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Emotional intelligence: private sector vs public sector

A new study from the University of Haifa shows that within the private sector high levels of emotional intelligence empower positive attitudes towards the workplace and decrease negative behavior; however, the same effect was not found within the public sector.

“The results of this study emphasize the existence of significant behavioral differences between the private and public sectors. Executives intending to carry out reforms or implement management plans in the public sector should be well aware of these differences,” explains Dr. Galit Meisler who conducted the study.

The research paper received the Outstanding Doctorate Award from the Israeli Political Science Association and was supervised by Prof. Eran Vigoda-Gadot. It surveyed 809 employees and managers within four organizations: two in the public sector and two in the private sector.

A comparison between the two sectors revealed a higher level of organizational politics in the public sector. Moreover, the political skills of public sector employees were much more developed. Yet, significant differences in employees’ emotional intelligence level were not found.

The study shows that emotional intelligence has a much greater impact on private sector employees’ perceptions and attitudes compared to public sector employees. While no correlation was found between emotional intelligence and perceived organizational politics in the public sector, emotional intelligence was found to reduce perceptions of organizational politics in the private sector.

Moreover, the study found that employees from the public sector were more likely to use forceful influence tactics, regardless of their emotional intelligence level. In the private sector, however, employees with a higher level of emotional intelligence were less likely to use such tactics.

The study also revealed that in the private sector, emotional intelligence contributes to forming desirable attitudes towards the organization, such as organizational justice, satisfaction at work and emotional commitment to the organization. High levels of emotional intelligence also reduce negative attitudes, such as burnout, intentions to leave and the tendency to neglect work. The impact of emotional intelligence in the public sector, on the other hand, was not as strong.

“We believe that the high level of organizational politics in the public sector and the stress associated with it decrease the positive effects of emotional intelligence for this sector,” Dr. Meisler concluded.

Rachel Feldman | EurekAlert!
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