People talk about emotional intelligence as though more is better. For some jobs this is the case, but for others, more emotional intelligence may actually mean worse performance.

Jobs vary in the degree of “emotional labour” they require (e.g. Newman and MacCann, 2010). A job which is high in emotional labour – say a counselling role, will require employees to manage their emotions effectively to get the best possible outcome. For other jobs, say technical roles which do not require much human interaction it is not so important.

Also, many models of emotional intelligence include the idea that a key part of emotional intelligence is the tendency to factor emotional information into decision making. Of course, for some jobs this is a bad thing. I’m sure that you want the surgeon who is just about to operate on you to make her decisions entirely rationally, with no emotions involved.

I think that one of the fascinating aspects of emotional intelligence is that the amount of emotional labour varies from time to time. Take leadership, for example. There are times when using emotional information is extremely helpful but other times when decisions need to be made totally rationally. I am running a free workshop on this topic in early September. Click here to find out more.

If you want to assess emotional intelligence in prospective hires click here to find out how.

Newman, D. A., Joseph, D. L., & MacCann, C. (2010). Emotional intelligence and job performance: The importance of emotion regulation and emotional labor context. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 3(2), 159-164.

Andrew Marty