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Emotional Intelligence and Employee Motivation

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

There are many individual variables which impact the development and implementation of organizational employee motivation strategies. Lambie (2006) quotes V. Frankl as saying, “the striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man”. This paper seeks to examine the role that emotional intelligence (EQ) plays, in respect to organizational motivational strategies, in a cross-cultural context. EQ is defined as emotional awareness, emotional management, motivation, empathy, and social skills (Christie, 2007).  Moon (2010) cites noted EQ theorists Salovey and Mayer (1990) as defining emotional intelligence as, “social intelligence that enables an individual to monitor the motions of others, and their own emotional states, to discriminate among these motions, and to use this information to guide thinking and actions”. 

Christie (2007) proposes that EQ and the construct of motivation are invariably linked. EQ is comprised of four constructs: 1) self- emotional appraisal- emotional awareness; 2) other’s emotional appraisal- emotional understanding; 3) regulation of emotion- emotional management; and 4) use of emotion- emotional facilitation (Christie, 2007). Motivation is comprised of the need for achievement, the need for affiliation, and the need for power. According to her findings, Christie (2007) states that a high ability to regulate one’s emotions, positively correlates with increased motivation to achieve. Christie also postulates that an increased ability to accurately appraise the emotions of others, positively correlates with increased motivation to affiliate with others (Christie, 2007). 

EQ produces multiple benefits in many situations, particularly one in which an individual is familiar with the cultural norms of the environment. However, as EQ is dependent on familiarity with a specific context, that knowledge is not necessarily transferable across cultures (Moon, 2010). Therefore, the inherent strengths of EQ lie within borders. Emmerling (2012) states that, “National culture is expected to impact several aspects of the organizational environment, altering the economic, political, social, environmental, and religious context in which individuals operate”. Emmerling (2012) proposes the theoretical framework of emotional and social intelligence competencies (ESC), when engaging in cross- cultural interactions. In ESC, emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, understand, and use emotional information about one’s self that leads to superior performance (Emmerling, 2012). Social intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, understand and use emotional information about others that leads to superior performance (Emmerling, 2012). However, Emmerling (2012) concedes that additional research is needed to develop ESC across culture, as the majority of study population samples were represented by Western cultures, namely the United States, Europe and Australia.

Moon (2010) postulates that cross cultural motivation strategies should not negate the importance of cultural intelligence (CQ). “Due to various norms for social interaction from culture to culture, other types of intelligences such as intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence or social intelligences are not likely to transfer automatically into effective intercultural adaptations and interactions” (Moon, 2012).  Moon does acknowledge that specific factors of EQ are related to specific factors of CQ. Moon (2012) defines CQ as the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse environments. Moon (2012) goes on to describe the constructs which encapsulate CQ:

  • Meta- cognitive facet- ability to gain understanding and comprehend a new culture based on a variety of factors

  1. Planning strategy before cross- cultural interactions

  2. Adjusting cultural knowledge while interacting

  3. Monitoring the accuracy of cultural knowledge during cross- cultural encounters

  • Cognitive facet- how an individual makes sense of similarities and differences between cultures

  • Motivational facet- one’s propensity to commit to adaptive behaviors when thrust into a culturally unfamiliar setting

  • Behavioral facet- one’s ability to act on one’s desire or intent

Based on the literature, it appears that most researchers agree that emotional intelligence plays an important role within culture, but that it has limitations across culture. Therefore this researcher postulates that leaders hoping to motivate cross- cultural employees should employ cultural intelligence (CQ) strategies, when developing organizational motivational strategies.

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Christie, A. (2007). Testing the links between emotional intelligence and motivation. Journal of Management and Organization (13)3, 212- 226

Emmerling, R. (2012). Emotional and social intelligence competencies: Cross cultural implications. Cross Cultural Management (19)1, 4-18

Lambie, G. (2006). Burnout prevention: A Humanistic perspective and structured group supervision activity. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development (45)1, 32-44

Moon, T. (2010). Emotional intelligence correlates of the four- factor model of cultural intelligence. Journal of Managerial Psychology (25)8, 876-898

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