Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I don't write a whole lot about emotional intelligence (EI), mostly because I still haven't seen a consensus around its conceptualization and measurement, but there continues to be significant interest in it. And on that note, there's an excellent article in a recent issue of JOB that I think is worth discussing.
In a nutshell, Kim, et al. studied nearly 200 matched subordinate-supervisor pairs in four South Korean hotels. The employees worked either at the front desk or were waiters--folks that likely would benefit from emotional competence.
Emotional competence, you say, not emotional intelligence? Yes, the authors prefer the term competence for several reasons:
1) Self-report inventories such as those used in this study may not be appropriate for measuring abilities.
2) Self-report measures usually measure typical behavior rather than maximally possible behavior, which an ability test hypothetically does.
3) Self-report measures of EC have low correlations with tests of cognitive ability.
I commend the authors for distinguishing between these concepts. In fact, it leads me to wonder whether we should go a step further and say emotional confidence or emotional report. However, this does raise some troubling issues with respect to the similarity and differences between the concepts and is a good illustration of why many I/O types shy away from this topic (it may also have something to do with there being many instruments that claim to measure EI).
Anyway, back the study. The measure they used for EC was a 16-item scale using 7-point Likert-type scales. An example question was, "I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others."
The authors found uncorrected correlations of .15 between EC and the two work performance measures of task effectiveness as well as social integration (both p<.05). In addition, they found support for their hypotheses that the relationship between EC and job performance was mediated by "interpersonal proactive behaviors", measured here by supervisors as the extent to which the employee engaged in feedback seeking behavior and relationship development with the supervisor. So not huge correlations, but useful. The strength of the correlation is in line with what we often see for uncorrected self-report measures such as personality inventories.
To their credit, the authors chose employees who likely would have need of some type of emotional awareness. This of course would be one of the big questions if one were considering this type of selection tool, and the decision as always would rest with the results of a detailed study of the job. What the Uniform Guidelines would have to say about supporting this measure using content validation is another story for another day!