Teresa Lara


The study of emotional intelligence (EI) has grown in popularity over recent decades. Some authors have argued that EI results in heightened personal and professional success. Middle managers, in particular, are believed to require EI, as they are tasked with linking and coordinating the strategic and operational levels of the organization. Having EI is believed to help middle managers develop relationships; influence others and garner their support; create harmony among stakeholders; and communicate, collaborate with, and lead others. All of these activities require understanding and managing others, their needs, and their emotions--in short, all of these activities require EI. However, while some evidence exists that EI contributes to performance, the specific role of EI in performance (and whether other factors also need to be present for high performance to occur) is unclear. This study examined the use and impact of EI among performing and high-performing middle managers in the workplace. Special attention was given to examining whether the use of EI varies for average performing versus high-performing middle managers. This study used a mixed-method design. Ten average performers and 11 high performers completed an EI assessment. Of these, four performers and five high performers completed an interview regarding their interest in the study and awareness of the study topic, their personal traits, and their workplace impacts. Descriptive statistics and t tests were calculated to determine and compare the EI scores across the samples. Content analysis was used to examine the interview results. Levels of EI were found to be generally consistent across both groups. However, self-reports seemed to indicate that high performers possessed slightly higher levels of self-awareness, EI, and people skills, traits of enthusiasm, high energy, and positivity; good communication skills; and skill in handling complexity and details. No significant differences were found in the impacts and leadership of performers versus high performers. These findings suggested that EI might not directly contribute to middle manager performance. Although limitations of self-reported data affected the study and this research should be repeated with a larger sample size and improved measurement tools, some recommendations for companies were offered. These included not making EI training a strong focus in developing leadership talent and screening for and developing desired traits in the employee base.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Research projects (MSOD); Emotional intelligence; Middle managers

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Jamieson, Dave;