‘Emotional intelligence’ key for selection of public service employees

Woman using laptop in office corridor  (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Woman using laptop in office corridor
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Public service executives would be well advised to look for employees with high levels of emotional intelligence, as they best serve customers and fulfill the expectations of their role, according to researchers at the University of Haifa.
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient is the capacity of people to recognize their own – and other people’s – emotions, to discriminate among different feelings and label them appropriately and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Some experts regard emotional intelligence as more important than IQ in selecting candidates for jobs.
“The study supports the emerging recognition that the understanding and managing of emotions play a significant role in the work of public service providers alongside the so-called ‘rational’ aspects of their work,” said Zehavit Shabtay Levitats, a doctoral student at the university’s School of Political Science who conducted the research.
Two hundred public sector workers participated in a study under the direction of Prof. Eran Vigoda-Gadot in which the relationship between their emotional intelligence and motivation to serve the public was compared to the mutual influence of these factors on three indicators of their performance – job satisfaction, organizational commitment and the quality of service.
The results showed that the greater the workers’ emotional intelligence, the more they are motivated to serve the public and the greater their job satisfaction, organizational commitment and quality of service they provide.
According to Levitats, emotional intelligence positively impacts the motivation of public service workers, which in turn increases the level of their affective commitment.
In addition, public service motivation was found to positively affect the service quality of highly emotionally intelligent public sector employees. In contrast, among those workers with average or low levels of emotional intelligence, even high levels of motivation did not positively affect the quality of service they provided or their sense of satisfaction with their work.
“The results of this study add to our understanding of the performance of the public sector and the relative and combined roles played by the emotions and motivation of public sector workers.
On a practical level, human resource teams in the public sector can benefit from these findings by, among other things, combining tools for measuring emotional intelligence and motivation in the public service selection process,” concluded Levitats.