According to Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, our ‘unbridled’ enthusiasm for emotional intelligence has obscured a dark side.
New evidence, Grant says, shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating those around them. And when you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings.
Research led by Professor Jochen Menges of the University of Cambridge has revealed that when a leader gave an inspiring speech filled with emotion, the audience was less likely to scrutinise the message and also remembered less of the actual content. Yet audience members were so moved by the speech that they claimed to recall more of it than they actually did.
Further research suggests that when people have self-serving motives, emotional intelligence becomes a weapon for manipulating others. In a study from the University of Toronto, employees who engaged in the most harmful behaviours were Machiavellians with high emotional intelligence.
Professor Martin Kilduff of the University of London is conducting research into emotional intelligence. He says that emotionally intelligent people “intentionally shape their emotions to fabricate favourable impressions of themselves.”
In a meta-study, psychologists Dana Joseph of the University of Central Florida and Daniel Newman of the University of Illinois found that emotional intelligence wasn’t consistently linked with job performance. In jobs that required extensive attention to emotion, higher emotional intelligence translated into better job performance – think salespeople, estate agents, counsellors, customer service representatives.
But in jobs that involved fewer emotional demands, the results reversed. Employees with greater emotional intelligence performed worse. This was seen in, for example, mechanics, scientists and accountants. A potential explanation of this is that employees were focusing on emotions rather than the job at hand.
By suggesting that emotional intelligence is critical in the workplace, have we shot ourselves in the foot? What do you think?
Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names,...