The purpose of my study

This is the blog I’m using for my master thesis research project. The two most important constructs are emotional intelligence (EI) and interpersonal emotion transfer (IET). The purpose of my study is to find out what EI’s role in the workplace is, other than having value through predicting performance. More specifically, I’m interested in whether certain EI profiles are more susceptible to “catch” someone else’s emotions or vice versa, more resistant to the emotions of others.

The reason why I am interested in this is mostly theoretical: people may differ in how much they catch the emotions of others, including both positive and negative emotions. Logically, these may have positive and negative influences. E.g., in line with the broaden-and-build theory, the spread of positive emotions may contribute to employees’ well-being. Negative emotions on the other hand may influence employees in ways that impair their performances or elicit counterproductive work behaviors.

There may be some practical use as well, although I do not see how directly. Perhaps the knowledge can be used for selection processes, or perhaps give indications for training in EI, or perhaps have value for analyzing or adjusting work atmospheres, or perhaps have some practical value in raising work engagement or well-being.

The literature thus far on EI is divided conceptually. Some see EI as an ability, like a true intelligence. Some approach EI as if it were a disposition, a personality trait of sorts. Therefore, research regarding EI is also not uniform. Broadly speaking, there are three categories of research: (1) ability tests of EI with “right/wrong” type of questions, (2) self-report trait EI questionnaires, and (3) self-report ability questionnaires.

Within the organizational psychology domain, EI has been linked to work-related outcomes such as job performance and OCB, but also various employee-related outcomes such as well-being and work engagement. Regarding job performance, I know EI has been implicated as both an ability and a personality trait (at least 2 meta-analyses), but I’m not sure whether both EI-conceptualisations also have been associated with well-being and work engagement. Since trait EI is pretty much a mumbo jumbo of lots of stuff, it’s bound to be related to well-being and work engagement, but how about ability EI?

IET is the theoretical framework that I’ll be working with for now. Afaik, it was coined by Parkinson (2011). I first looked into emotional contagion (EC), as it is one of the implicated mechanisms of transfer of moods and states (e.g., crossover of work engagement). But in its original definition, EC is a mostly subconscious process, mediated by mimicry and feedback. I am not only interested in subconscious processes, but also in conscious processes and what EI’s role is in both.

The reason why I’m drawn to IET is twofold: it encompasses both conscious and subconscious processes, and it restricts itself to emotions rather than moods or other affective states. I haven’t really looked into why I should restrict myself to emotions, but it seems more logical to me that affective states are primarily brought about by emotions. Furthermore, intuitively I think it makes sense that emotional contagion works for emotions, not so much for moods nor affective states as they do not have a facial/bodily substrate. Or do they?

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