Job Stress and Job Performance among Employees in the Taiwanese Finance Sector: The Role of Emotional Intelligence

Article excerpt

The findings gained in prior empirical studies regarding the relationship between job stress and job performance are inconsistent. Although the majority of empirical research results have shown a negative linear relationship between stress and performance (Siu, 2003; Van Dyne, Jehn, & Cumming, 2002) there have also been studies in which a positive linear relationship or an inverted U relationship has been found.

In order to address the theoretical issues underlying the stress-performance relationship, the aim in this study was to develop and test a theory that can help researchers and managers better understand this relationship. One possible explanation for inconsistent findings may be an existing moderator. While Jex (1998) suggested the addition of a broader range of moderators to the relationship of stress-performance, Jordan, Ashkanasy, and Hartel (2002) recommended that emotional intelligence should be considered as "an individual-difference variable that moderates stimulus-behavior linkages" (p. 369). In line with the suggestion by Carmeli (2003) that researchers should investigate the effect of emotional intelligence on the relationship between job stress and performance, the purpose in this study was to examine whether or not emotional intelligence moderates the relationship between stress and performance.

As already noted, it has been found in previous studies of stressor-performance relationships that a substantial amount of variance in the stressor-performance correlation remained unexplained, so that identifying the variables that moderate this relationship should fill a gap in our current understanding. In addition, a better knowledge of stress effects may improve and enhance the usefulness of stress management practices.

Employers' demands may affect employee stress which is "an unpleasant emotional experience associated with elements of fear, dread, anxiety, irritation, annoyance, anger, sadness, grief, and depression" (Motowidlo, Packard, & Manning, 1986, p. 618). Job stress is a condition in which job-related factors affect employees to the extent that their psychological state deviates from normal functioning (Richardson & Rothstein, 2008).

Job performance involves a quantity and quality of outcomes from individual or group effort attainment (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). Robbins (2005) described job performance as the amount of effort an individual will exert in his or her job. Moreover, the essence of job performance relies on "the demands of the job, the goals and missions of the organization, and beliefs in the organization about which behaviors are most valued" (Befort & Hattrup, 2003, p. 17).

It has been shown in previous studies that some types of stress can have desirable consequences and there are certain types that are commonly associated with positive work outcomes. For example, LePine, Podsakoff, and LePine (2005) observed that when a stressor is appraised primarily as a challenge it may lead to internal arousal and better performance outcomes.

Although some researchers have indicated that the relationship between stress and performance is either a positive linear or an inverted-U shape, most have found a negative stress-performance relationship (e.g., Gilboa, Shirom, Fried, & Cooper, 2008; Siu, 2003; Van Dyne et al., 2002). Job stress is often seen as dysfunctional in effect in that it decreases both the quality and quantity of job performance. Job stress also wastes the time and energy that an individual spends dealing with the stressor, limiting concentration on the task at hand and thereby affecting performance (Siu, 2003). Taking into account these findings led to the formulation of the following hypothesis:

H1: There will be a negative relationship between job stress and job performance.

Individuals who are emotionally intelligent have the capacity to be aware of, regulate, and utilize their own emotions effectively and also their relationships with others (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). …