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Emotion recognition ability pays off


Employees able to accurately recognize emotions receive higher annual salaries

A person's ability to recognize others' emotions has a demonstrable effect on their income, according to a much-publicized study conducted by Professor Jochen Menges of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management along with researchers from the University of Bonn and Illinois State University.

"The more effectively an employee of an organization can recognize the feelings of others, the higher his or her annual salary will be. Hence, emotion recognition is not only important for social reasons, but it is also given economic value," explains Professor Jochen Menges, holder of the Chair of Leadership and Human Resource Management at WHU.

Since its publication, the study has received the widest media coverage of any article ever published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. "The importance of emotion recognition is usually underestimated. Our study corrects this. That is why I am particularly pleased that our research findings have been met with such a great deal of media attention," said Menges. Menges presents the findings not only as a written manuscript, but also as a video posted on the Journal of Organizational Behavior website.

The researchers conducted two studies, both with employees from a broad range of different jobs in different companies located in Germany. The researchers measured employees’ emotion recognition ability by asking employees to identify emotions in pictures of faces and recordings of voices. Furthermore, coworkers and supervisors reported about employees’ social and interpersonal skills. “And we got information about employees’ annual salary,” Menges explains.

“Thus we were able to connect all those pieces of information and found that those who are good at recognizing the emotions of others earn more money in their jobs than others.” The researchers also showed that this effect of emotion recognition on income is due to employees’ social and interpersonal skills: “Employees who accurately perceive the emotions of others are better able to use social skills at work and are more cooperative, considerate and helpful to others,” Menges explains.

The researchers were able to rule out alternative explanations for the differences in income among employees. Even taking into account factors such as intelligence, conscientiousness, gender, age, education level, weekly working hours and hierarchical position in the organization, the effect of emotion recognition ability on income remained.

Professor Menges advises attaching greater weight to learning about emotional recognition and to select executives accordingly: "Even though emotion-recognition skills are so important and – as we now know – are even rewarded financially, to date these skills are rarely explicitly addressed in our educational institutions or in recruitment processes."

Publication: Momm, T.D.; Blickle, G.; Yongmei, L. et al.: It pays to have an eye for emotions: Emotion recognition ability indirectly predicts annual income. Journal of Organizational Behavior, DOI: 10.1002/job.1975

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Nina Liesenfeld | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
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