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The relationship between manager emotional intelligence and job satisfaction: A quantitative study of call center employees

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: David T Stoneback
Abstract:
Like many employers, call centers are searching for ways to attract and retain talented individuals who can meet the needs of their customers. This quantitative study examined an identified problem in addressing the job satisfaction of employees in call centers (N = 49). It was hypothesized that the level of emotional intelligence (EI) in managers (N = 10) may have an impact on employee satisfaction. This problem and the hypothesis led to a series of questions concerning whether any of the four branches of emotional intelligence impact employee satisfaction. Many of the studies within the existing body of knowledge focused on EI and other factors such as bottom line results, employee engagement, and leadership effectiveness. What was known at the time of the study was that attrition in call centers is high and that there must be a series of factors related to this fact. Employee satisfaction was identified as a potential factor. To measure employee satisfaction, the Job Satisfaction Survey tool was used while the MSCEIT tool was used to measure manager emotional intelligence. The results of the MSCEIT for each manager were tested against the JSS results for their employees that participated in the study. The outcomes found that for each of the four branches (perceive use, understand, and manage) there was no statistically significant link. The study concluded that there was no discernable impact of manager's EI on the satisfaction of their employees. However, there was a relationship found between employee satisfaction and gender of manager. The conclusion of these results suggests that there is further opportunity to develop knowledge in this field. Further research should be developed to understand the relationship manager gender plays in employee satisfaction. It is suggested that additional variables be added to future studies and that the scope of future studies extend beyond internal factors and look at macro factors external to the workplace. Additionally, it is suggested that the body of knowledge may benefit from a longitudinal study that examines and tracks results for manager EI and employee satisfaction over time.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments v List of Tables ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Employee Engagement Factors in Call Center Operations 1 Background & Purpose of the Study 2 Statement of the Problem 4 Conceptual Framework 5 Overview of Constructs 7 Research Questions 8 Significance of the Study 9 Definition of Terms 10 Assumptions, Limitations, and Bias 11 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 12 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 14 Emotional Intelligence as a Construct 14 Chronology of Theoretical Development 14 Models of Emotional Intelligence 18 Validity of Emotional Intelligence 24 Bias in Emotional Intelligence Research 28 Measures of Emotional Intelligence 29 Employee Satisfaction as a Construct 34

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Methodologies in Existing Research in Emotional Intelligence 36 Methodologies in Existing Research in Employee Engagement 41 Chapter Summary 44 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 45 Research Design 46 Sample 47 Research Question and Hypothesis 49 Instruments 49 Data Collection Procedures 52 Data Analysis 53 Expected Findings 55 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 57 Research Question 1 60 Research Question 2 60 Research Question 3 61 Research Question 4 61 Additional Findings 62 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 64 Summary of Findings 64 Synthesis of the Literature 65 Implications and Practitioner Recommendations 68 Recommendations for Future Research 70

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REFERENCES 74 APPENDIX A. JOB SATISFACTION SURVEY 81

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List of Tables

Table 1. Frequency Counts for Selected Variables (N = 49) 58

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Selected Variables (N = 49) 59

Table 3. Descriptive Statistics for Selected Variables (N = 10) 60

Table 4. Spearman Correlations for Se lected Emotional Intelligence Scores with Employee Job Satisfaction (N = 49) 62

Table 5. Prediction of Total Job Satisfaction Based on Selected Variables. Backward Elimination Regression (N = 49) 63

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Employee Engagement Factors in Call Center Operations In high turnover industries such as call ce nters, employers are searching for ways to attract and retain talented individuals w ho can meet the needs of their customers. A call center is an orga nization dedicated to the purpos e of answering phone inquiries, resolution or problems, order taking/insur ance claim receipt, or other elements of customer service (Rath, 2005). The nature of work in a call center usually involves handling a high volume of customer complaints , questions, and/or c oncerns (Rath, 2005). Additionally, the operating mode l of a call center controls expenses by focusing on key metrics such as call handle time and wait time of the customer. These metrics require the call center employees to resolve issues as quickly as possible, adding to the stress levels of the job. In order to help offset some of these st ressors, of special in terest to employers may be the level of Emotional Intelligence (E I) held by the folks w ho are responsible for managing these employees on the front line. Th ese front line associates often encounter the most direct contact with customers. Du e to the customer facing nature of the call center employees’ role, it is imperative that there is a high level of job satisfaction and engagement that is visible to the customer (Rath, 2005). With this relationship, there is a need to further develop the existing body of re search to understand what the impact is of a manager’s emotional intelligence on employee engagement (Heindel, 2009). The purpose of this research focused on the components of the problem and the intricacies relationships between the vari ables. Components of the problem include:

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understanding emotional intelligence in mana gers (perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions), understanding the components of employee engagement (job satisfaction, engagement, empowerment, and satisfaction wi th manager), as well as measurements for each. Background & Purpose of the Study In order to better understand how managers’ EI contributes to the job satisfaction of employees, it is important to understand the makeup of EI. According to Goleman (1995), there are five elements of EI: se lf-awareness, self-r egulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Salovey and Mayer (1 990) divide these into four branches that were used for purposes of this study: percei ve, use, understand, and manage). Due to the complexity of organizational change and the role emotions play in changes such as global expansion, job eliminations, leadership cha nges, as well as stressors of day to day responsibilities, the EI of managers and how they manage their associates is an element that leadership needs to consider wh ile moving their organizations forward. Emotional intelligence conn ects a leader’s cognitive abil ities with their emotional state (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). The ability for a leader to recognize the impact of their own emotions on their decision making is para mount if that leader is to make sound decisions based on the best interests of the organization. Additionall y, a leader must be able to read emotions in thei r peers and employees in order to be as effective as possible. Stogdill (1969) originated this notion with linkages of leader personality and control over emotions to employee perception of leader effectiveness.

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High turnover organizations such as call centers have an even more heightened need for management of employee satisfaction (Weiss, 2002). Due to the importance of emotional intelligence in leader effectiveness (Stogdill, 1969), several leadership theories are explored throughout the literature with regard to EI. EI is a common thread linking the Five-factor Personality Model, Contingency Theory, and Situational Leadership Theory. All five personality factors in the Five-factor Model impact a leader’s EI. EI also plays a role in connecting Fiedler’s (1972) contingency theory, particularly the focus on leader personality to leader effectiveness. Situational Leadership is also greatly impacted by the EI of the leader. External threats, stress, and organizational culture are contributing factors influencing situational leader behavior (Barrow, 1977). As such, EI is an important factor for effective leadership as stressful situations present themselves (Heindel, 2009). Fiedler (1972) described EI as an element of leadership training in the contingency model. He postulated that in order to improve the overall performance of a workgroup, leader behavior had a significant impact. He wrote the two best ways of accomplishing this was to focus on leader motivations (EI) or find the best situation to match to the leader’s abilities (Situational Theory). Fiedler went on to describe how training and experience are actually means of changing a situation to best fit the needs of a leader. In order for this to take effect, a leader must possess a high level of emotional intelligence to recognize and support weakness. While the organization can provide the requisite training, it is still the onus of the leader to convert training into knowledge and

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action. Fiedler (1972) referred to his con tingency theory as the marriage of the motivational, personality concept to the output of the workgroup. Muyia and Kacirek (2009) examined l eadership development and how it is impacted by EI. The purpose of Muyia and Kacirek’s 2009 study was to better understand how EI is impacted by training. Re search has produced mixed results and Muyia and Kacirek found no stat istically significant differences between pre and post test scores of their research partic ipants. Emotional intelligence “a bilities contribute to team effectiveness, better decision making, stress tolerance, interpersonal facilitation, and overall performance” (Muyia & Kacirek, 2009, p. 705). As a result of these factors, leaders must recognize the importa nce of emotional intelligence. Statement of the Problem There is an opportunity within the call ce nter operations industry to realize the connection between the five core elements of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills (G oleman, 1995) and the three elements of employee engagement: job satisfaction, empowerment, and manager satisfaction (Weiss, 2002). Heindel (2009) concluded that there is opportunity for additional research to recognize the “critical success factors that imp act employee engagement and satisfaction” (p. 61). Recognizing this connection may he lp companies with the attraction and retention of top talent. The conceptual framework outlines th e critical components of emotional intelligence and employee engagement re ferenced above intersecting at the manager/employee relationship. This study aims to provide a blueprint for leaders to

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develop action plans designed to drive success in their organizations through successfully engaging employees. This study builds upon Heindel’s (2009) dissertation which addressed four questions relating EI to job satisfaction, employee engagement, empowerment, and manager satisfaction. This study focused on answering four similar questions to understand if there is a link between emotional intelligence and job satisfaction. In order to understand this connection, data was colle cted from managers as well as their employees. Identifiers used to make the c onnection between the data sets was stripped prior to publication of the da ta in order to maintain a nonymity. Like Heindel’s (2009) study, this study will be a correlational, qua ntitative study. The purpose of the study built on Heindel’s (2009) work a nd validates the results. Conceptual Framework Talent acquisition and retenti on are critical issues that are requiring organizations to take a fresh look at how EI may be affecting morale and satisfaction of their employees. In many cases, followers take thei r cues from the wor kgroup leader (Bass, 1990, Hui, Chiu, Yu, Cheng, & Tse, 2007). These cues, explicit or otherwise, ultimately affect the outcome of workgroup performan ce in relation to goals. Going beyond the Situational Theory, leadership behavior a nd skill set can alter workgroup performance independent of situation. Be rlew (1974) described the two-factor managerial model which focuses on a custodial (rudimentary) leadership approach and a managerial (participative) focus.

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Followers take their cues from their leadership and sometimes do this unconsciously. Leaders set the tone with their work ethic, urgency, and quality of output. Followers, in turn, follow. A leader must recognize the role of their leadership personality in this process and the subordinate-leader relationship as an impact to the end state (Durand & Nord, 1976). Again, Fiedler’s (1972) contingency model supports the entry of leader personality as a critical success factor. The theoretical foundation of EI lies in the work of Bar-On who pioneered the concept of EI as early as 1980 (Heindel, 2009), Salovey and Mayer (1990), and Goleman (1995). Bar-On (1997) viewed EI from a trait perspective. His work examined personal characteristics of individuals and measures EI using his EQ-i model. Salovey and Mayer (1990) viewed EI as an element of an individual’s overall intelligence. They measure EI by using the MSCEIT scale. Finally, Goleman’s (1995) work focused on understanding the specific leadership competencies that impact EI. Goleman uses the emotional competence inventory to measure EI. The theoretical foundation of employee engagement is separated into the three elements: job satisfaction, empowerment, and manager satisfaction. Job satisfaction has been studied by using the two-factor method (Fraser, 1983). The two-factor method compares the perceived cost of doing a particular job to the perceived benefit from the employee’s perspective. Bass (1990) is a leading thinker regarding employee empowerment in terms of the leader-follower relationship. Bass’ (1990) research on Transformational Leadership instructs that employee-manager trust is a key driver of employee empowerment.

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Overview of Constructs Emotional Intelligence The concept of emotional intelligence is a relatively new area of interest within organizations. As organizations are faced with greater challenges as a result of globalization, high competition for talent, and rest ricted budgets, it is very important that management has a keen understanding of what makes their employees happy and effective in their work. In order to understa nd individuals at their emotional core, it is helpful to take inventory of the levels of emotional intelligence their employees and managers possess. The definition of EI has changed over time and has even conflicted itself within some studies (Muyia, 2009). The application of contingency theory by Fiedler (1972) and Blanchard’s (1985) Situational Theory has exemplified this conundrum among researchers. As organizations look to train their leaders on this concept it is imperative that they recognize these changes and update their programs accordingly. Like any concept, training programs must keep pace with the new research that is developed as scholars build on the work of Bar-On, Goleman, and Salovey and Mayer. Employee Engagement There are three components of empl oyee engagement: job satisfaction, empowerment, and manager satisfaction (W eiss, 2002). According to Transformational Leadership theory, employee engagement is an important factor in helping managers understand how to retain employees (Bass, 1990). It follows then, that in high turnover industries such as call centers the need is heightened. As such, it is beneficial for the

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leadership of firms in these industries to better understand how they can positively impact the engagement of their employees in order to improve retention and potentially lower their expenses associated with acquisition and training as well dr ive satisfaction with customers as a result of a more tenured and engaged representative contact. Job satisfaction is described by Futrell ( 1979) in terms of the employee’s personal feelings of accomplishment, meaningful c ontribution, and contentment with their job responsibilities. Fraser ( 1983) defined job satisfaction in terms of the perceived relationship between the value an employee extr acts from their work against the effort and mindshare exerted to achieve results . Empowerment focuses on the level of ownership an employee feels over their own work while satisfaction with the manager focuses on the level of satisfaction an employee has with the manager-subordinate relationship (Durand & Nord, 1976). Research Questions In order to understand the impact of manager’s EI on employee engagement, the following four research questions were asked: 1.

What is the relationship between a lead er's emotional intelligence quotient (EI) score for the “Perceive” branch of MSCEIT and their direct report's job satisfaction. 2.

What is the relationship between a lead er's emotional intelligence quotient (EI) score for the “Use” branch of MS CEIT and their direct report's level of job satisfaction.

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3.

What is the relationship between a lead er's emotional intelligence quotient (EI) score for the “Understand” bran ch of MSCEIT and their direct report's level of job satisfaction. 4.

What is the relationship between a lead er's emotional intelligence quotient (EI) score for the “Manage” branch of MSCEIT and their direct report's level of job satisfaction. Emotional intelligence scores for each of the four branches (perceive, use, understand, and manage) are the independent vari ables for the study. This is measured for managers within the sample by using the MSCEIT test (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). The dependent variable for the study is the job satisfaction score as measured by the Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS). This quant itative study focused on understanding any relationship between the manager’s EI scor es for each branch and each of the job satisfaction scores. The sample was taken from a call center of 1000 employees and 108 managers in the insurance industry and repres ented 5% of employees (49) and 10% of the management team (10). Significance of the Study The gap in the literature su rrounds the role of emotions in affecting employee job satisfaction specific to call cent ers. McKenzie (2010) indicated that managers have a role in eliminating the concerns of employees and creating an atmos phere of communication and inclusion when working through change . The outcome of this study may assist leaders in attracting and retain ing the talent necessary to compete within their industry through focusing on the employee engagement factors driven by the managers’ EI.

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Additionally, Heindel’s (2009) work indicates there is an oppor tunity for further research in understanding the critical success factor s relating leader emo tional intelligence to employee engagement factors.

Definition of Terms Call Center is the organization of individuals who are responsible for fielding the phone calls from customers with inquiries, complaints or other concerns regarding a product or service they have purchased (Rath, 2005). Emotional intelligence is defined by Goleman (1995) as the ability to recognize and control emotions in oneself as well as recognize and interpret emotions in others. Emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is a measurement of the emotional intelligence of an individual. Similar to th e IQ measurement, EQ focuses on emotion rather than intellectual intelligence. Ba r-On (1997) developed the Bar-On scale for measuring EI with his EQ-I test. Employee engagement describes the psychology of an employee’s attitude toward their current situation in th eir workplace. Macey and Schne ider (2008) describes three facets of employee engagement: psychol ogical, behavioral, and trait. Front line manager is the manager level individual responsible for the front line associates who deal directly with customer s (Frunzi & Savini, 1997). Front line managers represent the level of management closest to the customer and presumably have the greatest potential impact on customer satisfaction. Job satisfaction is defined by Allen and Wilbur n (2002) as a measure of an employee’s happiness in their current job a nd future prospects within their role.

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Additionally, they make the link between an employee’s job satisfaction and customer satisfaction. The mantra is that a satisfie d employee will make a satisfied customer. Assumptions, Limitations, and Bias There were four essential assumptions made in this study. First, it is assumed that the participants surveyed ar e representative of the populat ion. Second, it is assumed that the emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is an accurate measure of em otional intelligence. Third, it is assumed that the self-assessmen t tool is accurate. Finally, there is an assumption that the job satisfaction scores repor ted are representative of a general sample and not driven by a recent outlier event. Among the limitations of this study is the fact that it is lim ited only to the call centers, with their high turnover rates which may place generalizability into question for industries with normal or low turnover. Anothe r limitation is that, in general, EQ is a relatively weak measurement (Muyia & Kaci rek, 2009). Finally, the results may be impacted by an outlier stress level among t hose sampled on the day they complete the survey. Biases in either design or outcomes of the study are components that were considered as part of this research. There were three potential areas for bias in this study: researcher, participant, and method bias. Each of these potentials areas were addressed throughout the study. Researcher bias comes in many form s. Boyd and Westfall (1955) found that researcher personality characteristics may bi as both the design and results of a study. Bailar, Bailey, and Stevens (1977) found a link between response rates and the

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researcher’s attitude toward the subject matte r. Singer, Frankel, and Glassman (1983) and Phillips and Dipboye (1989) t ook the argument a step further through their finding that outcomes often skew toward confirming the researcher’s initia l perspectives and preconceived notions regarding the subject. For this study, each of the above risks for bias was monitored throughout the research process. The second area of concern for biases hat may have impacted the results of the study concerns participants. Bu ilding from the potential for researcher personality to affect research outcomes, so too may the participants in the study affect outcomes through their dispositi on (Phillips & Dipboye, 1989). A second potential for bias concerns the Hawthorne effect which describes a propensity to respond to a survey with answers the participants thi nk appropriate to the content instead of providing an honest assessment (Denova, 1968). Data collection method bias has manifest ed itself in each of the methods of collecting data. Albaum (1987) found bias in mail surveys although the bias was less obvious that in interviews. Because this surv ey was conducted via online survey, there is less likelihood of bias manife sting itself in the outcomes (Evans, Garcia, Garcia, & Baron, 2003) but it must be accounted for in analyzing results. Organization of the Remainder of the Study The following chapters review the body of literature on the s ubject of emotional intelligence. The leading thinkers on the subj ect are reviewed along with their preferred methods of measurement of the construct. Additionally, an overview of the job

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satisfaction construct is provi ded in order to understand bo th main components of this study. Methodology is also discussed. This study was correlational in nature and reviewed the emotional intelligence measurem ents of the front line managers in the sample and the correlation of those results to the j ob satisfaction and employee engagement scores of the line employees in the sample. Chapter 4 describes the resu lts of the study and addresse s the research questions that were asked. Outcomes were determined in relation to the samples selected and the relationship, if any between emotional in telligence and the el ements of employee engagement. Summary and recommended future studies on the topic complete the study and provide suggested framework for future researchers to continue to build upon this study and the existing body of knowledge.

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CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Emotional Intelligence as a Construct The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) has been developed over time as a complimentary intelligence to intellect a nd social intelligen ce, among others. The research has evolved over time, and spans mid century work in behavioral science to more recent works focusing specifically on th e study of emotional intelligence. From the work or Thorndike (1920) and Weschler ( 1958) through modern day EI academics such as Goleman (1995), Gardner (1983), Mayer a nd Salovey (1993), a nd Bar-On (1997), EI has found its way into the lexicon of academia and business alike. Emotional intelligence is a relatively ne w measure of intelligence, having really been developed over the last thirty years. Over this time the idea has evolved and has taken on the form of innate abilities, personality traits , emotional and intellectual capabilities, and as a developed ability (May er & Salovey, 1990). The evolution of EI as a construct has led to great debate about its place among the previously recognized intelligences. Weschler’s (1958) concept of mu ltiple intelligences forms the basis for the idea that EI is not a measure of an element of IQ, but rather an intelligence that can stand on its own, independent of intell ect, social intelligence, and other measures of intellectual abilities. Chronology of Theoretical Development The concept of emotional intelligence is often credited as stemming from the work of Thorndike (1920), Wechsler (1958), and (Fancher, 1985). Th ese early thinkers laid the foundation from which emotional in telligence was eventu ally born. Thorndike

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(1920) studied social intelligence which he defined as the ability to act rationally and intelligently while managing relationships with others. Weschler (1958) built his theoretical work from the foundation of Thorndike’s work and began to separate personal and social intelligence from innate intellectual abilities. This separation eventually led to divergent fields including EI. The early works of Thorndike (1920) and Weschler (1958) provided a foundation for the development of emotional intelligence as an independent intelligence. However, it took many years between their research and the research of Gardner (1983). The evolution from behaviorist psychology to cognitive research in the second half of the 20 th

century (Hunt, 1993) helped to build a foundation for the study of EI which is both behaviorist and cognitive in nature. This shift in the focus of the psychology field was instrumental in spurring the concept of EI. Perhaps spearheading the emotional intelligence research field was Gardner (1983) whose concept of multiple intelligences implicitly recognized the potential for an emotional state of intelligence. Intelligence had primarily been thought of in terms of intellectual or social intelligence. His theories of personal intelligence including intrapersonal (understanding one’s internal feelings) and interpersonal (recognizing the feelings of others) provided a supporting framework for the subsequent research on the concept of EI. Although the term emotional intelligence was not yet a part of the lexicon of academia, Gardner’s (1983) work was in the space that would eventually be termed emotional intelligence research. Gardner (1983) studied interpersonal and intrapersonal

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intelligence as they related to the capability to understand emotions, intentions, and motivations in oneself and others. Inter and intrapersonal intelligences combined provide a framework or foundation for Salovey and Mayer’s (1990) landmark evaluation of emotional intelligence. The field of psychology began to focus on how emotions and thought interact with one another. Bower (1981) and Mayer and Bremer (1985) studied mood and the impact on thought processes. Coupled with the work of Gardner (1983), the 1980s produced significant research in the realm of emotional connection to cognitive processes. The shift in thinking in some parts of the scientific community paved the way for later thinkers such as Mayer and Salovey (1990) to begin publishing articles focused on the concept of emotional intelligence and the term was coined. As leading thinkers in the study of EI, Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2004) defined EI as the capacity to recognize, manage, and leverage emotions to improve self and relationship management. The term emotional intelligence was coined by Salovey & Mayer (1990) through their research which stemmed from the efforts of Thorndike, Weschler, Gardner, and others as they formalized the definition of EI. This early definition was limited to the ability to read, understand, and recognize emotions in oneself and others. Later their definition expanded to perceiving and understanding emotions in others as well as managing and harnessing emotions in oneself (Salovey & Grewal, 2005; Mayer & Salovey, 1997). As academic research became more popular in professional and academic journals, author Daniel Goleman took the concept to the masses. His (1995) book

Full document contains 93 pages
Abstract: Like many employers, call centers are searching for ways to attract and retain talented individuals who can meet the needs of their customers. This quantitative study examined an identified problem in addressing the job satisfaction of employees in call centers (N = 49). It was hypothesized that the level of emotional intelligence (EI) in managers (N = 10) may have an impact on employee satisfaction. This problem and the hypothesis led to a series of questions concerning whether any of the four branches of emotional intelligence impact employee satisfaction. Many of the studies within the existing body of knowledge focused on EI and other factors such as bottom line results, employee engagement, and leadership effectiveness. What was known at the time of the study was that attrition in call centers is high and that there must be a series of factors related to this fact. Employee satisfaction was identified as a potential factor. To measure employee satisfaction, the Job Satisfaction Survey tool was used while the MSCEIT tool was used to measure manager emotional intelligence. The results of the MSCEIT for each manager were tested against the JSS results for their employees that participated in the study. The outcomes found that for each of the four branches (perceive use, understand, and manage) there was no statistically significant link. The study concluded that there was no discernable impact of manager's EI on the satisfaction of their employees. However, there was a relationship found between employee satisfaction and gender of manager. The conclusion of these results suggests that there is further opportunity to develop knowledge in this field. Further research should be developed to understand the relationship manager gender plays in employee satisfaction. It is suggested that additional variables be added to future studies and that the scope of future studies extend beyond internal factors and look at macro factors external to the workplace. Additionally, it is suggested that the body of knowledge may benefit from a longitudinal study that examines and tracks results for manager EI and employee satisfaction over time.