Too Much and “Good” or “Bad” Emotional Intelligence / Empathy


High levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are generally associated with high performance and success. However, there might also be a kind of emotional overthinking with adverse effects on work performance. And, EI is not in itself a “good” or a “bad” personality characteristic.

Emotional hypersensitivity does even sense covered negative emotions [1], which often cannot be addressed and therefore leaving an unsatisfactory emotional pendency in a group [1]. Overdoses of negative feelings and pain of others may be a burden for anybody exposed to it, not only leaders, nurses, and the like [2]. Also, motional contagion that, due to empathy for the physical and psychological suffering of others, can spread across a team [2]. This is a relevant phenomenon for work places to address as it can cause depression and sickness. Some organizations, therefore, introduce stress-free zones [2]. High levels of EI allows people also to hold back their own emotions, resulting in a possible unauthentic personal presentation, or the image of being closed, uncommunicative, or even dishonest [3]. A form of Individuals’ extreme prudence, so called prudent paranoia, can be the result of very high EI causing them to pay enormous attention to the environment [4]. These examples show that elevated levels of EI can be detrimental to calm and satisfactory work places, and therefore may have an adverse impact on performance and career. In addition to the well-documented reasons for why high EI as a likable soft-skill is a positive influence for career success, there is also another face of EI.  For example, if a person’s tendency is to approach conflicts more aggressively, EI is reinforcing that tendency regardless of whether it is the most altruistic and helpful approach or not [5].


[1] Rozell, E., & Scroggins, W. (2010). How much is too much?: The role of emotional intelligence in selfmanaged work team satisfaction and group processes. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 1633-49. doi:10.1108/13527591011028915

[2] Young, E. (2016). I feel your pain. New Scientist, 230(3073), 32-35.

[3] Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2014). The dark side of emotional intelligence. Management Today, (10), 60.

[4] Kramer, R. M. (2002). When Paranoia Makes Sense. Harvard Business Review, 80(7), 62.

[5] Moeller, C., & Kwantes, C. T. (2015). Too Much of a Good Thing? Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Conflict Behaviors. Journal Of Social Psychology, 155(4), 314-324. doi:10.1080/00224545.2015.1007029

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About mathias sager

PSYCHOLOGIST and Independent Researcher I'm born in Zurich and grew up in Switzerland. For many years I lived in Tokyo, and also in Pune/India. I'm passionate about developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all my work that is based on research and supported by intuition and art. Through teaching, counseling, and leading indivuals and teams around the world my goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for individual well-being and the common good alike. Happy if you reach me on, connect on social media, or email directly to Developing human potential is my passion! - Independent Awareness Intelligence Research (mathias sager - Psychology, global) - MSc in Psychology (University of Liverpool) - Postgraduate in Conflict Management, Leadership and Crisis Communication (University of Applied Sciences Winterthur, Switzerland) - Executive Master in Business Administration (EMBA, iimt Fribourg, Switzerland) - Bachelor in Education Sciences (Switzerland)