Stress as a complication for emotional intelligence in the workplace : a neurochemical argument

Daniels, William M. U. (2003-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Salovey and Mayer have formulated the theory of Emotional Intelligence in 1990. Since then, the term and concept have been widely used to describe the ability to identify and regulate one's own emotions (personal self-management) as well as that of others (relationship skills). This ability is said to be a crucial element in the make-up of company executives today, distinguishing those who are successful from struggling followers. Because of its apparent importance, many industrial psychologists have spent numerous hours developing tests and questionnaires to be applied within the field. The idea is to identify the underlying shortfalls and then design the appropriate corrective strategies that will improve the competencies of managers. In doing so, great benefits are envisaged for the specific company. The proposed neurobiological mechanisms operative in emotional intelligence hinges strongly on the function of the limbic system of the brain. The hippocampus is one limbic region that is central to functions such as mood and emotion. Therefore the optimal working of this brain structure is essential if a person's emotional intelligence is to increase. The workplace of today is a highly stressful environment. International competition for market share, pressures on price and quality, mobility of labour force, are but some of the global factors that are primarily responsible for the extreme stress levels experienced by many employees in leadership positions. One of the body's physiological responses to stress is the release of the hormone cortisol. This cortisol catalyses biochemical reactions that initiate coping mechanisms (e.g. maintenance of blood glucose levels) for the stress. Cortisol also binds to receptors in the brain, one structure being the hippocampus. The purpose hereof has interested scientists for years. Clinical studies have recently shown that high levels of cortisol are deleterious for the brain. Patients suffering from Post -Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Depression showed elevated cortisol levels that were associated with a significant decrease in hippocampal volume. It has been postulated that this defect in hippocampal structure contributes to the behavioural abnormalities observed in these patients. The information contained in this document therefore provides scientific evidence to show that to have programmes aimed at developing the emotional intelligence of people without addressing issues around stressful working environments, is a futile exercise.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Salovey en Meyer het die teorie van Emosionele Intelligensie in 1990 geformuleer. Sedertien word die term en konsep wêreldwyd gebruik om die vermoeë te beskryf van iemand wat sy eie emosies (persoonlike selfbestuur) en die van ander (verhoudingsvaardighede) te kan identifiseer en reguleer. Hierdie vermoeë maak 'n kritieke deel uit van die mondering van top bestuurders in 'n firma en onderskei die suksesvolles van die volgelinge. As gevolg van die oënskynlike belangrikheid van emosionele intelligensie, bestee talle industriële sielkundiges menige van hul tyd aan die ontwikkeling van toetse en vraeboë in hierdie veld. Die idee is om die onderliggende kortkominge uit te lig, die gepaste remediërende strategieë te bepaal, wat weer op hul beurt die bevoegdheid van bestuurders moet verbeter. Hierdie aksies kan geweldige voordele vir die firma inhou. Die voorgestelde neurobiologiese meganisme waarop emosionele intelligensie berus, gaan nou gepaard met die funksionering van die limbiese sisteem in die brein. Die hippokampus is een van die limbiese areas wat gemoeid is met gemoed en emosie by die mens. Daarom is die optimale werking van hierdie brein area essensieël vir die ontwikkeling van iemand se emosionele intelligensie. Die hedendaagse werksplek word gekenmerk deur die teenwoordigheid van hoë vlakke van stres. Internasionale kompetisie, druk op prys en kwaliteit, beweeglikheid van werkerskorps, is maar 'n paar van die globale faktore wat primêr verantwoordelik is vir die uitermate vlakke van stress ervaar deur werkers in leierskapsposisies. Vrystelling van die hormoon kortisol, is een van die liggaam se reaksies op stres. Kortisol kataliseer biochemiese reaksies (bv. die handhawing van bloed glukose vlakke) wat die liggaam in staat stel om te "cope" met die stres. Kortisol bind egter ook aan reseptore in die brein, veral in die hippokampus. Die doel hiervan het navorsers vir baie jare geïntereseer. Kliniese studies het onlangs getoon dat hoë vlakke van kortisol skadelik is vir die brein. Pasiënte wat presenteer met Post-traumatiese stres of Depressie, toon verhoogde vlakke van kortisol, wat geassosieër word met 'n beduidende verkleining in die volume van die hippokampus. Dit is dan ook gepostuleer dat hierdie strukturele brein defek aanleiding kan gee tot die gedragsafwykings wat in hierdie pasiënte voorkom. Die inligting vervat in hierdie dokument dui dus daarop dat programme wat bedoel is om emosionele intelligensie van werkers te ontwikkel, 'n sinnelose oefening is, indien die stresvolle omgewing waarin hierdie werkers moet opereer, nie korrek aangespreek word nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53602
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