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

About mathias sager

Independent researcher, artist, social entrepreneur, and leadership and strategy advisor I was born in Zurich in 1975 and grew up in Switzerland. Currently, I’m living in Tokyo. I love open-minded people everywhere and the passion to working relentlessly for developing human potential, which is an overarching theme throughout all his work. I have extensive experience in leadership and management, organizational psychology research, and learning & development practice. I have worked as a teacher, a leadership trainer, as well as a senior manager responsible for client relationships, counseling, and virtual teams around the world. Also, I’m a social entrepreneur and serving as a strategy and leadership advisor in different ways. My goal is to inspire with interdisciplinary, innovative, and cross-cultural approaches to personal and professional development for the people’s individual well-being and common good alike. Continuously learning himself and keen to help, I appreciate any questions or feedback you may have at any time. Please connect here on any social media, as well as per direct email
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