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The role of emotional intelligence training in developing meaningfulness at work

Thory, Kathryn (2015) The role of emotional intelligence training in developing meaningfulness at work. In: The International Conference on Organization and Management (ICOM) 2015, 2015-11-22 - 2015-11-23, InterContinental Hotel.

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    To date, there remains a significant gap in the western management literature in understanding how individuals proactively shape their work environments to create meaningfulness. Equally, little is known about how training and development supports this process. This article shows how emotional intelligence (EI) training in the UK nurtures meaningfulness through the development of EI skills and aptitudes. The article explores how EI skills are then used at work to develop tasks, roles and relationships of worth and value. Data is collected from participant observations and interviews with trainers and managers attending three externally provided, ‘popular’ EI training courses. Interpreting the data through Lips-Wiersma and Morris’s (2009; 2011) model of meaningful work enables a clear articulation of managers’ independent capacity to shape their work environments to create four, interconnected sources of meaningfulness: inner development, expressing one’s full potential, unity with others and serving others. The findings also show the tension between the ‘inspiration’ and ‘reality’ of fulfilling these four existential needs at work through EI skills and aptitudes. Findings also exemplify how this is a constant process of search, balance and struggle which sometimes pivots work against life values and demands. Practically, the study demonstrates the importance of training for meaning making at work and offers recommendations for HRD practitioners. Implications for transferring innovative western management practices such as EI and meaningfulness/engagement processes across national contexts are discussed. Overall, this study provides empirical evidence that sources of meaningfulness are a core ingredient of EI training when popular EI models are used. It points towards future research on meaningfulness training and transfer to new contrasting regional contexts such as the middle east.