Emotional intelligence is good for influencing many workplace outcomes, but can it really lead to creativity in the workplace? Some past researchers believed that the two had nothing to do with each other. They said that emotional intelligence was about figuring out the single best way to handle an emotional situation and creativity was about brainstorming many different ways of doing things. These almost sound like opposite strategies. But new research (Parke, Seo, & Sherf, 2015) has found that skills and strategies associated with emotional intelligence can ultimately lead to more creativity in the workplace.
Emotional intelligence refers to the way that people effectively manage their emotions and successfully navigate emotional situations. The study focused on two different things that people with emotional intelligence do, emotional regulation and emotional facilitation. People who are good at emotional regulation can manage their own emotions, or the emotions of other people. For example, during a rough day, they probably have some good strategies for making sure that the potential negative emotions do not ruin the workday. Similarly, they might have ways to deal with the negative emotions of coworkers or supervisors, and make sure that their own emotions remain positive. Emotional facilitation refers to the ability to use emotions toward productive thinking and sound decision making.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE LEADS TO CREATIVITY
The current study was conducted on young business professionals and used elaborate data collection techniques that included different sources of data (for example, self-report and managerial ratings) and different ways of collecting the data (for example, both tests and surveys).
The first major finding of the study is that emotional regulation oftentimes leads to improved mood. The researchers found that work environments which call for a low degree of creativity or a high degree of “information processing” (work based on monitoring or using specific information) can prevent many employees from maintaining good moods. This is not surprising; sometimes boring work just gets you down. However, employees who are better at emotional regulation will find strategies that help them deal with more monotonous work. These people will be able to achieve and maintain good moods despite their work responsibilities.
The second major finding of this study is that people who are good at emotional facilitation will be better equipped to turn good moods into workplace creativity. These people will recognize that a good mood provides the perfect boost for doing work that requires persistence, like idea generation or other creative endeavors. On the other hand, people who are not good at emotional facilitation—in other words they are poor at using emotions to do better work—might use their good mood to convince themselves that minimal effort is actually good enough and that they have already achieved success.
This study shows two ways that emotional intelligence can improve the workplace, especially in regards to creativity. Emotional regulation can lead to better moods, and emotional facilitation can help translate better moods into creative output. The authors say that this has several implications for workplaces that want to foster creativity among their employees. The first is that organizations who require creativity may want to consider hiring employees who have emotional intelligence abilities.
The second implication is based on the fact that the emotional intelligence factors in the study are not merely traits that people are born with, but instead the authors refer to them as abilities that can be trained. While some people might naturally possess higher degrees of emotional intelligence, the rest of us can use various strategies that can maximize our ability to be emotionally intelligent. As an example, the authors mention cognitive reframing, which is a strategy used by emotionally intelligent people that involves “looking on the bright side.” A difficult task might be seen as a challenge or opportunity for growth instead of an annoyance. Organizations can help train their employees to use similar strategies which will help them become more emotionally intelligent, and as this study concludes, more likely to come up with the next big creative idea.
Parke, M. R., Seo, M.-G., & Sherf, E. N. (2015). Regulating and facilitating: The role of emotional intelligence in maintaining and using positive affect for creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(3), 917-934.