"Emotional Competencies Across Adulthood: State of Knowledge and Implications for the Work Context"
It has been proposed that emotional competencies are subject to age-related increases and, thus, represent strengths of older workers. However, this assumption is based on limited evidence for positive age differences in one particular emotional competency, namely emotion regulation. Age-related differences in two other key emotional competencies, emotion perception and emotion understanding, have been largely ignored. The present review systematically examines the extant literature on the associations between age and the competencies to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions. For each competency, we further distinguish whether it concerns own emotions or those of others. We identified 195 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Overall, we found moderate support for the proposed age-related advantage in emotional competencies. Regarding the working lifespan, findings suggest that older workers generally function equally well as, or slightly better than young workers on most emotional competencies (i.e., perceiving, understanding and regulating own emotions, and understanding others’ emotions). For perceiving others’ emotions, there was robust evidence of lower performance beyond age 65, yet deficits did not show consistently for middle-aged adults (i.e., most older workers). For regulating others’ emotions, evidence was too limited to draw conclusions. We discuss implications of age differences in emotional competencies for work processes and outcomes and outline future research directions.
Emotional competencies refer to individual differences in knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively deal with own and others’ emotions (Brasseur, Gregoire, Bourdu, & Mikolajczak, 2013; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2008). The most widely studied emotional competencies are emotion perception, emotion understanding, and emotion regulation ( Joseph & Newman, 2010). Importantly, these competencies have been shown to substantially impact a variety of positive work outcomes such as job performance, job satisfaction, and leader and teamwork effectiveness (Farh, Seo, & Tesluk, 2012; O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver, & Story, 2011; Sy, Tram, & O’Hara, 2006). Several researchers and journalists have asserted that emotional competencies improve with age and therefore represent potential strengths of older workers (e.g., Anwar, 2010; Cappelli & Novelli, 2010). This positive portrayal of older workers’ emotional competencies is in stark contrast to the pattern of decline found in other domains of functioning, especially in physiological flexibility and fluid cognitions (Maertens, Putter, Chen, Diehl, & Huang, 2012; Salthouse, 2012). A closer look at the extant literature reveals, however, that current evidence for the assumption of age-related gains in emotional competencies is far from conclusive. (p.159)
KeywordsRetirement, Ageing, Emotional Competence, Mental Decline, Emotion Regulation, Mental Development
ThemesPsychological Centrality of Work
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