The Concept of Emotional Intelligence

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The term ‘emotional intelligence’ first appeared in scientific research in 1995. Since then, it has been enumerated among the most important characteristics of an individual’s success in the workplace. In the following paper, the concept of emotional intelligence will be addressed from the point of view of the academic sources that support it as an important variable in building a basis for one’s success at work, and from the point of the academic sources that demonstrate a skeptical attitude to it.

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First of all, speaking about the concept of emotional intelligence, it is important to give a definition to the very term ‘emotional intelligence in itself. Emotional intelligence can be seen as an individual’s ability to identify, weigh up, and manage his or her own emotions and/or the emotions of other people and groups of people (Khalili, Ashkan 2012). Numerous specialists see emotional intelligence as a critically important variable in increasing organizational effectiveness. They explain their position by the fact that the important characteristics of emotional intelligence are accurate self-assessment and the ability to exercise effective conflict management (Goleman, Daniel 2000). The other essential qualities that characterize emotional intelligence are adaptability, stress-management, relationship skills, assertiveness, emotional perception, emotional expression, emotional management, emotional regulation, low impulsiveness, self-esteem, self-motivation, social competence, trait empathy, trait happiness, and trait optimism (Colfax, Richard, John Rivera, and Karri Perez 2010). According to Colfax, Rivera and Perez (2010), if an individual’s personality can be characterized by a high level of emotional intelligence, he or she will be able to demonstrate remarkable achievements in successfully managing difficult situations, expressing one’s thoughts and ideas clearly, acquiring respect from others, being able to influence other individuals, encouraging other people to assist him or her, maintain soberness under pressure, saying the “right” word to acquire the “right” result, manage one’s abilities during negotiations, motivate him- or herself to achieve the required result, and be positive even under the pressure of undesirable circumstances.

Next, speaking about the relevance of emotional intelligence to individuals and organizations in the context of Organisational Behaviour, it is important to note that there exists a measure of ambiguity regarding this matter as researchers have different positions in this area. The proponents of the idea that emotional intelligence is the key success factor at a working place are multiple. According to Goleman (2006), emotional intelligence is more important than IQ. Goleman argues that in modern-day business conditions, the ability to realize effective management of emotions, both personal ones and the emotions of other people, is of great significance because it is the factor that helps make the best decisions in the conditions of stress and emotional pressure. In his book “Emotional Intelligence; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, Goleman discusses the results of a variety of research studies, conducted in different business areas, which prove the fact that employees with a higher level of IQ, but with the worse level of emotional intelligence capacity tend to have worse performances in decision making, and they generally demonstrate worse results at work. The following comment by Goleman (2006, p. 14) shows that emotional intelligence becomes a critically important factor for the success in one’s career:

Today companies worldwide routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees. For instance, Jonson and Johnson found that I divisions around the world, those identified at midcareer at having high leadership potential were far stronger in EI competencies than were their promising peers.

In 2006, Goleman made an analysis of research studies of more than 550 organizations in different countries to prove his conclusion regarding the critical importance of the concept of emotional intelligence in virtually any field of employment. Goleman found that the best employees in companies had the best levels of emotional intelligence among their colleagues.

A similar idea is defended by Khalili (2012, p. 29), which can be seen in the following comment: “indeed, emotional intelligence plays a considerable role in the workplace. Within the past 30 years, research investigating factors that contribute to success in workplace has resulted in distinguishing factors that are affiliated to workplace intelligence”. Khalili supports his conclusions by the reliable research data on performance from numerous firms and enterprises all over the world that give ample evidence to the significance of emotional intelligence in the context of Organisational Behaviour. Khalili explains that emotional intelligence has a lot of impact on one’s professional success because this characteristic of an individual helps him or her focus one’s energy on particular purposes and achieve the best possible results in the project they work with. Khalili believes that one’s emotional intelligence affects everything that an employee faces at work including everything that a person may say or do during the entire working day. Emotional intelligence is important both to leaders and to the other workers in the collective body. It is the greatest predictor of someone’s performance at work, according to Khalili. An individual’s personal excellence is largely formed by his or her ability to develop and implement the features characterizing emotional intelligence. Besides, a great number of surveys, evaluated by Khalili, indicate that in most cases, employees with a high level of emotional intelligence skills tend to have a far better salary than those who do not. Khalili counted that the rise for one point in the degree of emotional intelligence guarantees an individual at every working area the rise of $400 per month in one’s salary. Also, Khalili found that some time ago, it was common to believe that workers had to leave their emotions at the door when they entered the office, but nowadays, research revealed that the practice might not be possible or desirable. Khalili indicated that reports from a variety of academic disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and sociology spoke about the unavoidable influence of emotion on decision making and behavior, and encouraged employers to choose those candidates for working positions, who were able to cope with their emotions without abstracting or disengaging themselves. Those reports identified that emotions provided a unique source of information about the environment and that they unavoidably affected actions and thoughts by making them proactive and upbeat. They also defined emotions as an adaptive response of human personality to the occurrences in the surrounding environment and a part of a process of normal thinking, meditation, reasoning, and making conclusions. Khalili’s findings suggested that emotional information helped the brain establish priorities and make decisions, and even affected learning abilities and memory capacity. All in all, researchers such as Khalili, Goleman, Colfax, and many more came to a conclusion that emotions and the ability to manage one’s emotions, which they name ‘emotional intelligence’, was one of the most important variables of an individual’s success at work, and even in the other areas of life.

However, the concept of emotional intelligence and its importance in the conditions of a workplace has its opponents as well. According to Sternberg (2001), we cannot accept it as a given that the very notion of emotional intelligence and the very phenomenon behind it exists. It happens from time to time that even well-respected scientists come to believe things that do not exist in reality. Therefore, a number of prominent thinkers including Sternberg (2001) and Murphy (2006) come to a conclusion that the concept of emotional intelligence is no more than a product of someone’s outstanding imagination or simply an illusion. Moreover, researchers are not even confident in the fact that the concept of emotional intelligence can have this title. The very word that appears very doubtful for them is ‘intelligence’ (Sternberg, Robert 2001, p. 127). The difficulty is explained by a considerable gap in the notions of ‘emotion’ and ‘intelligence’. A number of specialists consider these notions very dissimilar, and state that the word combination ‘emotional intelligence’ has little sense for this reason (Sternberg, Robert 2001). Using these arguments, researchers, such as Sternberg and Murphy, claim that the very concept of emotional intelligence should be viewed as ineffective in scientific terms, and even irrational. They also disagree with the appropriateness of the concept of emotional intelligence from the angle of the “Big 5” factors of a successful employee (Murphy, Kevin 2006, p. 86). To explain their position, these researchers state that the factors that constitute the “Big 5” including “conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to experience” are principal for one’s success at work (Murphy, Kevin 2006, p. 87). According to Murphy (2006), the “Big 5” is the real concept that should be taken into consideration by the trainers within the collective bodies of workers during their educational programs, but the concept of emotional intelligence is an artificially made parody of the concept of the “Big 5”. The other ground for hesitations by the researchers, who doubt the concept of emotional intelligence, is the statement that the qualities of emotional intelligence can be developed and improved as a result of acquiring experience and regular training. They view emotional abilities as separated from cognitive ones, and prove that they are obtained by an individual from birth in the capacity of personal character features. Also, opponents of the concept of emotional intelligence and its importance for outstanding achievements in the context of Organizational Behaviour are uncertain about the statement that emotional management is more important for excellent performance at work than intelligence. According to Murphy (2006, p. 197), “decades of research have demonstrated that both personality traits and intelligence are reliable predictors of performance and behavior at work…review of 85 years of research shows that cognitive ability is among the most valid predictors of job performance”. Similar conclusions are made by Sternberg, who claims that the best predictor of individual performance at work is intelligence, but not team performance or emotional management skills. Sternberg also mentions the fact that there exists numerous empiric evidence proving that employees with a higher level of intelligence tend to have a better level of job performance, but there is no such evidence for proving a similar effect of emotional management skills. Both Murphy and Sternberg do not agree that either emotional intelligence or its components such as motional management skills, positivity and self-control account for about 80% of an individual’s performance at work. All in all, the position of the opponents of the concept of emotional intelligence can be summarized in the following comment: “the evidence supports the idea that emotional intelligence can predict performance, but only in limited circumstances and not with the level of precision or accuracy suggested by some emotional intelligence proponents” (Murphy, Kevin 2006, p. 198).

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In conclusion, it should be stated that within the period of the last decade, researchers exploring the factors of better job performance have a heated argument regarding the concept of emotional intelligence. The proponents of this concept state that emotional intelligence is by far the most important variable for an individual’s success at work. They prove their conclusions by saying that essential qualities that characterize emotional intelligence are adaptability, assertiveness, emotional perception, emotional expression, emotional management, emotional regulation, low impulsiveness, relationship skills, self-esteem, self-motivation, social competence, stress management, trait empathy, trait happiness, trait optimism; and these are the qualities, which appear to be the most important for an individual’s job performance in the context of Organisational Behaviour. The opponents of the concept of emotional intelligence claim that it has a huge number of weak points ranging from the unscientific nature of its title to the absence of empirical evidence that may support the position that emotional management skill is more important for an individual’s success at work than intelligence.


Colfax, Richard, John Rivera, and Karri Perez. 2010. “Applying Emotional Intelligence (EQ-I) in the Workplace: Vital to Global Business Success.” Journal of International Business Research 9(1): 110-124.

Goleman, Daniel. 2000. Working with Emotional Intelligence. The United States: Bantam.

Goleman, Daniel. 2006. Emotional Intelligence; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The United States: Bantam.

Khalili, Ashkan. 2012. “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: A Literature Review.” International Journal of Management 29(3): 25-54.

Murphy, Kevin. 2006. Critique of Emotional Intelligence: What Are the Problems And How Can They Be Fixed? The United States: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sternberg, Robert. 2001. “Critical Review of Goleman’s ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’.” International Journal of Management 14(7): 119-135.

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Wolfe, Christian, and Dale Caruso. 2004. Emotional intelligence. Shelton, CT: New Haven Consulting Group.

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