When Your Emotional IQ Matters
High emotional intelligence (EI) doesn’t generally translate to better job performance,
according to a new study by Myeong-gu Seo, associate professor of management and
organization. Seo had often wondered if there was any real provable connection between
a person’s ability to manage their feelings and their success on the job.
But Seo did find that there is one particular context in which having high emotional
intelligence does make a big difference: When participants were in jobs with high
managerial work demands — requiring the management of diverse people, functions
and lines of business, with multiple stakeholders and competing agendas.
The stress and intense emotions involved in this kind of work environment naturally
trigger emotional reactions. High emotional intelligence lets team leaders facilitate,
understand and manage their own and other’s emotions.
“We think that being in a diverse environment may prime people with high emotional
intelligence to use it because they know that differences can lead to misunderstanding,”
says Seo. “That awareness, and then the way they used it, made them more effective
leaders on their teams.”
Seo, with co-authors Paul Tesluk of the State University of New York at Buffalo,
and Crystal Farh, a PhD student at Smith, recruited 346 full-time professionals
and early-career managers from the Smith School’s part-time MBA program to take
part in the study. They took surveys that measured their emotional intelligence
and helped determine if their job had high managerial work demands. Their supervisors
were then asked to provide performance ratings for the participant, confidentially
rating the person’s teamwork effectiveness and job performance.
People who can perceive, understand and interpret emotional cues can use that
information to guide and inform their decision making, Seo says. A manager with
high EI might notice when an employee is under stress and step forward to reassign
tasks or re-set priorities, for example.
In a related study, teams of MBA students evaluated each other’s teamwork, including
the relative value of each person’s contribution to the team and whether he or she
was perceived as a leader within the group. Seo found a strong correlation between
a person’s emotional intelligence and the way other people perceived his or her
leadership. Students with high EI were seen as contributing more to the group. This
effect was even stronger in diverse teams — those with differences in race, ethnicity
Emotional intelligence (EI) is a measure of your emotion-related abilities. How’s
- Can you recognize your own emotions? Can you perceive others’ emotions? If you
don’t realize that you’re angry, or sad, or upset — or that your employees are angry,
sad or upset — then you can’t effectively address it.
- Do you understand what is triggering the emotion? This is closely related to
your ability to use language and “emotion words” as well as your critical thinking
and analytical skills.
- Can you manage emotional information? Once you are aware of what someone is feeling
and what has triggered that feeling, can you strategically use that information
to successfully navigate emotionally charged or stressful situations?