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Critical slump in HR's emotional intelligence

Low EI caused by low morale, disengagement, recession and department downsizing

A critical slump in emotional intelligence (EI) among HR professionals has occurred over the last three years, according to research seen exclusively by HR magazine.

This worrying trend has been caused by low morale and disengagement, according to the study by business psychology consultancy JCA Global. The Emotional Intelligence of the HR sector study stated that contributing factors include structural changes within the workplace, reduction in the size of departments, as well as the ongoing effects of the recession.

Despite scoring higher than most other occupations in emotional intelligence (EI) over the last decade, HR professionals’ scores for characteristics such as self-confidence, emotional resilience, assertiveness and goal directedness have fallen year-on-year since 2012.

Jo Maddocks, director at JCA Global, said: “We interpret this particular slump as meaning that the HR sector is good at relationships but less strong at dealing with set-backs, coping when times get tough... We also know there is a close relationship between the ‘financial economy’ and the ‘emotional economy’, and it is likely that when people are more financially secure, they will feel more emotionally secure.”

He added: “It may be that in due course the HR sector will resume its usual healthy position of representing and demonstrating higher emotional intelligence within a business. However, if HR is to become consistently strong, and less susceptible to the ups and downs of organisational change, it must not only excel at the softer interpersonal aspects, but also the harder self-management components of EI.”

The study stated that lower emotional intelligence in HR impacts the whole company. It reported that although emotional intelligence is widely accepted as crucial to organisational performance, less than a third (30%) of companies implement it in their development strategies or selection processes.

The study surveyed 2,196 middle to senior managerial level HR professionals from both the private and public sectors, using an online self-report questionnaire. The comparison group were 24,142 individuals from various sectors, typically at senior managerial level.