Assessing the Social Intelligence of Service Sector Employees in India.

AuthorGoswami, Meghna


In a highly competitive business environment, organizations hire and retain employees with sound technical and cognitive skills. However, traditional cognitive intelligence alone does not ensure success at workplace (Singh, 2008). According to Cherniss (2000), two-thirds of competencies leading to superior performance in the workplace are emotional or social in nature. Contemporary work environment is marked by team based organizations, where employee interpersonal relations are crucial for effectiveness of such an organization. Social Intelligence (SI) is intelligence applied to how individuals behave in various social settings. It facilitates cordial interpersonal relations, understanding of social context, related norms and harmony among team members. Thus, SIis one of the important prerequisites in workplace settings. SI as a concept was first given in 1909 but very little research has been undertaken on it within organizational sphere. SI is useful in many ways as it "creates a sense of identity for the individual in addition to emphasizing self-management and interpersonal skills; more importantly, it focuses on thinking and resultant behavior within social contexts" (Njoroge & Yazdanifard, 2014:168).Employees with low SI make others feel angry and irked through their behavior which often leads to conflict and hostility at workplace (Wawra, 2009). Socially intelligent employees are confident in social situations, confident and appropriate in expressing their feelings and emotions, capable of adapting, understanding and responding effectively, demonstrate a genuine interest in their co-workers and show a great level of self-awareness (Joseph & Lakshmi, 2010). Thus, SI is an important skill in a workplace setting enabling employees to get along with colleagues, maintain cordial relations, be good team players and work in harmony with others. In present day team based organizations SI is a crucial employee trait. A socially intelligent workforce would be able to develop relationships and business networks that will further organizational interests (Njoroge & Yazdanifard, 2014). SI positively impacts employee behaviors in terms of job related outcomes such as job satisfaction, positive work attitudes, leadership skills and management of organizational change (Njoroge & Yazdanifard, 2014).

Previous studies in India in the realm of SI have mainly focused on assessing the SI level of school or college students (Gani & Mudasir, 2015; Sembiyan &Vishwanathan, 2012), thus, indicating an obvious gap in the research on SI in Indian business organizations. The present study intends to address this research gap by assessing the SI level of employees from service sector industries --IT (information technology), BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) and hospitality in India. The study also aims to study if the level of SI of employees differs with respect to demographic factors like gender, age, work experience and industry. Thorndike (1920) stated SI increases with age and experience of a person. Previous studies having assessed whether SI differs with gender show contrasting results, some of them conclude that SI does not differ with gender (Lovejoy, 2008; Mackova, 2014) whereas others hold that SI differs significantly with gender (Sembiyan & Vishwanathan, 2012). Due to lack of unanimity in the results of previous studies further research is needed to explore if SI differs with gender. Thorndike and Stein (1937) stated that SI increases with experience. Emotional intelligence (EI), a subset of SI, (Salovey & Mayer, 1991) varies with age (Singh & Srivastava, 2012). Therefore, SI should vary with age. With this point in view, this study intends to examine the differences in SI of employees with respect to gender, age, work experience and industry.

In the domain of business management research EI is a popular variable that has been widely studied and measured across various industries and cultures. EI is a subset of the wider concept of SI (Salovey & Mayer, 1990) and makes up the intrapersonal aspect of SI that focuses on knowing one's feelings, thoughts and emotions and managing them. However, there has been a lack of research in the area of SI due to inability to distinguish SI from general intelligence (Marlowe, 1986; Riggio, 1991) and lack of appropriate measurement scales for measuring SI(Zeidner Matthews, Roberts & MacCann, 2003). But in recent times, works of Albrecht (2006), Boyatzis and Goleman (2008) have established the importance of SI by clearing the ambiguity surrounding the construct and its tools of measurement.

The labor market increasingly rewards social skills (Deming, 2017) and more importantly, social interaction is difficult to automate (Autor, 2015). Therefore, studying and assessing social skills of employees is crucial for the success of contemporary organizations. Social skills are critical to business performance in service sector and to an employee's ability to advance at workplace. With this point in view the present study was undertaken with the intent to assess the SI level of employees in service sector industry and to explore if SI level changes with regard to certain demographic factors --gender, age, work experience and industry. Results of the study would help organizations in assessing SI level of their employees and in understanding the impact of demographic factors on SI level of employees.

Social Intelligence

The term social intelligence (SI) was first used by Dewey (1909) and Lull (1911), but the modern concept was given by Thorndike's (1920) who divided intelligence into three facets pertaining to the ability to understand and manage ideas (abstract intelligence), concrete objects (mechanical intelligence), and people (SI). Moss and Hunt (1927:108) defined SI as the "ability to get along with others". Zirkel (2000) believed that SI is closely related to an individual's personality and behavior. Those with higher degree of SI are fully aware of themselves and their environment; as a result they are well in control of their emotions; make sound decisions about their goals in life. SI competencies include social awareness and relationship management competencies, such as empathy and teamwork (Boyatzis, 2011). Silvera et al. (2001) introduced three components of SI namely, social information processing, social skills and social awareness

Although many definitions of SI have been formulated, the majority can be placed into one of two categories (Ford &Tisak, 1983): those that endorse social-cognitive skills (i.e. skills involved in planning social actions and in decoding social information) and the others that stress upon the ability to respond adaptively in social situations.

This study considers SI as the ability to understand people, social situations and social norms and to act in a socially acceptable manner. It involves the ability to read and interpret individual's behavior, mannerisms, moods, emotions and body language; knowledge of social norms and rules and socially acceptable behavior patterns in various settings; ability to communicate with others and maintain cordial interpersonal relations and ability to regulate one's own behavior, moods and emotions as per social situation. As per the study SI comprises four components, namely:

* Social Information Processing implies how an individual understands or makes sense of the social world. Individuals take cues from facial expressions and body language of others whom they interact with. This helps them to perceive the mood and apparent nature of the person. A five step model of social information processing elaborates how individual's process information received from the social environment (Crick &Dodge,1994).

* Encoding receives social cues from the environment.

* Mental representation integrating the cues and matching it with past experiences to make sense of it.

* Response search--Once the information is represented in a meaningful way individual searches for a behavioral response.

* Response decision evaluates the potential consequences of each of the responses.

* Enactment--Selected...

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