Emotional Intelligence – Is It Possible To Have Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Recently I have developed a keen interest in Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the impact EI has on individuals and teams. Now EI is by no means a new feat, it can be tracked all the way back to Darwin and his early work around the significance of emotional expression and survival.  In more recent times it has been used as an integral part of employee development and as a means to increase leadership effectiveness.  However is there such a thing as too much EI? Does there come a point where EI can be detrimental in the workplace?

Contemporary research suggests that overall EI relates to both leaders and subordinates well-being and performance at work.  I read an interesting article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology: ‘A multi-level analysis of relationships between leaders EI and subordinates emotion and work attitudes, and between leaders and subordinates’. The findings from this research showed that leaders use of emotion was positively related to subordinates work EI and attitudes.  In contrast, leaders emotional regulation and self emotion appraisal were negatively related to subordinates EI and work attitudes.  Finally, the leaders and subordinates personal EI was positively related to their job satisfaction.

An interesting finding from this research was that the EI skills of some managers appeared to influence employees work effectiveness and job satisfaction adversely.   Employees noted that greater control of emotions by managers often led to feelings of depersonalisation and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. This may in part be due to the fact that leaders with high EI and self-awareness may be seen as manipulative, insincere or less genuine.

This poses the question, is there such a thing as too much EI in the workplace?   When coaching emerging leaders do we need to teach the art of reaching the right balance of EI in the workplace?

References:
Kafetsios, K. , Nezlek, J & Vassiou, A. (2011). A Multilevel Analysis of Relationships Between Leaders’ and Subordinates’ Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Outcomes.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41 (5), 1121 – 1144.

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