A Contradiction in Terms? Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence in a Construction Management Environment


  • This study was supported by studentships from Manchester Business School and the Economic Social Research Council (+3), as well as grants from the Statistical Society of Manchester and the Northern Leadership Academy (all UK) to the first author.

Corresponding author email: d.lindebaum@liverpool.ac.uk


Emotional intelligence (EI) has been hailed as being critical to individual performance within organizations. However, recent theoretical debates indicate that scholars need to apply a more differentiated lens when examining the utility of EI in a particular organizational context. In this study, we seek to contribute preliminary empirical evidence to this debate. Drawing upon an interpretivist approach and a narrative analysis, we examine how UK construction project managers make sense of EI, and how this shapes their receptiveness to the construct. Our data analysis suggests that there are enduring, albeit changing, characteristics of the industry and the sensemaking processes of project managers that renders the construct, at least for the time being, of limited utility. Thus, our analysis is a cautionary tale for those management scholars and practitioners who argue for the ‘trainability’ of EI.