People Innovation Excellence

The Usage of Emotional Intelligence in Optimizing Competency

Nurianna Thoha

Nurianna Thoha, MBA, DBA
(International Business, Binus University International)


Applying the Concept of Competency in Indonesia

The term ‘competency’ has been widely known since the 1990s, especially within the Indonesian business environment. Up until now, the term ‘competency’ is very common and known to almost all levels of the society.

However, one’s understanding of the concept of competency is different for each person. One’s perception is frequently wrong or somewhat different from its true meaning. Why does this happen?

One reason is because the meaning of competency is acquired from different sources. Some interpret it literally from an English dictionary, while others acquire an understanding of competency from human resources consultants, who may have varying concepts.

Three concepts have been widely used to understand competency:

  1. Technical or functional competency (hard skills / hard competency) is namely an idea of what should be known or done by an individual in order to perform his/her job well (Miller, Rankin & Neathey, 2001). This type of competency was originated and developed in the United Kingdom, which has been widely used in European countries as well as in Commonwealth countries.
  2. Behavioral competency (soft skills / soft competency) describes how an individual is expected to behave in order to perform his/her job well (Miller, Rankin & Neathey, 2001). This type of competency was originated and developed in the United States. The one who initially contributed to develop this competency was Prof. Mc. Clelland (1973) from Harvard University, USA.
  3. Competency has been defined as an individual’s knowledge or skill

Although these consultants have used different concepts to comprehend competency, they still argue that their own respective concepts are the correct ones. This is why until now, the concepts of competency are more or less defined as those listed above.

The Optimal Concept of Competency

The author of a book titled Kompetensi Plus discussed the most appropriate concept of understanding competency that should be used by enthusiasts, observers, and users of human resources management.

The components that comprise technical competency mainly consist of knowledge and skills. Individuals who have appropriate knowledge and skills will be able to perform jobs that match with their knowledge and skills, assuming that the working environment corresponds with their behavior.

However, if the working environment does not correspond with one’s behavior, then he/she will be unable to perform one’s job well consistently or continuously for a prolonged period of time. In other words, the individual will be incompetent or unable to do one’s own competency skills.

For example, there may be an accountant who works as a lecturer that is an expert in solving accounting problems. Then the individual is recruited as an accounting manager in a service company. It turns out that after working for several months, he/she does not perform well in the company. Why does this happen?

Although he/she is an expert in his/her field, after further investigation it may turn out that the individual’s behavior does not correspond with the working environment. He/she may be used to working alone, does not like to be instructed, and does not have “customer oriented” behavior in order to provide services to other departments in the company. Nevertheless, as an accounting manager, the person should be able to order subordinates and provide services to other departments, by presenting data and performing accounting processes for other departments.

This means that even though an individual’s technical competency may correspond to a particular job field, there is no guarantee that this individual can perform well if the behavior competency does not correspond with the job demand.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Optimizing Competency

It has been mentioned above that the most significant factor in determining how to optimize an individual’s competency to perform one’s job well is due to the correlation between one’s productive behavior and the job demand behavior. The adaptability of an individual’s behavior is strongly related with controlling an individual’s emotions due to applying an emotional behavior. An individual who tends to have behavior A and has to change to behavior B to perform a specific job requires that person to perform an emotional control process.

For instance, if a salesperson lacks productive behavior in terms of “carrying forward or doing a follow-up”, it will be difficult to show these characteristics in performing one’s job. Then if a customer is looking for the salesperson at a time when he/she is not around, the customer will leave a message to a fellow colleague. At the time when the colleague tells the salesperson about the customer’s message, the salesperson may be reluctant to call the customer back to inquire about what the customer really wants.

If this problem is recognized by the salesperson and the individual is willing to alter his/her attitude, then the person should be able to overcome the reluctant tendency and immediately pick up the phone to ask about what the customer wants. The process of controlling the reluctance is highly influenced by the salesperson’s emotional intelligence, in how the individual is able to use logical thinking to avoid a feeling of reluctance.

Each job requires a balance between logic and emotions; there are jobs that require the usage of logic more than emotions such as financial or sales administrative positions, which involve using a calculator or computer more in the calculation process. Then there are jobs that involve more emotion than logic, for instance, an actor or a job that receives many customer complaints. For people who perform these jobs, they should be able to adjust the emotional balance which corresponds with the job demands.


  • To optimize an individual’s competency, all competency components (knowledge, skills, and behavior) have to be used in correspondence with job demands.
  • After the technical competencies are fulfilled, the factor that mostly determines excellence in job performance is fulfilling the work behavior demand.

Due to the behavior required to perform work consistently that involves emotions, an individual who wants to develop behavioral competency should possess good “emotional intelligence”.

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