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Origins of, and theoretical background to, the EBW

The EBW has its origins in both rational and empirical studies of emotions and behaviours at work. Developed on the basis of research dating back to the 1990s, it seeks to bring together theoretical and research based understanding of the way emotions and behaviours impact on effectiveness at work and to provide a means of applying these when identifying and developing staff.

Traditionally emotions and behaviours have not been measured together with intelligence. Assessments have concentrated on either Intelligence (IQ) type or personality assessments. Both models have tried to explore how behaviour can affect success. Neither of these models addressed in detail how emotions and self-awareness can impact on an individual's success. Emotional Intelligence theories and questionnaires have attempted to address this by combining concepts of linear intelligence (more is better), with personality type constructs and emphasising the importance of understanding emotions and developing self-awareness. This has meant that there is considerable overlap between Personality and Emotional Intelligence models of behaviour.

The fundamental difference between most 'Personality Questionnaires' (PQs) and 'Emotional Intelligence Questionnaires' (EIQs) is that, whilst there is often a good deal of overlap in the domains they measure, the value systems that underlie these domains differ. Most personality models state that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' place to be on a scale, that all personalities are equally valid. Therefore, whilst being highly 'extravert' is helpful in some job roles, there are also negative aspects to this position and there are broadly equally weighted costs and benefits to both 'extraversion' and 'introversion'. Other roles may demand 'Introverts' rather than 'Extraverts' although there will again be costs associated with selecting Introverts.

This contention has been undermined to some extent by meta-analytic research into personality that suggests, for example, that higher conscientiousness scores are generally predictive of better job performance across a wide range of jobs (Ones, Viswesvaran & Schmidt, 1993). However, this does not exclude the possibility that there are some jobs for which high conscientiousness may have some costs.

The position taken by much of the literature on Emotional Intelligence (typified by Goleman 1996 & 1998) differs fundamentally from the PQ approach in that Emotional Intelligences are likened to competencies, that can be developed and that, therefore, the more you have the better. To clarify, the literature has been consistent in demonstrating the higher your cognitive intelligence, the better your job performance (e.g. Schmidt & Hunter 1998, Salgado & Anderson 2001) and that people with lower intelligence are therefore less desirable and at a competitive disadvantage when seeking employment. The Emotional Intelligence (EI) position will be broadly the same, if you do not behave conscientiously then you will be broadly less effective. The personality approach says that those who have a less conscientious personality and attitudes (and therefore behaviours) may be less effective in many ways but more effective in others (e.g. they may be better at dealing with ambiguity, coping with situations that are hard to structure or with the unexpected).

The development of the EBW model was initiated to some extent by this apparent conflict between the two models of behaviour. Whilst Personality and Emotional Intelligence are, theoretically, different constructs, there is a great deal of overlap in the behaviours they measure. Personality is thought of as patterns of consistency in an individual's behaviour across a range of situations. Whereas EI is a set of emotionally based behaviours that enable people to be more effective. Most EI researchers would consider that by raising an individual's self awareness and with the right training these emotionally based behaviours can be developed to make an individual successful in the workplace. In the applied context most organisations will not be as concerned about whether they are measuring conscientiousness as a Personality or Emotional Intelligence dimension as they will be about whether they are measuring behaviours that are relevant to the roles they are seeking to fill or develop.

The origins of the EBW model lie in research into attitudes, emotions and behaviours as predictors of job performance carried out over a number of years. Certain clusters of behaviours emerged consistently as effective predictors of job effectiveness across a range of roles. Still, other clusters showed no consistency in their relation to job effectiveness but were clearly meaningful behavioural constructs. For example, some scales, such as Empathy, were often found to be zero to negative predictors of many jobs, conflicting with the EI literature.

The EBW assessment was developed based on the predictive clusters of behaviours but supplementing them with other questions to broaden out the scales, and with other scales suggested by the Emotional Intelligence and personality literature. These were trialled in a large public sector organisation, in a university and given to a diverse occupational sample to confirm the internal structure of the tool, and the EBW scales emerged as a result.

The core items in some of these scales have been found to be predictive of success across a wide range of roles, most notably the Conscientiousness, Decisive and Motivation Scales. However, we are reluctant to suggest that they are generally predictive of every and all jobs imaginable as it is more important to match the needs of the job to areas covered by the scales than rely on empirical research carried out for different jobs. Other scales have not been found to be empirically predictive (e.g. Empathy) and this may be because the relationship with the job is not purely linear (e.g. it may be possible to be either too empathetic or to be insufficiently empathetic, middle positions on the scale being ideal) or because different levels suit different jobs. Some scales are based on more theoretical work and do not have the core of predictive items that have been proven empirically over the years (such as: Adaptability) but these, like Empathy, remain important work-based areas that should be explored.

The EBW assessment is based around a core of highly predictive questions across a range of jobs but have been supplemented with other questions to ensure scales are measuring in sufficient breadth to cover the range of tasks and functions. According to EI theory, the higher a person scores on each of these scales the more effective they will be, but we would emphasise that there are strengths and weaknesses associated with every score you can obtain. When using the EBW model and the EBW assessment one should consider the scale descriptions and how they relate to the role rather than operating on the simplistic basis that high scores on scales are, per se, a positive thing.