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Emotional Intelligence
& Job Performance

In this interview, OBoyle and Humphrey discuss their roles in VCUs study of emotion-
al intelligence and job performance and explain how the studys results can be used to
improve safety performance within an organization.

MPS: Please provide a I have been conducting research performance. How did the study
brief description of your on emotions in the workplace, empa- define emotional intelligence and
professional backgrounds thy and EI for a long time, so I was strong job performance?
and of your roles in happy to join Ernest and some of EB/RH: We examined three
Virginia Commonwealth VCUs other outstanding former major ways in which EI and compe-
Universitys (VCU) study, graduate students (Jeff Pollack, Tom tencies were defined. First, EI can
The Relation Between Hawver, Paul Story) in the EI meta- be defined as a set of abilities similar
Emotional Intelligence analysis study. My role in the meta- to cognitive intelligence. Mayer,
and Job Performance: A analysis study was to help develop Salovey, Caruso and Sitarenios stated
Meta-Analysis. the overall framework for the study that EI consists of four inter-related
EB: I received my and to write most of the literature abilities: 1) the ability to perceive
Ph.D. from VCU in 2010. review and conclusions. emotions, 2) the ability to use emo-
I am currently an assistant tions to facilitate thought, 3) the abil-
Ernest OBoyle MPS: Why was this study con- ity to understand the social meaning
professor at Longwood
ducted? and importance of emotion and 4)
University in the College
EB/RH: The major controversy the ability to manage emotions.
of Business and Econo-
in the field of EI is this: does having A second approach uses this same
mics. I study counterpro-
high EI/competencies improve four-branch model of the dimensions
ductive work behavior, employees job performance? Many of emotions but argues that emotions
business ethics, predictors studies have shown that employees
of job performance and can be measured in the same way as
with high EI/competencies have bet- personality traits can be measured by
research methodology. My ter job performance than employees using self- and peer reports. Thus,
primary contribution to the with low EI/competencies.
project on emotional intel- this approach views EI more like a
However, controversy over the personality trait than like a cognitive
ligence (EI) was as the subject still remained because
data analyst. intelligence.
researchers wanted to know if
RH: I am a professor in The third approach examines
EI/competency increases our ability
VCUs Department of emotional competencies as a set of
Ronald H. Humphrey Management. I teach orga- to explain job performance when
skills, abilities and competencies
we also control for cognitive ability
nizational behavior and leadership related to affect and emotions and
and personality factors. Our study
courses at the undergraduate, M.B.A. includes a broader set of variables,
answers this question by statistically
and doctoral levels. I am on the edito- such as the ability to manage social
summarizing the available research
rial board of Leadership Quarterly, relationships.
while using the latest procedures to
and I am currently writing a textbook For job performance, we used a
control for cognitive ability and per-
to be called Modern Leadership. I also broad definition and included a vari-
sonality measures.
recently edited Affect and Emotion: ety of behaviors, such as supervisor
New Directions in Management MPS: The studys results indicated ratings, objective performance meas-
Theory and Research (2008). that high EI is related to strong job ures (e.g., sales), 360 evaluations

The Compass 2011
and customer feedback. We believe objective answers. The second EB/RH: We entered the project
this is one of the strengths of the approach, the trait approach fairly confident that EI would relate
paper as we were able to show that described above, has people rate positively to job performance but not
the relation between EI and job per- themselves on the four branches of entirely clear whether it would be
formance was remarkably consistent EI, or it has peers, supervisors, co- able to predict job performance after
across these definitions. workers, etc. to rate someone on his taking into account general intelli-
or her EI. The third approach, the gence and the five-factor model of
MPS: What methodology was used competency approach, also uses self- personality. Traditionally, IQ scores
to conduct the study? ratings and peer/other ratings. All and traits, such as conscientiousness
EB/RH: The methodology was three methods predict job perform- and agreeableness, have dominated
a meta-analysis. This technique sum- ance, and the consistent pattern the research on trait predictors of job
marizes the existing knowledge on across all three ways of measuring performance, and some doubted
a given topic and provides an accu- emotional intelligence/competencies whether EI could compete in such
rate estimate of a true relationship further demonstrates the value of rarified air. The surprise was that
between two constructs, such as EI emotional intelligence/competency to overall, not only did EI hold its own,
and job performance. The primary job performance. However, the self- it was the second strongest predictor.
advantage of this technique is its report and peer report trait and com- Another surprising finding was
ability to control for sampling error. petency measures are somewhat how robust the relation between EI
For example, if I flip a fair coin better predictors of job performance and job performance was. We found
ten times, then I would expect it to than the ability measures when con- this positive relation across a variety
land on heads five of those times. trolling for cognitive intelligence and of industries, measures and cultures.
However, sometimes it will land on personality.
heads four times, sometimes six, and MPS: Why do some dispute the
every once in a while it may not land MPS: How might the results of legitimacy of EI?
on heads at all. However, if we look this study be adapted to safety EB/RH: Much skepticism comes
across all of these trials, we will get performance? from those who believe that EI is sim-
an average of five. Although more EB/RH: Many measures of job ply a proxy for general intelligence.
complicated than this, a meta-analy- performance used in our study includ- This belief is somewhat flawed as
sis is able to accomplish the same ed aspects related to following compa- anecdotally we all know people with
thing. Some authors found weak ny procedures and completing high IQs who are still unable to emo-
relationships between EI and job per- activities in the proscribed way. tionally connect with others or to fully
formance, some found strong rela- Extrapolating from these results, our control their own emotions. However,
tionships and some even found study suggests that those with higher our commonsense anecdotal under-
negative relationships. We were able EI are less likely to cut corners, ignore standing of the difference between EI
to look across all of these studies and safety guidelines or put others in dan- and cognitive intelligence still needed
to find the true relationship. ger. In addition, past research has to be verified empirically. Our find-
Using some relatively new proce- shown that many traffic accidents ings clarified the relationship between
dures in meta-analysis, we identified occur while drivers experience high EI and general intelligence and found
that not only was EI related to job negative emotions (i.e., anger, frustra- that the two constructs were most
performance, it also predicted job tion). We see clear parallels to the definitely distinct. In addition, our
performance above and beyond the workplace with emotionally intelligent results also demonstrate that EI/com-
five-factor model of personality (at individuals being better able to recog- petencies are also distinct from other
present, the most prominent person- nize and control negative emotions personality traits like extraversion and
ality theory) and cognitive ability and thus reduce accidents. conscientiousness.
(a.k.a. IQ). In other words, EI and In addition, we can also extend
emotional competencies improve job our findings to increasingly problem- MPS: How can employers, business
performance. atic area of workplace violence. consultants and managers best make
Emotionally intelligent workers are use of the studys results, especially if
MPS: What are the three promi- more likely to recognize emotionally they are trying to improve safety per-
nent testing procedures for emotion- charged situations, control their own formance within an organization?
al intelligence? How do they predict emotions and diffuse highly charged EB/RH: Given that EI relates to
job performance? situations. This can have profound job performance, the next step is to
EB/RH: The first method, impact on lowering what many see integrate these tests into the selection
known as the ability method, uses a as one of the most important safety process. At present, very few em-
series of objective right or wrong issues in todays workplace. ployers use EI as a screening instru-
questions to measure test-takers ment, and we believe that EI may
emotional intelligence. This method MPS: Did the study yield any sur- allow managers to make more accu-
is similar to an IQ test in that it has prising results? rate hiring decisions.

The Compass 2011
In addition, one of the great things increasingly recognizing the impor- intelligent leaders can improve their
about EI and emotional competen- tance of emotions in todays world, team members performance but that
cies is its malleability as compared and we have seen an explosion of studies in this area need to include
to general intelligence. Individuals research on the topic in recent years more relevant control variables like
can be trained to behave in more linking EI to a variety of work out- cognitive intelligence and personality
emotional intelligent ways. As such, comes, including emotional labor. measures. 
consultants and managers attempting We are next taking EI into stressful Ernest OBoyle, Ph.D., is an Assistant
to improve safety performance or environments, such as operating Professor at Longwood University in the
performance in general can look to rooms and high-stakes businesses. College of Business and Economics. He
We hypothesize that EI and emotion- studies counterproductive work behavior,
EI as an additional tool to improving business ethics, predictors of job perform-
their workforce. al competencies will play a pivotal
ance and research methodology.
role in important outcomes, such as
MPS: What new research on job burnout, workplace deviance, Ronald H. Humphrey is a Professor in
emotional intelligence and job per- critical errors and safety records. Virginia Commonwealth Universitys
Department of Management. He teaches
formance is on the horizon? In addition, a just-published organizational behavior and leadership
EB/RH: Much research is cur- review by Walter, Cole and courses at the undergraduate, M.B.A. and
rently underway examining EI, job Humphrey (2011) found that EI is doctoral levels.
performance and a variety of other also very important to leadership.
outcomes. The management field is This review found that emotionally

Kuwait Chapter to
Hold 6th Annual PDC
SSEs Kuwait Chapter will hold its sixth annu- EXHIBITION & SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
al professional development conference and The conference is planned to be one of the biggest
exhibition on health, safety, security and envi- HSSE gatherings in the region. Organizations will gain
ronment (HSSE) from Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2011. the attention of more than 500 attending delegates,
The conference is intended to gather HSSE profession- potential customers and decision makers. Opportunities
als from across the globe to participate in workshops, exist for buying stands in the exhibition and other
presentations and discussions to further the safety advertising.
ASSEs Kuwait Chapter invites individuals as well PROPOSALS FOR TRAINING
as public and private sector organizations with inter- WORKSHOPS & CONFERENCE ACTIVITIES
ests in: The Kuwait Chapter also welcomes proposals from
workforce safety and safety management; individuals and agencies offering relevant training
occupational health and hygiene; workshops, motivational speaking and engaging con-
ergonomics; ference activities.
environmental protection;
loss prevention;
industrial security; Phone: +965 66846040, + 965 2445588, ext. 311
emergency management and business continuity; Fax: +965 2428148
sustainability and corporate social responsibility; American Society of Safety Engineers
regulatory compliance; Kuwait Society of Engineers Building
behavioral-based safety; P.O. Box 4047
safety culture; Safat 13041, Kuwait 
training and performance measurement.

The Compass 2011