Evidence based management uses best scientific evidence available to help in decision making (Thomas & Pring 2004). Air Canada adopted this management approach and employed the use of emotional intelligence, EI, during their selection process to identify pilots with high EI. An intensive research in social science reveals EI as a key determinant of success in individuals and the organisations they serve (Diana Durek & Shawna Sheldon 2009).
Accordingly, Air Canada has relied on this valuable piece of evidence and incorporated EI tests to select candidates who possess the emotional and social competencies needed for long term success as an Air Canada pilot (The EQ Edge 2006). Pilots have wide areas of responsibility, they function like managers who oversee all aspects of station operations and make quick decisions at work. EI test instruments are needed to provide objective information about candidates’ level of EI, the set of abilities to perceive, express and assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotions and regulate them in oneself and others.
Research has shown that emotions have a greater influence than cognition and it has a profound effect on almost everything we do at the workplace (McShane & Von Glinow 2009). Air Canada acquires a strategic position by having pilots with high EI. This bolsters employees’ self worth and creates a conducive work environment with better employes relations. The ability to motivate and inspire fellow co workers largely hinges on pilots’ EI. With high EI, pilots are more sensitive to competing demands from the four drives (acquire, bond, learn, defend).
They can better avoid impulsive behaviour from those drives and judge the best way to act to fulfil those drive demands in a social context (Mc Shane & Von Glinow 2009). Air Canada would expect their pilots to be adept at relationship management, the highest level among the four dimensions of EI, where pilots can recognise and regulate others’ emotions. Possessing high EI enables pilots to minimize emotional dissonance, the conflict between true and required emotions.
Especially for Air Canada, a service industry which requires high emotional labour; employees are expected to express organisatonally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions (McShane & Von Glinow 2008). Deep acting minimises emotional dissonance when employees change their true emotions to match the required. To do so, employees must possess high EI and the ability to self manage and display desired emotions, serve as good role models who display organisational awareness and motivate other coworkers.
As such, identification with Air Canada is possible when employees agree with values congruent with that of the organisation. Employees develop affective commitment, feelings of loyalty towds the organization. By having employees with high EI, be it service crews or pilots, there would be greater team dynamics and increased organisational and social awareness. This in turn leads to job satisfaction and affective commitment, resulting in low turnover where customers enjoy a consistent service provided by better skilled employees.
Eventually, both employees and customers’ satisfaction are maximised and this generates greater profit for organisation. This way, Air Canada gains a competitive edge which is largely made possible with effective regulation of emotions at the workplace. Long working hours and the constant need to make quick, accurate decisions are excessive demands that pilot must deal with. Consequently, they face the danger of work overload or job burnout which is the process of emotional exhausation, cynicism and reduced efficacy (Mc Shane & Von Glinow 2009).
This may adversely affect a pilot’s ability to deliver his duties well. Air Canada recognises that stressors produce different stress levels in different people. Thus, Air Canada selects candidates with high EI, who are assumed to have higher threshold levels of resistance and resilience, enabling them to better cope with stress. A study on the collapse of Enron Corporation reveals that part of the downfall was attributed to the forced ranking system, a talent management approach where individuals’ performances are plotted along a bell curve (Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Sutton, Robert I).
This system eliminates the bottom 10% of the workers at each evaluation (Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, the successful practitioner of forced ranking). Enron failed to understand that different organisations have different cultures and workforces, so what GE needs to be successful is different from what Enron needed. I would look into how the forced ranking system failed to fit with Enron’s organisation culture. Far from clear that the practice was worth emulating, the infamous Enron top managers, who were driven by greed, relied on fads and implemented the system.
They were driven by individual beliefs and management experiences that forced ranking would create a top performing workforce. Evidently, they failed to question whether the ranking system would work since it fitted so well with what they thought they “know”. We must first evaluate Enron’s organizational culture, which consist of the values and assumptions shared within an organisation (McShane & Von Glinow 2009). Enron’s shared assumption, defined as unconscious, taken-for-granted perceptions or beliefs, was that Enron had minimal tolerance for poor results, evident in the use of forced ranking.
This created an atmosphere of pent-up anger, hatred, hostility and intense competition amongst employees. On hindsight, Enron’s shared values were distorted as its top management, including the CEO, was obsessed with profit growth and individual initiatives which tipped the culture to one that gradually relied on unethical corner cuttings. Ultimately, the pressure to produce desirable results overwhelmed the requirements of desirable corporate values such as ethics and honesty. The bell curve catalysed an unhealthy rat race culture in Enron, where employees would do anything in order to rise to the top- and not be eliminated.
The system limited risk-taking, creativity, teamwork and discouraged Enron employees from seeking help or extra training, out of fear that they would be viewed as low performers. Forced firings created an unhealthy competition among employees as they competed for ratings, knowing the bottom 10% would be inevitably eliminated. Consequently, fear and selfishness resulted and most employees had no incentives to help one another, share information and function as an effective team. Not knowing when one would be eliminated, uncertainty and distrust remained.
The longer the uncertainty, the more morale suffered and many employees refined their resumes and looked for new alternative job prospects. Meanwhile, employees, especially the average performers, developed continuance commitment, a calculative attachment where they do not identify with Enron but stayed on as it was either too costly to quit or the lack of better job prospects elsewhere (Mc Shane & Von Glinow 2009). The use of EVLN model identifies four ways employees respond to dissatisfaction (Withy & Cooper 1989).
One former Enron executive revealed that the whole culture at the vice-president level and above, became a yes-man culture and the extreme focus on individual ambition undermined teamwork and organisational commitment. Evidently, employees did not resort to Voice for they were convinced that it would not work. Employees resorted to Exit and leave Enron or Neglect, counter productive work behaviour, which is voluntary behaviour harmful to Enron’s effectiveness (McShane & Von Glinow 2008). Consequently, employees who experienced continuance commitment became indifferent when they did not feel valued and had no incentives to be loyal to Enron.
They formed groups and gossipped about their managers who were tasked to evaluate subordinates’ performances. These counter productive behaviours were highly detrimental to individuals’ motivation to perform at work. Using the Four-Drive Theory, Enron failed to motivate employees and the workplace could not fulfil and balance all four drives (to acquire, bond, learn and defend). Enron had internal competition which fulfilled the drive to acquire but failed to balance the competitive conditions when there was no supportive social environment when the top management was obsessed with profit making (McShane & Von Glinow 2009).
There were stressors in the workplace when employees faced intense pressure to meet the targets set. Top management exerted psychological harassment on both managers and employees, which affected their dignity, injured their self worth (McShane & Von Glinow 2009). Enron could have allowed employees to temporarily withdraw from the stressors by taking personal days off, to change stress perceptions, to control the consequences of stress or to receive social support. Despite stress management being a pressing issue, Enron failed to remove stressors and focused on profit making instead.
Under a forced ranking system, Enron employees developed negative feelings of the organization when their expectations were unfulfilled amidst a competitive environment. This affected their behavioural intentions, the motivation to engage in a particular behaviour towards Enron (McShane & Von Glinow 2009), as employees strategised to protect themselves against intense competition. The cluster of beliefs, assessed feelings and behavioural intentions towards Enron comprise attitude (McShane & Von Glinow 2009), which in turn determines behaviour towards Enron.
As employees experienced negative emotions over time, they inevitably formed negative attitudes towards their colleagues. This reminds me of our grading system whereby certain grades are dished out to various percentiles within the cohort. Similar to the employees under a forced ranking system, as the bell curve is drawn, our fate is decided. I had friends who hated the bell curve upon entering university as they felt it obscured what the absolute standard is. As such, they were unhappy and developed negative attitudes.
They started advising their friends not to come to University because it was a hostile environment where students blindly joined in the rat race and pitted against one another. On hindsight, it is natural for any reasonable Enron employee to feel and act this way when immersed in intense compeition. The alternative, which is to remain positive towards the organisation and colleagues, is impossible and would require high emotional labour. References Withey, M. J. & Cooper, W. H. (1989). Predicting Exit, Voice, Loyalty and Neglect.
Adminsitrative Science Quarterly, 34, 521-39. Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Sutton, Robert I T Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action McShane, S. & Von Glinow, M. (2009). Organizational Behaviour: Emerging Realities for the Workplace Revolution. (4th ed. ). New York: McGraw Hill. Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Sutton, Robert I Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense Mayer, J. D. , Salovey, P. & Caruso , D. R. (2000). Models of Emotional Intelligence. Handbook of Human Intelligence. 2 ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.