ERA Leads to Promotion

By Jona Jaupi

Photo courtesy of Baltic Development Forum.

Imagine if the ability to recognize other’s emotions could increase a person’s income. A recently published study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior claims just that. The study was led by a team of international researchers, including University of Bonn’s Dr. Gerhard Blickle and Dr. Tassilo Momm as well as Illinois State University’s Professor Yongmei Liu. The researchers reached the following verdict: emotional recognition in the workplace can raise your income.

However, the relationship between emotion recognition ability (ERA) and income should not be mistaken as a direct correlation. “Our research indicates that the relationship between emotion recognition and income is an indirect one,” Liu, who was in charge of the conceptual aspects of the study, says in an interview with BTR. “Specifically, emotion recognition ability increases one’s political skill, which further enhances interpersonal facilitation, one aspect of work performance, which then leads to higher income.”

In other words, according to the study, the underlying mechanisms of this relationship consists of integrating ERA and political skill. In an article for the Journal of Management, G.R. Ferris and D.C. Treadway define “political skill” as “the ability to effectively understand others at work and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and/or organizational objectives.”

In the study, ERA and political skill were measured using two different techniques. The former was measured by exposing the participants–grouped into 142 triads each consisting of an employee, a peer, and a supervisor–to 48 facial and vocal emotional expressions. The vocal expressions were measured using the 18-item Political Skill Inventory, a survey in which the participants were rated by a peer and supervisor using a Likert-type scale.

The results show that, on average, 77 percent of participants were able to accurately identify emotional expressions. Participants who succeeded in 90 percent or more were labeled as “really good,” while those who succeeded in 87 percent were labeled as “good,” and individuals who succeeded in less than 60 percent were labeled as “not so good.” The participants who did “really good” or “good” had supplementary higher ratings by their peers in terms of social and political skill, and received higher annual incomes.

“The significant relationship between emotion recognition and annual income remained significant after controlling for the impact of factors such as general mental ability and personality traits such as conscientiousness,” Liu says. In the hopes of securing accurate date, the researchers also controlled for variables such as age, gender, work experience, weekly working hours, hierarchal position, and education level.

“Our study used a diverse sample and controlled for many variants so the results should be generalizable across jobs and organizations,“ Liu says. “This indicates that the findings are robust and pretty clear-cut.” In conclusion, the study authors claim to have, ”disentangled the relationships between ERA, political skill, job performance, and annual income.”

In light of this new study and relationship, several questions have been presented: What does this mean for the working adult? For organizations? Can this relationship be voluntarily utilized in the workplace?

With respect to the individual, Liu says, “enhancing political skill is definitely important to one’s professional success. Once the ability to recognize emotion is increased, an employee is at a vantage point to enhance their political skill.”

In terms of organizations utilizing this relationship, Liu believes that if a company administers training on identifying emotions it will be beneficial. According to Liu, the training would create a healthy culture in which employees feel more respected and embraced, leading to improved performance within the organization.

Nonetheless, researchers still feel there’s a prevalent ambiguity regarding whether and when individuals utilize their ERA and political skill to further their own interests rather than those of the organization to which they belong.