but for the potential 'fit' of the executive -- or any other employee -- in the environment of the business will save money and careers. "Basically, your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them," (Harvard theorist Howard Gardner, quoted by Akers & Porter 2004 p. 95+).

As long ago as 1967, pioneered the concept of intelligence as a multifaceted construct. His Structure of Intellect Model included one hundred and twenty different types of intelligence; although none were specifically about EI, the model "could support the inclusion of what subsequent writers propose as a new type of intelligence -- the ability to process affective information"(Pfeiffer 2004 p. 138).

Findings

There are two basic questions about emotional intelligence, even before beginning to apply it to business models. First, what exactly constitutes emotional intelligence? Second -- assuming there is some consensus at least on a core group of characteristics -- how can it best be measured?

Akers & Porter (2004 p. 95+) phrased the question this way: "What's more important: intelligence or intuition?" That seems to be a limited viewpoint, as there is more to emotional intelligence than intuition, including behaviors, reactions, etc.

Recent approaches to intelligence and success have called into question the traditional IQ test as a predictive instrument. Shepard et al. (1999 p. 633) noted that "although correlations between traditional IQ tests and school performance are at least moderately strong, they are by no means perfect, and... correlations between these tests and other measures of success in life (such as income) are appreciably lower."

Akers & Porter were dealing with Certified Public Accountants, and noted that CPAs, because they are workers engaged in adding value to information -- the productivity measure of one-third of American workers -- need to cultivate their emotional intelligence quotient if they find it lacking. While Akers & Porter did not specify tests that could best be used, they did define emotional intelligence fairly inclusively. In fact, their description of what constitutes emotional intelligence for CPAs helps to reveal why emotional intelligence testing is so much more difficult to get underway than was intelligence testing. For Akers & Porter, emotional intelligence encompasses:

Self-awareness. This includes being able to recognize emotional reactions as they occur; upon evaluating them, the person can mange them Emotional awareness

Self-confidence

Self-regulation (determining how long a negative emotion will last)

Motivation

Self-control, defined as "managing disruptive impulses"

Trustworthiness, particularly valued in the current ethical climate and including maintenance of standards of honesty and integrity

Conscientiousness, defined as taking responsibility for one's own performance

Adaptability

Innovation

Achievement drive

Commitment, or the ability to align with the needs of the organization

Initiative

Optimism, defined as "Pursuing goals persistently despite obstacles and setbacks"

Empathy, or the ability to discern and deal with the emotions behind others' actions and signals

Service orientation

Social skills, including all varieties of 'people skills"

Ability to influence others

Ability to initiate or manage change

Conflict management skills

Bond-building skills

Collaboration skills

Change catalyst. Initiating or managing change.

Team-building capability (Akers & Porter, 2004, p. 95+)

Although Akers & Porter did not provide any extensive valid EQ test procedure, the did suggest a self test (see appendix), the value of which might lie in convincing CPAs, or any skill worker, of the value of EQ recognition. They also offered compelling statistics, at least in that limited field. "A study of partners at a large public accounting firm showed that those with significant strengths in self-management contributed 78% more incremental profit than partners who did not have these skills" (Akers & Porter 2004, p. 95+). While that was only one of the EQ components they enumerated, those with strong social sills had added 110% more to profit than those with only self-management skills. Conversely, CPAS with only significant analytical reasoning skills contributed only 50% more incremental profit (Akers & Porter 2004, p. 95+)

It is difficult to fathom, then, why educators continue to focus on IQ testing and enhancement and ignore EQ. The "Mozart effect," the increase in intellectual; ability after listening to the composer's work, was even cited by the governor of Georgia to support a 1998 budget request of enough money to give a cassette or CD of classical music to every child born in the state (Casse 1998, p. 33+). Casse expanded on the scope of his article, however, by assessing the importance of the Armed Forces Qualifying Test, a diverse test of mental ability often used to evaluate subsequent social outcomes, such as level of income, likelihood of going to jail, and so on. This begins to approach emotional intelligence testing/prediction, but found that a person's intelligence predicted outcome more strongly than the socioeconomic status of the parents (Casse 1998 p. 33+). (Another similar move was seen in Hong Kong, when 116 students were assessed on their divergent thinking and leadership characteristics before admission to various educational programs, but again, the concentration was on a variation of traditional IQ assessment, according to Chan (2004 409+).

Casse cites the work of Howard Gardner in providing good evidence that "different parts of the brain are responsible for different abilities" but that when Gardner was asked how abilities in the various intelligences were measured, he replied, "We don't measure them" (Quoted by Casse 1998 p. 33+).

In the six years since Casse's work, the character of emotional intelligence has been further defined, and testing instruments have been developed. A theoretical framework for considering the EI construct was proposed by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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