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18. How manager's EI impacts employee engagement

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and international leader in emotional intelligence coaching.

Is there a connection between the emotional intelligence of a manager and employee engagement? Let's look to the research for an answer.

In 2012, the journal of "Industrial and Commercial Training" published an article that demonstrated a clear relationship between the emotional intelligence (EQ) of managers, and the engagement levels of their direct reports. (Volume 44, (1), pages: 9-18.)

In other words yes! there is a proven connection between the emotional intelligence of a manager and employee engagement.

The research design and the factors involved are presented in further detail later in this article.

The importance of employee engagement has previously been shown to impact on productivity levels, staff retention, and the bottom line.

Numerous measures are used by organisations to measure employee engagement. Now there is evidence to also support the measuring of emotional intelligence competencies in managers.

I'd go even further and state that, on the basis of the evidence provided in this study, emotional intelligence should be considered as a factor in manager recruitment by organisations and businesses that are serious about staff retention, productivity and the success of their business or organisation.

How much do low levels of employee engagement cost your business?

In 2011, Rebekka Squire originally from Genos International wrote, in an unpublished paper, "Disengagement is said to be currently costing Australia approximately $33 billion in lost productivity, leading to the the fifth quarterly productivity decline in two years".

Employee engagement levels are a serious issue.

The findings of the study indicated that, "Engagement and its outcomes might increase from improving the emotional intelligence of an organisation's management".

If emotional intelligence were not a component of an organisations's managerial recruitment process, then the authors suggested that, "an emotional intelligence development program for managers may equip them to better identify and facilitate engagement at an individual level".

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How was the emotional intelligence research conducted?

The research was an Australian study, by Dr Ben Palmer and Dr Gilles Gignac, entitled: "The impact of emotionally intelligent leadership on talent retention, discretionary effort and employment brand".

The 223 managers were assessed on the Genos Emotional Intelligence Inventory, a multi-rater emotional intelligence assessment, which requires people to rate the participants' emotionally driven workplace behaviours.

The engagement levels of the 440 direct reports, e.g. the assistants who worked for them, were assessed on a 12 question engagement survey designed by the researchers for this study. It measures their engagement levels in three areas, and specifically the degree to which they:

  • Praise the organisation to others.
  • Perform above and beyond what is expected of them.
  • Persist in the face of adversity.

What were emotional intelligence research results?

The positive correlations between the demonstrated emotional intelligence of the managers and the employee engagement of their direct reports were:

  • Praise the organisation: +0.55 correlation
  • Perform above and beyond what is expected: +0.50 correlation
  • Persist in the face of adversity: +0.53 correlation.

As the authors explain, "Correlations of between 0.5 and 0.6 suggest that, in fact, when high levels of EI are present, higher levels of employee engagement are also present".

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What is the significance of this emotional intelligence research?

It is a compelling study and every HR manager who cares about employee engagement needs to know about it.

Further research is being conducted by the same researchers, and the study is continuing across three continents.

I look forward to reading of their further findings as they are released. We need hard core data on these issues, not just hearsay. And we need to have research that uses statistically strong emotional intelligence assessments that are directly relevant to the workplace, such as the Genos emotional intelligence assessment.

Look out for more papers on the Genos International Global Research Study into emotional intelligence and engagement.

Can you risk having managers with low emotional intelligence?

How high is the emotional intelligence of your managers? Do you know? Do you know how they are impacting on employee engagement in your organisation?

Develop your own or your leader's emotional intelligence

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