Managing emotions and team work in IT projects

Globalization and development of new technologies have made it very important for organization managers to critically consider the importance of emotions in managing teamwork within organizations. Through globalization, people from different cultures and backgrounds interact within the organizational setup. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in determining the performance of organizations. This is because emotional intelligence helps in determining individual reactions to different phenomena. For information technology (IT) projects, emotional intelligence helps in determining performance of virtual and face to face teams. This paper has discussed different ways that can be used to measure emotional intelligence including self-report assessments, 360 degree tests and performance measure tests. The results of this study can help managers handle issues of emotional intelligence and improve the performance of their organizations. This paper is based on two research questions which are: how can an ability such as managing emotions be measured in individuals and are there cultural differences with regard to managing emotions in teams?

  

Introduction

Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to perceive, understand and manage an individual’s emotions (Brackett & Salovey, 2006 p. 34). Emotional intelligence is different from other personality measures like intellectual intelligence (IQ). Emotional intelligence is not very easy to measure and there are some psychologists who believe that it cannot be measured at all. One of the easiest ways of measuring emotional intelligence is through self-report questionnaires that ask individuals to report about their skills and abilities. Some of the questions asked are the effective ways in which an individual can manage emotions and how to recognize emotions among other questions (Ciarrochi, Chan & Bajgar, 2001 p. 1106). However, the weakness of this is that most people will tend to exaggerate their achievements and abilities while minimize their weaknesses. Even if an individual would have been honest in the answers that he or she provides, the individual may lack the necessary insight to provide accurate answers for the questions asked (Mayer, 2004 p. 208).

360 degree tests can be used to eliminate the weaknesses of the self-report questionnaires. The 360 degree tests involve other people who understand and know an individual’s ability of managing emotions answering questions about his or her ability. Some of the people involved include line managers, friends, team members and subordinates among others. The advantage of this is that there is little chance of providing an exaggerated report about an individual’s ability. The line managers, friends, team members and subordinates among others are likely to provide a more accurate report about an individual’s ability and social interactions.

The other method that can be used involve performance test that can be used to measure emotional intelligence. These are tests that present an individual with practical problems from which the individual is expected to provide correct answers. These tests therefore require an individual to practically demonstrate their emotional intelligence skills.

These tests are very different from the 360 degree tests. However, they are very expensive to construct and implement. The other problem is that some of the proprietary tests are not validated.

All the emotional intelligence tests measure different personality traits including self-awareness, resilience, motivation, interpersonal sensitivity, influence, decisiveness and integrity.

Through technology and liberalization of international trade people of different cultures have found themselves implementing the same project (Lee, Park & Lee, 2013). This is an exciting experience that is also fraught with challenges of ensuring that people from different cultures interact with one another without losing their decorum. Cultural diversity therefore involves building connection with people from different parts of the world. Diversity also involves communicating with the people and motivating one another while achieving the project’s goals and objectives (Hoegl & Gemuenden, 2001 p. 438).

An organization’s culture is very important in driving the success of an individual, team and the entire organization. Organization’s culture can also shape people’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors within the organization. Emotions also play a role in determining organization’s culture. The power of an organization’s culture is due to the emotional needs of employees and other stakeholders within the organization (Gurjal & Ahuja, 2011). This power is also due to how the emotional needs are fulfilled by leaders, teams and the general interaction within the organization. Emotions are processes resulting from the social context in which they are generated and therefore influence how individuals think and act within the social context. Culture therefore provides a medium within which individuals can think, act and form bonds of interaction among themselves while implementing projects within the organization (Downey, Roberts & Stough, 2011 p. 31).

There are cultural differences with regard to managing emotions in teams. The diversity of project management teams often lead to differences in thinking and actions (Ayoko, Konrad & Boyle, 2012 p. 157). Dealing with people from different cultures often generates powerful responses and energies which may require emotional intelligence to manage. It is important to note that emotional intelligence is needed for effective functioning of teams. However, there are other factors which can ensure effective communication in diverse teams (Cao, Fu & Fu, 2011). Whether the factors are confusing or intriguing, delightful or frustrating, disagreeable or desirable, the factors touch members of project management teams and produce an emotional and intellectual response (Downey, Roberts & Stough, 2011).

The research questions for this study are: how can an ability such as managing emotions be measured in individuals and are there cultural differences with regard to managing emotions in teams? These questions were chosen based on the importance of emotions in influencing organization culture and the performance of the organization. Through the study, it is expected that the cultural differences with regards to managing emotions will be effectively understood. This will help in further improving the performance of organizations (Perumal & Abu Bakar, 2011 p. 92).

Methods

20 senior managers were selected for this study. The participants will be drawn from sexes, 13 male and 7 female. The participants will be aged between 35 and 50 years. The senior managers were chosen because of the important role that they play in ensuring success of IT projects. Some of these projects are very complex and require a good understanding of emotional intelligence so that they can be successfully implemented.

Self-report questionnaires and performance tests will be used for the study. Self-report questionnaires ask individuals to report about their skills and abilities. Some of the questions that are asked in the questionnaires are effective ways of recognizing other people’s emotions, how to manage an individual’s emotions and how to deal with others while in an emotive state. This method was chosen because it allows individuals to report on their emotions. If the participants can be honest enough, then the questionnaires can generate very accurate results. However, one of the weaknesses with these tests is that they are very vulnerable to exaggeration and generalization by participants. The generalizations and exaggerations affect the integrity of data obtained from the questionnaires. The other problem with this method is that participants are not likely to provide information about their weaknesses.

The different questions asked in the test include: whether the participant is aware of the feelings of the other people he or she is interacting with, whether the participant can determine the source of his or her distress when he or she is upset, whether the participant is happy with his or her personality despite the weaknesses, whether the participant can criticize him or herself for the mistakes that he or she makes, whether the participant is comfortable in an emotionally charged environment, whether the participant is confrontational, whether the participant is confident about his or her skills and abilities.

There are many performance tests that have been constructed to measure emotional intelligence. These are tests that present an individual with practical problems from which the individual is expected to provide correct answers. These tests therefore require an individual to practically demonstrate their emotional intelligence skills.

The emotional intelligence test will describe situations that the managers are exposed to in the course of their duty. Some of the questions asked in the quiz are: whether the participants feel excited about what they are doing, whether the participants like their daily activities and look forward to meeting their daily challenges, whether the participants put themselves in pressure when they are exposed with a challenging situation, whether the participant has strategies of dealing with pressure situations, the perception of the participants to pressure situations and whether they consider the situations as challenges or crisis, whether participants view the sensation or feeling that results from a pressure situation in a negative way, whether the participant experiences negative thought in his or her mind when exposed to pressure situation, whether the participant is able to let go of things he or she cannot control in a pressure moment, whether the participant is able to freely share his feelings and emotions with others, whether the participant has ever released his pressure on other employees when he or she is faced with a challenging situation. For each of the above questions, there will be a set of five answers including strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree and strongly agree. These answers were given different weights.

This method was chosen to help eliminate some of the weaknesses of the self-report tests. The performance tests provide an array of questions. However, the limitation with this method is that the tests are very difficult to construct and implement. In addition, some of the tests are not validated therefore affecting the validity of data in the tests.

Results

No. of people Score Sex
1 22 Male
2 28 Male
3 12 Female
4 20 Male
5 25 Male
6 18 Female
7 20 Male
8 17 Female
9 25 Male
10 20 Male
11 20 Female
12 10 Male
13 18 Male
14 15 Female
15 20 Female
16 11 Male
17 18 Female
18 19 Male
19 15 Male
20 20 Male

 

Discussion

The performance of an organization is influenced by the culture and emotional intelligence within the organization. The emotional intelligence will determine how individuals from different cultures and backgrounds interact with one another. From the above results, it can be seen that the mean performance of the managers was average. This can be attributed to the fact that at the senior level, many managers are taught on how to manage their emotions so that they influence the subordinates positively. The results also indicate that males generally performed better than females in the emotional intelligence test. This can be attributed to the fact that males have a better way of perceiving other people’s emotions. From psychology, women are always likely to react in emotional ways. It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with being emotional. However, the emotions should not have a negative effect on the subordinates that the managers are interacting with. In most societies, an expression of emotions is considered as a sign of weakness. This can explain why women find it easy to express their feelings and emotions when compared to men. On the other hand, men process their emotions internally and are likely to keep quiet when faced with a challenging situation.

At the senior managerial level, most of the employees have been trained to look up to their daily challenges. They are therefore well prepared to surmount their challenges. The managers are also aware that they should not carry negative emotions which they do not have control over when they are faced with challenging situations. In many organizations, communication is a very important facet (Berg & Karlsen, 2014 p. 449).  As has been mentioned, the results show that the managers have an average performance in the emotional intelligence tests.

Conclusion

Globalization, advancement of technology and liberalization of trade have made it important for managers to consider the importance of emotional intelligence in managing teamwork within organizations. Emotional intelligence comes into play when considering all teams within an organization. In most cases, project teams are made up of people from different backgrounds. For information technology (IT) projects, emotional intelligence helps in determining performance of virtual and face to face teams.

Emotional intelligence is defined as ability to perceive, understand and manage an individual’s emotions. This is different from other measures like intelligence quotient. Emotional intelligence is not very easy to measure and there are some psychologists who believe that it cannot be measured at all. Some of the tests that can be used to measure emotional intelligence include the self-report test, 360 degree test and performance measurement tests.

The study conducted above used self-report tests and performance measurement tests. Self-report tests allow individuals to report on their strengths and weaknesses. The problem with these tests is that they are vulnerable to exaggerations as individuals will focus mainly on their strong points and divulge few details about their weaknesses. These problems can be eliminated using the performance measurement tests which are more objective. However, the problem with the performance measurement tests is that they are very difficult and expensive to construct and implement. It is important to note that it is very difficult to measure emotional intelligence and therefore there were no better methods that would have been used for this study.

Through the study, I have learnt the importance of emotional intelligence in project management especially for IT projects. One of the things that has been reinforced is that project management teams are composed of people from diverse backgrounds and it is therefore important to learn how to interact with people from different backgrounds. I have also learnt the importance of being honest while answering questions on emotional intelligence. The honesty will help in generating valid results which can go a long way in helping improve emotional intelligence.

 

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