Discerning the Value of Emotional Intelligence: EA Professionals Must Decide Whether Emotional Intelligence Services Will Benefit Both Their Organizational Clients and Their Own Programs

Article excerpt

Employee assistance programs looking to expand their services while adding value to their organizational clients often find selecting new products a difficult task. As a "world of work" profession, we need to focus on enhancing employee performance while looking at our own professional competencies.

Emotional intelligence (EI), a still relatively young developmental topic, is gaining in popularity and being marketed to human resources professionals, counseling clinicians, and organizational behavior and development consultants. Performa, a division of Human Technologies Corporation, has been promoting E1 services as a value-added entree to our menu of program offerings for the past 18 months. Yet, at the same time we have been offering EI services, we have been questioning their value on two levels.

First, although an Internet search yields almost one million hits on "emotional intelligence," it is difficult to find substantial research on the practicality and effectiveness of EI programming for EAPs. There does exist, however, a growing body of literature building a case for how emotional intelligence contributes to the bottom line in a work organization (Cherniss 2002), and Performa's interviews and introductory workshops with organizational leaders have confirmed interest and belief in the EI approach to performance enhancement. Second, while Performa views EI as a practical and valuable development program for both individuals and organizations, we remain concerned about its effectiveness, which depends on a commitment by both the EAP and the end user to follow through.

This article begins to explore the practicality of EI service provision as a means of adding value to the work organization and the EAP itself. I invite EAPs that promote EI programs and services to e-mail me with their experiences.

WHY EI FOR EAPS?

EA professionals arguably are natural prophets of EI. In many of our dealings with clients we confront interpersonal relationship issues, which often involve emotional behavior. According to Daniel Goleman, an EI guru, "The fundamental task of leaders is to prime good feelings in those they lead. At its root, then, the prime job of leadership is emotional--or being intelligent about emotions" (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 2002).

But just what is emotional intelligence? Definitions of EI vary, and it probably will be some time before real clarity and consensus are reached concerning definitions and the nature of EI (Cherniss 2001). Goleman, for one, sees El as pointing to different ways in which competencies contribute to important outcomes in the family, the workplace, and other life areas (Goleman 1995).

It is Goleman's view, along with the use of the Bar-On EQi inventory (developed by Reuvan Bar-On, who coined the term "emotional quotient," or EQ, as a counterpart to intelligence quotient), that has shaped Performa's understanding of EI as useful to EAP clients. While it would be a gross error to ignore the mass of literature being accumulated on defining EI, a simple definition for EAP purposes is that your EQ is your ability to effectively navigate your way through life--to be intelligent about how you emotionally behave and how your apply your cognitive intelligence, or IQ.

GOOD NEWS, QUESTIONABLE VALUE

The good news about EQ is that it can be developed and enhanced over time (unlike IQ, which is static). The not-so-surprising news is that those with high IQs don't always have high EQs, and those with high EQs more often than not were average students. Ask any group of highly regarded and successful leaders whether any of them graduated first in their class and you'll seldom see more than one hand go up, if that. But administer a reputable EQ inventory to the same group and you'll find their emotional quotients generally will be above average.

What's questionable is whether a high EQ really predicts success in work and/or life, as it is touted to do. …