Nursing Job Performance: Emotional Intelligence Role

The evolution of Emotion Intelligence

The subject of work-related stress has been studied widely since the 1950’s. Consequently, work-related stress has been recognized as an epidemic that is widespread across all occupations. However, some occupations are susceptible to higher level of work-related stress than others (Mayer et al., 2002). Occupational stress has been associated with the imbalance between emotional/physical well being of an individual and job demands. Noticeably, stress can greatly impact on work performance. This situation is quite critical in health care institutions that demand high levels of competency (Chiva & Alegre, 2008). Whereas some individuals have the ability to handle job demands positively, Cote and Miners (2006) underscore that job demands frequently cause immense physiological and psychological stress to most people. On the same note, Landa and Lopez-Zafra (2010) accentuate that psychological stress is common in emotionally demanding jobs such as teaching and nursing. This kind of stress has been associated with negative emotional reactions such as anxiety, burn out, depression, tension, irritability, alienation, hostility and frustration. As a result, individuals may experience negative attitudes and job dissatisfaction; thus hindering job performance (McQueen, 2004).

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Against this background, most researchers have tried to establish why some individuals appear to be impervious towards job related stress, whereas, others suffer greatly at the slightest onset of increased levels of stress. On this note, the concept of emotional intelligence has been explored to determine its impact on job performance. Since it inception in the early 1990’s, the concept of emotional intelligence has attracted unparalleled interest from researchers (Burns & Grove, 2004). The idea behind this popularity is the realization that, besides verbal, quantitative and other abilities, emotional ability is exceptionally crucial in job performance (Chamberlin, 2001).

Consequently, the concept of emotional intelligence has been explored widely in most disciplines with recent research focusing on the role of this concept in improving nursing job performance. In a normal hospital scenario, a nurse is engaged by the principal to serve the interests of the patients. For this noble goal to be fully achieved, mechanisms must be put in place in order to align the interests of patient’s and nurses (Cooper, 1998). Correspondingly, researchers in the nursing field have speculated that prolonged stress, coupled with demanding health care environment escalates job dissatisfaction levels among nurses (Cavallo & Brienza, 2002). On this note, reduced job performance has been recognized as a looming disaster whose implications might invite far reaching effects on the health care system (Carrothers, Gregory & Gallagher, 2000). Against this backdrop, the concept of emotional intelligence has been applied widely in most organizations. The rationale behind this theory is the assumption that individual with increased social interaction skills are likely to handle stressful situations effectively than those without such capabilities (Cote & Miners, 2006). In the nursing profession, nurses are expected to main personal connections with their peers, supervisors and patients in relationships filled with heightened emotions (McQueen, 2004). As a result, this profession is coupled with numerous cases of burnout if nurses are unable manage both the interpersonal and extra personal demands (Landa & Lopez-Zafra, 2010).

To resolve this quagmire, researchers have been interested in establishing the elusive link between job performance and emotional intelligence. The proponents of this theory in nursing profession accentuate that, interpersonal intelligence is highly significant in this profession as nurses have to foster good rapport with patients (Carrothers, Gregory & Gallagher, 2000). The latter authors also underscore that, nursing profession demands high level of social interaction skills because nurses are required to understand their patient’s feelings/ concern, and to demonstrate high levels of empathy. Apparently, juggling between the above roles requires high level of emotional balance also known as emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence- the conceptual framework

Over the recent years, there have been an escalating number of literatures on the role of emotional intelligence within the workplace environment (Chamberlin (2001); Cavallo & Brienza (2002); Goleman et al. (2002); Mayer et al. (2002). Most of these studies have been interested in testing the hypothesis whether high emotion intelligence translates to high performance in the work place environment. According to Goleman et al. (2002), emotional intelligence acts a personal enhancer towards increased job performance. In his model (shown in figure 1 below), Goleman et al. (2002) dissolved EI theory into four major domains which is further subdivided into 18 sub competencies.

Emotional Intelligence Conceptual framework
Figure 1: Emotional Intelligence Conceptual framework

In this model, Goleman et al. (2002) hypothesize that; self awareness is the epitome of emotional intelligence. This implies that, nurses who are in constant touch with their personal emotions, and have clearly defined values and motivations, are likely to cope with stressful situations than those who exhibit limited self awareness. Furthermore Goleman et al (2002) was of the idea that, the human brain posses a greater capability to manage whatever kind of frustration that individuals may encounter. On the same note, self management is realized after an individual achieves self-awareness; thus, it can be seen as the end product of self-awareness (Landa & Lopez-Zafra, 2010). The concept of self-management accentuates that, an individual has to develop a positive desire to be in control of his/her emotions and maintain composure regardless of the prevailing situations. On this note Cavallo and Brienza (2002) underscore that, effective mastery of emotions will enable an individual to be prepared to face and adjust to challenges that may arise within their workplace. On the other hand, social-awareness is the ability to portray some empathy towards the actions and reactions of others within the workplace. Apparently, social awareness is vital in creating and maintaining effective and efficient teams within the workplace and those who lack the same might portray some negativity towards teamwork (Austin, 2004). Finally, relationship management encompasses the three domains identified above. Under this domain Goleman et al. (2002) addresses the elements of persuasion, collaboration and conflict management. This concept is mostly applicable to individuals with leadership duties within their workplace. This domain is concerned with whether an individual has the ability to lead people towards the achievement of certain organization values and visions. This presupposition implies that an emotionally intelligent person is likely to manipulate people’s emotions to bring change within the workplace.

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Emotional intelligence and nursing staff

The nursing profession has been associated with intense emotions that often attract undue challenges to the nursing staff. Research clearly indicates that individuals whom their duty requires direct interaction with clients, patients, students are likely to develop burn-out syndrome (McQueen, 2004). However, the fact that not every individual attain this critical level implies that, emotional intelligence or some other factors prevent this syndrome. Efforts to formulate sound measures for invoking this emotional intelligence have given rise to the unending debate on what roles does prudent emotional intelligence play? This debate revolves around the notion that, lack of emotional intelligence among health practitioners leads to uncertainty and as witnessed in most hospitals, a major relationship barrier exists between the patients and the nurses (Gillis & Jackson, 2002). Most relationships in hospitals between the nurses and the patients’ especially financial institutions collapse because of poor emotional intelligence. Moreover and from an emotional intelligence theory perspective, it is imperative to note that prudent emotional intelligence measures play an important role in mitigating the soaring of relationships between the patients and the nurses (Epstein & Hundert, 2002).

Emotional intelligence is usually seen as a static instrument of building an effective relationship between the patient and the nurses. Emotional intelligence provides information about the emotional state and the problems present in a patient without necessarily providing solutions for them (Goleman et al., 2002). However, it is relatively important to appreciate that the first step of solving a problem is to identify it first. This can be achieved by contacting an intensive research on the issue so as to gather enough information about it (Graugaard et al., 2005). In respect to this, prudent emotional intelligence skills achieved through proper planning, scrutiny, carefulness, observation, and implementation of decisions made thereof provides useful information about the root of the problem. With such “insider” information, most nurses can easily embark on the most appropriate ways of understanding their patients (Hall et al., 2002).

Moreover, it should be noted that emotional intelligence usage in the hospital is critical in hospital operations and general performance of the nurses (Pearson &Raeke, 2000). Emotional intelligence plays a central role since it is pro-cyclical – it is able to exacerbate its effects in the hospital system by causing either positive effects or negative implications which in turn leads to satisfaction or dissatisfaction to the patients. However, pro-cyclicality takes place as a result of booms and bursts which happen as a result of the relationship that presently exists (Salovey & Mayer, 1990).

It is argued that emotional intelligence allows health institutions to increase their leverage in booms, which later makes financial system increase more due to the satisfaction received by the patients, as a result of the good treatment that they are accorded in the hospitals where the nurses are proficient (Shenolikar, Balkrishnan & Hall, 2004). Notably, emotional intelligence becomes a critical area that should be carefully managed when pursuing good relationships, since some times some patients’ attitudes and moods are unpredictable and may change on occasional basis. So, the nurses ought to be very careful and should read emotions with utmost intelligence (Stratton et al., 2005).

In addition, it is acknowledged that emotional intelligence helps to reduce nurse’s boredom and fear of making wrong judgments while performing their duties. The relationships can become worse if the nurses fail to play their emotional intelligence constructively. However, a research conducted recently proves that most nurses are recognizing their roles in orchestrating the perfect communication or relationships between them and the patients, and those who feel they have the skills are trying to use them to the perfection, with others finding their ways into institutions that could perfect them in these skills. This is because they are well aware that this type of relationship will greatly have positive impacts to them in their careers and also to the financial well being of their fellow employers (Thom, Hall, & Pawlson, 2004). This will be important to them also since a bulge in their pockets will seem forthcoming. However, in order to accomplish this noble emotional task, it is the nurses’ role to have accurate information about the true nature of their patients so that they can help to prevent mistakes that result to bad relationships (Vitello-Cicciu, 2003).

Nevertheless, emotional intelligence is also used to mitigate patient dissatisfaction by performing a forecasting role. It performs this by determining evolution trends of future relationship and patient satisfaction performance based on the information given by the patients in the one on one talks with them. However, a researcher postulates that in times of relationship crises between the nurses and the patients, it is usually difficult to forecast or even make estimates but at the same time it too important to do the forecast. The forecast helps to mitigate relationship crisis by developing better structural programs and intelligence levels that are geared towards counteracting the crisis effects (Wagner et al., 2002).

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Moreover, it should be understood that in the relationship crises period between the nurses and the patients, nurses who are pros in the emotional intelligence become key aspects in the mitigation efforts. This is the most important mediator of information that shows important aspect of communication activity of a hospital entity in addition to showing aspects of the national friendship and relationship. Therefore, it is held that emotional intelligence information provides both the internal and external information to the decision makers which facilitates designing sound strategies in mitigating the occurrence of bad or sore relationships between the nurses and the patients (Yamashita, Forchuk & Mound, 2005).

Furthermore, it should be recognized that emotional intelligence is a powerful institution which helps to reduce information asymmetry and improve the quality of management capabilities. It also helps in human resource building to the relevant decision makers that facilitate better services in line with better communications and relationship within the health services fraternity. However, despite the crucial role that emotional intelligence plays in the health industry, nurses have at times made mistakes due to misunderstanding between them and the patients which have resulted into adverse relationship crises and sore gelling between one another. This sometimes results in influxes in these types of centers due to merely a simple misunderstanding between the two parties so caution of the highest order ought to be taken (Lindeman, 2007).

Job Satisfaction vs. job performance

The concept of job satisfaction has attracted considerable interest among researches for a long time. Most of these researchers have been interested in determining the elusive relationship between job satisfaction and job performance vis avis other variables. However, since the pioneering work in the early 1935, its definition has been mauled in controversies as researchers are yet to arrive at a universal definition (Mayer et al., 2002). In spite of these controversies, most researchers concur on its meaning. According to Chiva and Alegre (2008), job satisfaction is the perceived emotion contentment that an individual has about his job. Workers often judge their job based on preconceived emotional expectations whereby if the job values are perceived as satisfactory, such an individual is likely to be emit pleasurable emotions and the opposite is true. However, these emotional reactions vary depending on the initial expectation or on whether the values are important to the individual (Cote & Miners, 2006).

Contrastingly, some researchers associate job satisfaction with attitudes and beliefs, such that an individual’s attitude and beliefs impact on the job satisfaction either positively or negatively (Chiva & Alegre, 2008). Furthermore, the concept of job satisfaction has been explored in relation to payments, benefits, working conditions, co-workers, supervision and management styles (McQueen, 2004). This literature has indicated that the above factors may either attract job satisfaction or dissatisfaction depending on whether an individual hold them dear. On the same note, Locke (2005) underscores that job satisfaction will translate to increased job performance based on the fact, that satisfaction elicits motivation.

Job performance and emotional intelligence

As stipulated above, job satisfaction is concerned with emotional responses generated based in attainment of certain values from the job. On the other hand, EI can be defined as the ability to control one’s emotional feelings in order to attain the desired goals in the workplace (Cote & Miners, 2006). On the same note, Lindeman (2007) established that EI impacted positively on job satisfactions. Moreover, some competencies of EI such as social awareness are likely to impact directly on job satisfaction outcomes.

Contrastingly, past literature on the role of emotional intelligence on job performance is extremely rare (Day & Carroll, 2004). This implies that, the proof on whether emotional intelligence is interconnected with job performance is limited (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). According to Cote and Miners (2006), the above uncertainty have attracted numerous criticisms as some scholars downplay the concept of emotional intelligence on the basis of limited scientific research. However, the scarce literature indicates emotional intelligence and job performance are interconnected in a mixed relationship paradigm (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). On one hand, some studies indicate that job performance and emotional intelligence portray a direct interrelation (Becker, 2003;Landy, 2005; Locke, 2005), whereas others have reported that there is no relationship between the two and if at all it exits the results are muddled in myriad inconsistencies (Austin, 2004; Day & Carroll, 2004). Against this background, Cote and Miners (2006) designed a modified cognitive intelligence model to unify the two opposing sides. In this research, the latter authors reported that emotional intelligence portrayed some hazy influence on job performance.

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Impact of emotional intelligence vs. job performance on nursing profession

Accordingly, the nursing sector is one of the most challenging and with the greatest emotional task in the world due to the persistent pressure that the nurses undergo in trying to perfect their relationship with the patients. On one side, it is challenging because even with the underlying pressures and expectations in this age, social crises continue to bog the society. On the other hand, it is tasking because the industry has continued to fall under the same pressures that has been facing it since its inception (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Nevertheless, there have been considerable gains made in the realms of perfection, where a lot of relationship perfection has been achieved through this emotional intelligence. Again and courtesy of technological developments which have culminated in new services in the human resource sector, the industry has strived to perfect the law of emotional intelligence that have greatly helped to increase job performance among nurses.

The Nursing sector boasts as the world leader in terms of intelligence and everything in the sector, is mandated with performing their tasks with the utmost intelligence to the utmost perfectness. Perhaps, this emotional intelligence is its huge driving force courtesy of the prudent emotional intelligence regulations that continue to be implemented over the years (Nunnaly & Bernstein, 1994). Even with the inflow of patients in the hospitals surpassing that of the nurses within, the emotional intelligence must always be at its highest levels to counter the pressure that can at times seem deafening. This has been evidenced by hospitals where the hospitality seems to be at its greatest levels and these particular hospitals tend to experience the highest number of patients, and the preference by patients is always directed towards these types of hospitals. This is because the patients feel that the staffs understand their dire needs and are ready to help them at all costs.

The hospitals ought to set standards high where every nurse in the hospitals’ staff ought to be impacted with this particular type of emotional intelligence. Staff should be shown how to read and predict the expectations of their customers, so as to be in a good position to enhance harmony with their patients and be able to keep and maintain their daily positive image that will be greatly determined by how they give services to their patients and on how they are able to deal with their patients in terms of their problems and in respecting their modalities and needs.

Constant relationship crisis, alongside other social crises has occasioned significant paradigmatic shift in the way the relationship between the patients and nurses is taken. As a matter of fact, the nursing sector has been a subject of significant regulation especially by the principles that are deeply rooted in the patent care of the patients, since they must take up all the necessary measures that must incorporate emotional intelligence in their daily life with the patients (Burns & Grove, 2004).

All the nurses are mandated to affiliate themselves to the needs of the patients in some way so that they can be assured of long term relationships with their patients. The economic intelligence plays a huge role in this affiliation since a nurse would not make the best out of his/her affiliation if he/she is not impacted with the correct skills to understand the expectations of the patients and his/her already acquired mood towards the hospital. This is essential to better assist nurses in promoting greater regulatory social management and perfection for mitigating, if not, eliminating the likelihood of any form of bad relation with the patient if there occurs any form of dissatisfaction.

One of the many requirements of an ideal social management system is rational behavior by the patients and the nurses. However, another unstated requirement concerns moral behavior. The health sectors are sometimes faced by irritating behaviors which are brought by patients with some sort of ill behaviors and the possibility of impacting the emotional intelligence on such patients becomes impossible and so the nurses are faced with the herald task of trying to build an efficient relationship with their patients which becomes a daunting task. Therefore, the need to have a daily to daily close encounter with the patients is paramount if the emotional intelligence is to become successful in having a long term relationship with such kind of patients (Hulley, 2006).

There is a great need for the hospitals to come up with a certain centralized unit that will be mandated with the task of teaching the basics that will add knowledge to the nurses to help them get the best emotional intelligence. This would help them create the best relationships with their patients and would set up measures that would categorize the different types of patients and the way to deal with such kind of different people. This is because some of the patient would be very difficult to understand so units would be pivotal to come up with measures that would help impact the emotional intelligence on this particular type of patients perfectly.

Criticism self control

Nurses who elicit emotional intelligence in themselves have abilities to respond to various different situations through their interactions without being overwhelmed by those situations being big or small. This can be an important competency when, for instance, a patient raises a complaint with a nurse or is threatening towards him/her in some way (Austin, 2004). A nurse whose self control is low against criticisms is more likely to take some comments or questions as personal attacks on him/her, and become less available to listen to and care for such a patient.He/she could become angry and create a sour relationship between herself/himself and the patient.

Social awareness within nurses

The possession of emotional Intelligence invokes social awareness within the nurses and they tend to become more and more persevering when facing all type of difficult situations with the patients no matter the character of their patients and they tend to give emotional support to their patients even in the middle of crises which tends to inspire them at every single occurrence, thus disseminating their competencies, strengths and positive emotions to patients (Austin, 2004). There is also likelihood that such nurses would view adverse situations in a more positive way and would be willing to try new approaches and solutions without the fear of failing and would take every step with sheer optimism. In a basic perspective, provided that nursing is mostly relational in nature, it is likely that more self-encouraged nurses adopt more expressive compassionate behaviors in dealing with patients (Chiva & Alegre, 2008).

Controlling individual emotions

Everyone in the vast world Diaspora is faced with his/her own emotions which tend to change with every single occurrence of a situation and the nurses are no exception when being faced by this emotions so there is a dire need to have the utmost emotional intelligence that will guide them through the process of acquiring self control that will greatly guide them through controlling their self emotions (Chiva & Alegre, 2008). Nurses face extremes in emotion everyday. Patients exhibit unhappiness, confusion, anger, sadness and other aversion emotions. If nurses are not nimble-fingered in managing their own sensations, they may not be able to have calm attitude when faced by a crises. An emotional control loss can have negative effects for both nurse and patient. Caring requires emotional labor, that is, mental work to manage feelings. Emotional labor can be defined as the effort, planning and control needed to express organizationally desired emotions and smother undesirable ones during interpersonal operations (Becker, 2003). In nursing, desired emotions comprises of displaying an authentic caring character, articulating empathy for patients and illustrating an understanding for patients experiencing pain or disturbance, substantial and psychological vulnerability (Chiva & Alegre, 2008). Nurses are also anticipated to exhibit a non-judgmental comportment with patients, to promote trust and an intellect of protection. To make this achievable, nurses may necessitate smothering any distrustful emotions towards patients.

Understanding and emphasizing on other people’s emotions

By being considerate to the patients’ sentiments, and being more compassionate, nurses are able to comprehend the values, uncertainties and qualms of patients. They are more pertinent to automatically have a bond with patients, understand the patients’ perspectives, understand the different roles of their dealings understand and gratify patients’ needs and retort to it in the most appropriate manner. Consequently, they can show privileged concern for their patients and come up with better emotional and psychosomatic reactions in them. Behaving with more empathy within them, nurses can be more sympathetic as well. Researchers also claim that emotional participation by nurses may progress the eminence of care and is a key component of brilliance in the day to day practice of nurses (Day & Carroll, 2004).

Having recognized the general nature of the six emotional intelligence dimensions, it is recommended that they show a positive relationship with nurses’ caring behaviors. Nevertheless, the idiosyncrasies of nursing necessitate some multifaceted combinations of EI aspects so that nurses can be justly affirmative caregivers. For instance, a nurse with precise consideration of his/her own negative emotions, for instance, after seeing that the failure of the treatments monitored to a “particular” patient, may be very apprehensive about sharing it openly with the patient if he/she has inadequate self-awareness to persist and exhibit suitable behaviors and sensitivities. Nurses who have a low self control over criticisms can lessen their compassionate behaviors towards patients who had un unanswered questions or aired complaints unless they compensate for this imprudent understanding with a stronger confidence in themselves that gives more motivation to them to continue with their persistence in acquiring behaviors that are more caring. We suppose that other relations between the dimensions of emotional intelligence can come up, although the investigative status of the field does not give clear outlook on this matter.

Factors that influence the application of Emotional Intelligence in nurses

There are some various contrasting issues that greatly influence and make the emotional intelligence a key component in the provision of the best health care by the nurses; this includes things like age, gender and even the condition of the health of the patients. Since the general hearing level of most old patients is low, the need for the nurses to understand this condition and have the perfect interaction with this kind of patients greatly requires the emotional intelligence of the highest level. The use of emotional intelligence will greatly require a wide-range of non-verbal interactions which may include things like smiling, touch, a direct eye-gaze to the patients, an affirmative nod of the head which are all part of the emotional intelligence which all the nurses are expected to exhibit.

Empirical study

The research was carried out within the required ethical standards. As a result, the researcher made sure that all the prominent processes were carried out in accordance with the espoused modern theoretical frame work. The researcher was conversant with the epic that study findings and conclusions are in most cases products of the researcher’s moral and political convictions. To this end, the researcher worked within the modern frame work of studying theories.Moreover, the researcher undertook a concrete study on the targeted study population and the existing literature.


This chapter has presented a comprehensive review of existing relevant literature about nurses, role and importance of emotional intelligence in enhancing job performance. However, as stated herein, literature on the role of emotional intelligence on job performance is limited in general and in the field of nursing in particular. Thus, this research is timely in order to establish the elusive link between emotional intelligence and job performance. Although, prior literature elicited conflicting results, this current research will be founded on the hypothesis that, emotional intelligence promotes job performance. However it is imperative to mention that, it will be greatly challenging to separate job satisfaction and job performance simply because the two are intertwined in an inseparable paradigm.


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