Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Emotional Intelligence of Undergraduate Human Services Students

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Emotional Intelligence of Undergraduate Human Services Students

Article excerpt


This study assessed whether undergraduate students at varying levels of completion in a human services program would exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence (EI) in comparison to students in non-human services degree programs (criminal justice, nursing and general education). These participants were given the 33-item Schutte, Malouff, Hall, Haggerty, Cooper, Golden, and Dornheim (1998) Emotional Intelligence Scale to measure levels of EI. The findings indicated that even though there was a significant difference between EI and participants' choice of college degree programs, there was no significant difference in EI between human services students and non-human services students. Future research recommendation is to study whether or not higher levels of EI are developed during the completion of human services coursework.


Occupation in human services can be wrought with challenges and stressors resulting from the need of human service workers to express positive emotions during interactions with sometimes aggressive and demanding consumers (Oginska-Bulik, 2005). The stressors caused by the emotional demands of working with consumers can frequently lead to an increase in the display of negative moods of workers (Grandey, Tam, & Brauburger, 2002). An important aspect of being successful in the human services field is the ability to perceive the emotions of others while also simultaneously regulating one's own emotions (Oginska-Bulik, 2005)

Dollard, Dorman, Boyd, Winefield, and Winefield (2008) state there are two stressors that are unique to human services work: emotional dissonance, which is the displaying of emotions not in line with what one genuinely is feeling, and consumer-related social stressors, which is the stress associated with dealing with negative consumer behavior. The level of continuous emotional stress associated with human services work can produce mental and physical exhaustion and loss of positive emotions toward the individuals being served (Barford & Welton, 2010). As working in human services is linked to these emotionally charged scenarios, it is logical to assert that the recognition and controlling of one's own emotions is crucial to success in the field. The ability of a person to successfully perceive and work with emotions has been labeled emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995).

Interest in the role of emotional intelligence (EI) has grown in recent years (Goleman, 1998). Salovey and Mayer (1989), who initially introduced the concept of EI, defined it as the ability to observe the emotions of oneself and others, and to utilize this observation in directing one's thinking and behavior. Zeidner, Matthews, and Roberts (2004) also found the action of observing and processing emotion aids in a person's ability to self-regulate one's emotional state. Mayer and Salovey (1997) concur and further state that EI also represents a person's ability to manage emotions in a manner that fosters personal growth. EI has also been defined as the ability to manage one's emotions in the areas of self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy and social skills (Goleman, 1995).

The recognition of the importance of EI has increased over the past few years and has appeared in areas as diverse as job performance (O'Boyle, Humphrey, Pollock, Hawver, & Story, 2011), occupational stress (Nikolaou & Tsaousis, 2002), and leadership development (Brown, Bryant, & Reilly, 2006; Mandell & Pherwani, 2003). Evidence suggests occupational success is linked to the effective management of interpersonal relationships and that it is an individual's level of EI that dictates whether he or she is competent in managing such relationships (Goleman, 1998; Weisinger, 1998).

Gertis, Derksen, and Verbruggen (2004) found workers in human services related positions who had higher levels of EI reported less instances of experiencing burnout. …

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