Enhancing emotional competences in the context of unemployment. a longitudinal analysis of the effects on well-being and employability

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Since the first writings about Emotional Intelligence (EI) it was believed that EI is linked with and can predict important life outcomes (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Evidence shows that EI is related to and can predict variety of cognitive and behavioural outcomes, such as academic and work performance, decision-making, career development, career adaptability and employability. (Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2009; Di Fabio, Palazzeschi, Asulin-Peretz & Gati, 2013; Fugate, Kinicki & Ashfort, 2004; Joseph & Newman, 2010; Van Rooy & Viswesvaran, 2004). Moreover, numerous studies showed that EI is positively related with psychological and physical well-being and mental health (Martins, Ramalho & Morin, 2010; Schutte, Malouff, Thorsteinsson, Bhullar & Rooke, 2007). Besides, recent years yielded numerous EI or Emotional Competences (EC0F ) trainings and intervention programs aimed at increasing the level of EC among different target groups. The general conclusion is that EC interventions are promising and that EC is something that can be improved and developed (Schutte, Malouff & Thorsteinsson, 2013). Furthermore, different cognitive, behavioral and health-related aspects were also increased through EC interventions, proving that, besides EC, important life outcomes can also be successfully improved. Although the predictive power of EC has been proved in many previous studies, and the results about EC development have been promising, these studies have mainly been focused on privileged populations and contexts. The focus of the present research is to study the effects of the EC intervention in a specific and different context, such as the unemployment context. In this line, the aim of the present study is to examine whether EC can be developed in an unprivileged population, such as unemployed adults, and whether this improvement can predict improvements in different aspects of unemployed people´s lives. In order to reach this objective three empirical studies have been developed and conducted, following a longitudinal experimental design. The aim of the first study is to examine whether the training in EC can increase the level of EC of the unemployed participants and if the training effects are moderated by the unemployment duration. Moreover, study 1 pretends to test if changes in EC can predict changes in indicators of physical and psychological well-being, such as perceived stress, somatic complaints, mental health and mood. In the second study, the focus is on employability prospects of unemployed adults and how the EC intervention might improve those prospects in short and long term. More precisely, study 2 examines whether the levels of employability, job search, entrepreneurial self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intention can be improved through the EC intervention and whether these improvements can be maintained six months after the intervention. Moreover, study 2 focuses on an objective indicator of employability as well, testing if the EC intervention affects the actual reemployment success. Finally, study 3 is dedicated to testing one more possible determinant of the intervention effects, job search behavior, and to examining whether changes in EC after the intervention can predict changes in satisfaction with life, optimism, interpersonal relationships and adaptive coping strategies. In order to reach these research aims, a controlled experimental longitudinal design with one experimental and one control group and three data collection (before the intervention – T1, one month after – T2, and six months after T1 - T3) times was used. The control group completed all the same measures in the same periods as the experimental group. From 212 people who initially applied for the training, 75 were randomly assigned to either experimental (41 participants) or control group (34 participants) and the experimental group went through 2 and half day training. The control group was offered the training after the last data collection. The intervention that was used was a previously tested and validated intervention by Kotsou and colleagues (Kotsou, Nelis, Gregoire & Mikolajczak, 2011) based on Mayer and Salovey´s four-branch model of emotional intelligence (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Mayer, Caruso & Salovey, 1999). The general aim of the intervention was to improve emotional competencies and develop effective emotion regulation strategies. In summary, the results showed a differential impact of the training depending on the unemployment duration and job search behavior. Significant differences were found between experimental and control group among the participants with shorter unemployment duration and more active job search. The results also showed that changes in EC significantly predicted changes in several indicators of physical and psychological well-being and positive psychological strengths - perceived stress, somatic complaints, mental health, two mood dimensions (vigor and confusion), satisfaction with life, optimism, two out of four indicators of the quality of social relationships, as well as problem oriented coping strategies. Furthermore, the intervention had positive effects on self-perceived employability, reemployment success and entrepreneurial self-efficacy, proving the beneficial effect of the EC intervention for employability prospects of unemployed individuals. The present research provides some promising results about the potential for EC development and the effectiveness of the EC intervention for different life outcomes of unemployed people. Nevertheless, as it is described in the last chapter of the present work, certain limitations of the research need to be considered and addressed in future studies. Besides, the obtained results open the way for some practical implications that can bring some new insight in the area of EC and unemployment research.
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