How does emotional intelligence of managers affect the effectiveness of conflict management styles and interpersonal relations with subordinates?
Theory on emotional intelligence
Very often, there is a strong emphasis on the academic intelligence of an individual when looking at the fit for a job. However, there are multiple aspects that decide the best fit for a job besides the academic intelligence. One of these aspects is emotional intelligence. Goleman (1995; 1998; 2002) found that emotional intelligence is twice as important as the academic intelligence and the technical skills of employees, no matter what job level of an employee. Also, Goleman found that the more important and higher level of job, the greater the importance of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence can be described as the capacity to express, perceive, understand and manage the emotions of others and oneself in an effective manner (Anand & UdayaSuriyan, 2010). In 1990, Mayer & Salovey introduced emotional intelligence and described it as a type of social intelligence which involves the ability to monitor the emotions of oneself and others, discriminate among them and use the information to guide thinking and actions. In addition to these definitions, Goleman (1995) and the Bar-On theory (1997) also describe additional factors such as personality traits that influence the emotional intelligence.
According to Morrison (2008), emotional intelligence competencies consists of two categories; social and personal competencies. Social competencies are competencies in social awareness and relationship development. Personal competencies are competencies in self-awareness and self-management.
The emotional intelligence of an individual can be measured by various techniques that are based on different theories of emotional intelligence (Morrison, 2008). One of the most popular used theories are the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), Bar-On’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) and Goleman’s theory looks at the four aspects; Social awareness, self-awareness, relationship development and self-management (Morrison, 2018).
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Theory on conflict management
Research in emotional intelligence has become increasingly popular when looking at effective leadership and management (Palmer et al., 2000; Lindebaum & Cartwright, 2010). When looking at effective leadership and management, conflict solving is an important aspect.
Organizational conflict has been reviewed by many theorists over a long period of time (Morrison, 2008). Marx (1967), Weber (1947) and Taylor (1911) viewed organizational conflict as something which would negatively influence the efficiency of an organization. Therefore, they shared the opinion that conflict must be avoided by an organization. This view on organizational conflict was altered by Follet (1924) and Deutsch (1973) and their positive perspective to conflicts. They viewed conflict as a possible source for growth in productivity if handled correctly. Later, when the concept of organizational conflict management gained more popularity among researchers, new contributions to these definitions were shared. New research pointed out that organizational conflict is necessary for the cohesiveness of the employees, for the success of the organizational goals (Ruben, 1976; Mathur & Sayeed, 1983), to enhance creative problem solving (Hall, 1986) and facilitating organizational changes (Darling & Brownlee, 1984).
The Dual-Concern Model discussed in the article of Rahim et al. (2002) looks at the various conflict management styles along two aspects; the concern for oneself and the concern for others. This model results in five different conflict management styles. These different styles are (1) Integrating, (2) Obliging, (3) Dominating, (4) Avoiding, (5) Compromising. Here, integrating involves high concern for both others and self. This includes the evaluation of differences in order to reach consensus, openness and information sharing. Obliging includes high concern for others and low concern for oneself. This is often practiced by focusing on the similarities and downsizing the differences. Dominating consists of a low concern for others and a high concern for oneself, characterized with a forcing behaviour to win others’ position. Avoiding consists both of a low concern for others and oneself where managers withdraw themselves from a given problem. Intermediate is characterized by the low concern for oneself and the intermediate concern for others. This style uses the give-and-take theory. (Rahim et al., 2002).
In the article of Al-Hamdan et al. (2018), there are five conflict solving styles discussed which are similar to those discussed in the article of Rahim et al. (2002). These are the integrating, obliging, dominating, avoiding and compromising style. The article looks at the relation between the emotional intelligence of Jordanian nurse managers and their conflict management style. Here, results found that the emotional intelligence is positively related with the integrating, obliging and compromising style, while there was a negative relation between emotional intelligence and the dominating and avoiding style.
Morrison (2008) discusses the effect of the emotional intelligence of nurses on the collaborative conflict handling style. The research shows that there is a positive relation between the self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management and the collaborative conflict handling style. This suggests that higher emotional intelligence leads to a more collaborative conflict solving style.
Within the research of Rahim et al. (2002), evidence was found for the support of the model that suggests the positive relation between self-awareness and self-regulation, empathy and social skills. Self-regulation is positively related to empathy and social skills. Social skills and empathy are positively related to motivation. Here, motivation is negatively related with the subordinates’ use of the bargaining strategy and positively related with the subordinates’ use of problem-solving strategy. This implies that a managers’ emotional intelligence has a positive influence on the use of problem-solving by the subordinates.
These findings suggest a positive effect of managers’ emotional intelligence on the ability to solve conflicts between subordinates.
Previous research in the field of emotional intelligence and conflict-solving implies that there is a positive relationship between emotional intelligence and collaborative conflict solving management styles such as compromising, obliging and integrating. However, the research only states that there is a positive relationship between collaborative conflict management styles, thus estimates the most probable conflict management style that is related to the level of emotional intelligence, but does not elaborate on these relationships.
Also, the research is focussed on nurses in Jordan and students in various countries. The results may differ with the results in a company the Netherlands, as there is a different culture that may influence the conflict solving management style and the social relationships within a company. Also, nurses and students may have different priorities, experiences and environments compared to a formal company.
Thus, there is a research gap considering the process of how emotional intelligence influences the choice in conflict-management style, and how this in turn influences the relationships between the managers and subordinates and effectiveness of the conflict solving.
In order to bridge this resource gap, this MSc thesis will aim to answer the research question:
How does emotional intelligence of managers affect the effectiveness of conflict management styles and interpersonal relations with subordinates?
To answer this research questions, a sample will be used at Woningstichting Nieuwkoop. As there is a close connection to the director of this social housing organization, there is easy access provided to multiple employees within this organization which makes this sample a convenience sample.
Within this organization, the emotional intelligence of the director will be analysed by using the EQ-I test. This EQ-I test will also be tested by asking the subordinates to fill in the EQ-I test for the director.
In order to look at the process of choosing the right conflict management style, the director will be asked to describe the process of choosing a conflict management style for a given situation. Here, the director will be asked to describe the considerations of choosing a certain style and the expected result. The director will also be asked to review past conflict situations and the experienced effectivity of a certain conflict management style. The subordinates will also be asked their experienced effectivity of the same conflict and related conflict management style.
The interpersonal relations that result from the conflict management style will be analysed by asking both the director and the subordinates to answer some questions regarding the relationship between the director and the subordinates.
Once the research is completed, analysed and evaluated, the aim of this research is to contribute to current management practices by creating a better understanding of how emotional intelligence influences the process of managing a conflict and how this can influence the relationships with the subordinates. This can provide more well-thought processes before adapting a conflict management style.
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