An employee’s job performance is dependent upon many things, including emotional intelligence (EI). “It has been established that the emotions an employee experiences in their organization affect his/her psychological and physical health, and also that employee’s attitude towards duties, the organization, and work-related accomplishments,” said Tae Won Moon of the Department of Business Administration at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea, and lead author of a recent study examining EI on the job. Burnout, also termed emotional exhaustion, is a key factor in determining how emotional intelligence affects job performance. “In our study we used the words emotional exhaustion and burnout interchangeably. Burnout includes three distinct states: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished personal accomplishment,” said Won Moon. “Among these three states, emotional exhaustion is at the core of burnout.” When an employee is forced to exhibit emotions to customers that are insincere, such as smiling to a customer when having a bad day, causes emotional dissonance. “Researchers have suggested that sustained emotional dissonance reduces an individual’s self-identity or even promotes a strong contrary (pseudo) identity and this leads to feelings of stress, frustration, or burnout/emotional exhaustion,” said Won Moon. High levels of EI are linked to increased coping skills, on and off the job. Therefore, Won Moon theorized that low levels of EI would lead to emotional exhaustion or burnout.
For the study, Won Moon interviewed 295 employees from a South Korean department store. The average age of the participants was 38, and all had been employed for at least one year. The results revealed that three key components of EI, optimism, social skills and emotional validation, were negatively linked to emotional exhaustion. “We speculate that individuals who are good at utilizing their emotions by incorporating emotion in thought, and understanding emotions by employing emotional knowledge, may be more likely to experience emotional exhaustion,” said Won Moon. “Since they put more effort into making emotional facilitation in thinking, and analyzing their own and others’ emotions, this process may generate a feeling of stress, frustration, or burnout/emotional exhaustion.”
Moon, Tae Won, and Won-Moo Hur. “EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION, AND JOB PERFORMANCE.” Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal 39.8 (2011): 1087-096. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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