Management training programmes have moved beyond mere numbers and facts. Managers and decision-makers will ultimately have to deal with people, their actions will impact people, and they will have to deal with the consequences of those actions as people. Now, business majors routinely take on psychology as a minor. Employers list utility and public service as primary motivating factors in their policies. Even corporations now hold workshops and seminars devoted to promoting ‘higher order’ traits in management. What are these higher order traits, and why are they so important? One will find this answer in the Bibles of the business world, business journals. Two sample articles, Must have EQ (Landale, 2007) and Invited reaction: the effects of personality, affectivity, and work commitment on motivation to improve work through learning (McCloy & Wise, 2002), shine a spotlight on two of the most contentious—yet increasingly respected—topics in management today: emotional intelligence and personality.
Landale’s article addresses the issue of emotional intelligence, or EQ. The author makes his argument for study of the topic by highlighting the importance of relationship-building in the work setting and how high employee EQ scores have positively correlated with higher performance levels. The author’s interview with an EQ programme developer provides a few useful tips for individuals in managerial roles on personal EQ enhancement, such as altering expectations, embracing positive emotions (like passion and energy), and expressing all emotions in an appropriate manner. In addition to self-management, the article encourages the development of empathy. Since teamwork plays such a vital role in today’s business world, social interaction and relationship skills are more crucial than ever. An individual or a team
that places emphasis on positive and honest communication, adaptability, constructive criticism, and understanding will find workplace success.
The article concludes with some useful sidebars designed to encourage and assist individuals with the advancement of their own EQ. Two of the sidebars contain exercises for enhancing EQ, while a third sidebar argues for the importance of emotions as a source of “intuitive wisdom” (25). Finally, the author himself aptly summarizes the aim of his article in a fourth sidebar: organizations need more passion and ambition, and these qualities are wrapped in emotion, not intellect. A true leader will recognize this fact and act accordingly (2007).
The second article under consideration, Invited reaction, summarises and critiques a scientific study relating to work motivation and learning. The critiqued study attempted to relate variables such as personality and work commitment to motivation. As a measure of personality, the Big Five model was utilised, as well as affectivity (emotion) measures. Since the personality traits of neuroticism (emotional reactivity) and extraversion (preference for stimulating surroundings) were found to have the strongest correlation with work motivation in previous empirical work, the authors focus on these two factors in their critique. They acknowledge that the study under scrutiny did find that neuroticism negatively affected work commitment while extroversion positively affected work commitment. The study also linked extraversion with positive feelings (affectivity) and neuroticism with negative emotions; these affectivity factors thus also influenced work commitment and motivation.
Next, the authors spend significant time criticizing the study, questioning the work commitment definition, the small and non-representative sample used in the study (one school of females), the self-report (thus perhaps biased) nature of the measures, and the usefulness of personality measures in evaluating a company’s current employees. Despite these misgivings, the authors praise the study for further highlighting the importance role of personality and emotions in the workplace. Such information, combined with more targeted studies, can help employers determine which employees will be receptive to improving behavior and what circumstances may contribute to workplace strife or motivation (2002).
These articles, though different in topic, possess the same basis: workplace improvement. Landale’s musings target the improvement of a manager’s own mindset through development of higher emotional intelligence, while the constructive criticisms of McCloy and Wise focus on how a manager may influence employee improvement by recognizing personality characteristics. Perhaps a more efficient way of connecting the two works is to consider self-improvement (emotional intelligence) as the acquisition of a necessary tool which will later assist managers in fixing the overall working environment. Many of the personality traits found in a successful worker (conscientiousness, openness to experience, extroversion, for example) are also key components in the development of empathy.
Once a manager has successfully incorporated these traits into his or her own life, he or she will then more readily recognize said traits in other individuals. If a manager clearly grasps an employee’s strengths, chances are excellent that the employee will be utilized to full effect. Further, even if employees possess more negatively evaluated traits such as high neuroticism or introversion, an empathetic manager will be in a better position to understand these characteristics and thus relate to the individual regardless of personality. An employee who feels value and understanding would likely be more receptive to suggestions for change. The empathetic manager can offer criticisms in a non-threatening and more approachable manner. Further, the empathetic manager possesses all of the key characteristics of a transformational leader: charisma or idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Digman, 1997). It is the transformational leader Landale speaks of when he urges managers to “go out and build great relationships and inspire their people to believe that extraordinary results are possible” (25).
Is the concept of EQ as a vital tool for managers a reliable and valid concept? Increasing
evidence suggest the answer is yes. Daniel Goleman’s popular 1995 book Emotional Intelligence:
Why It Can Matter More Than IQ asserts that the predictive nature of traditional intelligence
tests for workplace success tests is flimsy at best, according to researchers (as little as a twenty-
five percent predictive rate, according to some researchers). (Gibbs, 1995) Meanwhile, recently
developed EQ tests such as the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory have shown success in
predicting various life factors from health to school grades and job performance (University of
Queensland, 2005). One study which emphasized EQ concepts in the workplace found that
workers within a biotech firm reported greater levels of creativity and productivity after
emotional enhancement training was introduced. (Emmerling & Goleman, 2003). While EQ may
not replace IQ as the standard-bearer for predictive testing, it is an important partner which
should not and cannot be denied or dismissed.
Emotional intelligence is a relatively new phenomenon in occupational psychology, but
interest in personality and the workforce has a longer history. The use of personality tests for
important job applications dates back to the early twentieth century. During the long and difficult
years of World War I, skeptical army leaders reluctantly sought the assistance of applied
psychologists in helping them select “the best men for the job.” A majority of the questions on
these employment measures related to what we call personality traits today. In later years,
employees were among the first individuals to embrace and utilize the emerging arena of
personality testing (IQ tests, 1998). Modern studies have further validated the important role of
personality in the workplace. A 2002 study by Judge, Heller, & Mountz found similar results as
the study under investigation by McCloy & Wise. Namely, most of the five major personality
characteristics—particularly extraversion and conscientiousness—correlated with job satisfaction.
Other studies have concluded that worker dissatisfaction can increase absenteeism and
workplace deviance while decreasing teamwork capabilities. Thus, personality traits may be able
to predict later work performance. In addition, studies with sample populations as diverse as
salespeople and Asian military leaders confirm that personality traits also correlate with
leadership abilities (Neubert, 2007). In other words, personality measures could not only aid in
the selection of effective employees, but also in the selection of managers themselves.
In the end, what can personality and emotion teach us about the workplace?
Simple….they teach us how to apply basic ideas; they bring the textbook into the real world.
Management functions gain a concrete meaning: plan, organize, control, and lead. Desirable EQ
and personality traits also help managers fulfill important managerial roles concurrently. An
aware manager can be equal parts disturbance handler and liaison, for example. A manager tuned
into personality and emotion variables can also better construct learning programs which will
answer the unique needs of the company’s employees. Classical conditioning, operant
conditioning, and social learning are rendered useless without an understanding of which
reinforcements and which punishments will work on which individuals and in which situations.
The successful composition of training programs relies on a designer who is insightful and
attuned to both company and employee needs. After all, the function of most businesses is to
provide a needed product or service to the public. Success hinges on being able to put aside
personal egos and prejudices and arrive at common solutions through compromise and
teamwork. Managers should naturally instill these values in the consciousness of employees.
Landale, McCloy, Wise, and countless other theorists contend that personality and emotions are
arguably the most crucial factors in assessing social capabilities and thus workplace success.
Chapman, A. (2006). Emotional intelligence. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from Business Balls:
Digman, J. M. (1997). Higher-order factors of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
Emmerling, R.J. & Goleman, D. (2003). Emotional intelligence: issues and common misunder-
standings. Issues in Emotional Intelligence, 1(1), 8-12.
Gibbs, N. (1995, October). The EQ Factor. Time, 34-35.
IQ tests go to war. (1998). Retrieved August 27, 2007, from History Matters:
Landale, A. (2007, Feb., March). Must have EQ. The British Journal of Administrative
McCloy, R A. & Wise, L. L. (2002). Invited reaction: the effects of personality, affectivity, and
work commitment on motivation to improve work through learning. Human Resource
Development Quarterly, 13(4), 377-382.
Neubert, S. P. (2007). The five-factor model of personality in the workplace. Retrieved August
27, 2007, from Rochester Institute of Technology: http://www.personalityresearch.org/
University of Queensland. (2005). Psychometric assessment at work. Retrieved August 27, 2007,
from Chinese Personality at Work Research Project: http://www.personality.cn/about.htm