Project Management

How Various Cultures Manage Emotions: Diverse Ethnic Group of Project Team

How Various Cultures Manage Emotions: Diverse Ethnic Group of Project Management Students Working as a Team is Used as the Case Study


Purpose: This research aims to answer the following research questions; how emotional management can be measured in individuals and if there are any cultural differences regarding emotional management among team members?

Design / Methodology: An online survey was carried out and distributed among twenty (20) project management students who had currently or presently worked in groups / with teams, with different nationals, the survey was analysed using a descriptive statistic, SPSS, Cronbach’s alpha for reliability was used to check for the reliability of the measures being analysed.

Findings: based on the hypothesis developed and the analysis used, culture was seen not to be related/have any effect on emotional intelligence, social awareness, self-awareness and social awareness among student studying project management in universities, however, a weak significance was seen between culture and relationship management

Research Limitations: Participants were unwilling to participate in the research; this affected the sampling method. The sample size used for this research was small, so it is not easy to relate the findings with a larger organisation or sample size.


Emotional intelligence was first coined and defined in 1990 by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, (Dincer et al., 2011). Making reference to the origin of emotional intelligence, Dincer et al., 2011 indicated in their research work four skills for emotional intelligence, these skills include; the ability to judge, understand and express emotions; supporting the development of emotional intelligence; understanding different forms of complex emotions and influencing thoughts. Obradovic et al., (2013) also in their research made reference to the four aspects/dimensions of emotional intelligence, summarising the terms; these include; self-awareness; being socially self-conscious; self-regulation (this was described by the authors as a way of project managers able to effectively accomplish the task with allowing their emotions interfere) and the ability to manage relationships in their research they further grouped the four aspects into two; managing others (social competence) and personal management (personal competence).

Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Generally, in organisations, there’s a need to employ skilful, intelligent managers due to competition and productivity, Dincer et al., (2011) included emotional intelligence as part of a skill requirement for managers to be able to compete in the competitive environment, this is also in accordance with Obradovic et al., (2013) research work where skills related emotional intelligence was seen to have a large percentage in requirements for a successful business, Kulkarni et al., 2009 indicated the significant role emotional intelligence plays in enabling managers to adapt to the fast-changing business environment.

Having a good understanding of emotional intelligence in organisations is seen to improve employees’ performance, and output, (Gunkel et al., 2013), and Dincer et al., (2013) wrote about how managers with high emotional intelligence are good at decision making compared to those with low emotional intelligence.

The ability of a project manager to be able to identify his / her flaws, faults, skills, ability, and emotions and also what influence it has on people/team members and the decision they make is considered as being self-aware, this is also linked with self-conscious emotions.

Obradovic et al., (2013) indicated the importance of self-awareness and how it affects self-regulation and its importance when emotional contact is being made with other individuals, also a criterion in having a productive project it’s important that the project manager should be empathic, that is he/she should be able to lead and understand the project team by being socially aware, (Obradovic et al., 2013), similarly, Engle and Nehrt, (2011) indicated that self-awareness is the main factor in emotional intelligence, and that individuals can acquire other skills through self-awareness.

Individuals with high emotional intelligence are able to understand and interpret their own emotions and that of others, (Gunkel et al., 2013), this is although described by the authors as a difficult task but necessary for the success of an organisation/firm, this also in line with Dincer et al., (2011) who also indicated that managers with high emotional intelligence contributes positively to the organisation’s growth and performance. Kulkarni et al., (2009) described emotional competency as the ability of an individual to identify, understand and regulate his / her emotions with the changes encountered throughout the job.

Cultural and Emotional intelligence

In Gunkel et al., 2013 research, it was indicated that little research has been made to understand the effect of cultural values on emotional intelligence, but indicated the importance of the topic due to the fact that many organisations are venturing into the international market.

Among various cultures there’s a difference between how emotions are expressed and the emotions that they are able / allowed to reveal, (Gunkel et al., 2013), in (Engle and Nehrt, 2011) research he tried to find a general term to use to represent culture so as to give a proper understanding of the relationship between country and relationship management; humane  orientation which was described as the level in which members of a group or society encourages one’s effort by being nice, rewarding, kind and friendly, also Sadri et al., (2011) indicated that leaders showing empathic feeling effectively in one culture may not discover empathic emotion to be as viable in different cultures since a few cultures may not esteem such practices as much as different cultures.

This study aims to identify the measures of emotional intelligence in project managers and to identify if there are any cultural effects on emotional intelligence amongst project teams, from the above literature, two main hypotheses were developed;

Hypothesis development

Previous research has discussed the importance of project managers having a high emotional intelligence as it is seen to contribute positively to the organisation or team members, this paper attempts to investigate if there are cultural differences among students currently studying project management in universities in the UK from different nationals with regards to emotional intelligence, the independent variable (nationality) would be analysed with the dependent variable ( four factors of emotional intelligence; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management).

H1: Relationship management among various cultures varies

H2: Self-awareness varies among various cultures

H3: Self-management varies among various cultures

H4: Social awareness varies among various cultures

H5: There’s a cultural difference between individuals with high emotional intelligence


An online survey was carried out consisting of 29 questions, of which the independent variable included age, sex, country, and educational background, and the dependent variable, which was associated with emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, relationship management, etc, was collected by using a questionnaire. Questions related to emotional intelligence were derived from Silver and Claret, (2011) existing self-rated emotional intelligence questionnaire.


Participants were briefed on the content and purpose of the survey and asked for their consent before the link was sent, the participants were also assured that their data would be used only for the purpose stated earlier and would be kept anonymous, only the data presented by them would be used for the survey (for example; their information won’t be linked with their IP address).

Link to the online survey page was sent by broadcast message through social media to selected coursemates and other project management students in another university across the UK, Participants of the survey included twenty (20) selected individuals from four different nationals with experience working in groups or teams from various ethnicities, participants had a ratio of 9: 11 (female: male). All participants included in this study are students currently studying in the UK.


As a means to collect data, an emotional intelligence online survey was conducted; the questionnaire was developed from a previous emotional intelligence questionnaire carried out by Silver and Claret, (2013), this is similar to the Wong emotional intelligence scale, (WEIS).

The survey consisted of two main sections (demographics and emotional intelligence), this is also in line with Muller 2011 who collected similar demographics items in his research work when checking for the relationship between leadership and success rate among project managers, the emotional intelligence section was further sub–grouped into four sections (Self-awareness, Self-management, Relationship management and Social management), giving the questionnaire different sections is in line with Yang et al.,  (2011), where similarly the questionnaire used for the survey in their research was grouped in sections. The questionnaire was designed using a five point Likert scale (1 = strongly agree – 5 = strongly disagree), which aligns with (Lopez – Zafra et al., 2012) where a five point Likert scale was used for scaling when collecting data for emotional intelligence.

When data were inputted into the SPSS spreadsheet, the item coding was reversed, indicating that individuals that chose 5 were recorded as 1 and the student that chose one was recorded as 5, this was applied to all the categories on the Likert scale (reversing all 4’s to 2’s and vice versa). The high EI was seen in individuals with scores equal to or close to 145, while individuals perceived to have low emotional intelligence were seen to have scored less than 72.5 in this research work.

Among all the data collected, items/variables in the questionnaire were tested for reliability using Cronbach’s alpha reliability test in SPSS, the result for the reliability was 0.859 which is close to 1 showing good reliability, this is in line with Yang et al., (2011) where the Cronbach’s reliability was used to also test the items in the questionnaire for reliability and indicated that values above 0.7 are acceptable. Among the thirty-three (33) items that were tested; (sex, nationality, self-awareness, self-management, social management, relationship management and overall emotional intelligence), These variables would be analysed individually with other measures.

Reliability Statistics
Cronbach’s Alpha N of Items
.859 32

Table 1: Cronbach’s alpha


The samples collected were analysed using the descriptive statics method by the use of SPSS, this is in line with Kulkanir et al., (2009) where the descriptive statistical method was used to analyse samples collected for the research purpose which was to identify the level of emotional intelligence in mangers and also to get the correlation between emotional intelligence and managers performance.

All the items used for correlation were tested to see if they were normally distributed; the result indicated that all the variables were normally distributed. During the analysis abbreviations would be used; emotional intelligence = EI; self-awareness = SA; self-management = SM; social awareness = SoA; relationship management = RM. This abbreviation would be used henceforth interchangeably during the result and discussion.

How Various Cultures Manage Emotions

Fig: Histogram showing normal distribution of nationality, distributed data for the overall EI score, and various nationalities and their overall emotional intelligence score.


Based on the hypothesis developed earlier in the research to answer the research questions, variables would be paired to check for the correlation and significance level. A T–test was used for the analysis and also to check the level of significance, whether supporting the hypothesis presented or rejecting it.

Testing for normality

Testing for the normality (that is checking if the data fits the normal distribution curve, we would be concentrating on the Shapiro – Wilk column because of the sample size. If p > 0.05 then the data are normally distributed, if p < 0.05 the data are not normally distributed.

Result Analysis and Discussion

Culture has different forms, whether they are  seen in the type of food we eat, the types of buildings we live in or in our beliefs and values, (Hofstede et al., 2011), it is therefore possible that being exposed to a variety of culture whether in your home country or overseas can have a huge impact on your emotional intelligence, (Crowne, 2013).

From the correlation table, it is seen that when nationality which was used to represent culture was correlated with emotional intelligence and the four factors, there was no significant value, in this research we reject hypothesis that there is a strong relationship between the correlated variables, that is we accept hypothesis if r equals to or close to +1, this is further summarised; If r = +.70 or higher Very strong positive relationship; +.40 to +.69 Strong positive relationship; +.30 to +.39 Moderate positive relationship; +.20 to +.29 weak positive relationship; +.01 to +.19 No or negligible relationship; -.01 to -.19 No or negligible relationship; -.20 to -.29 weak negative relationship; -.30 to -.39 Moderate negative relationship; -.40 to -.69 Strong negative relationship; -.70 or higher Very strong negative relationship.

When culture (nationality) was correlated with emotional intelligence, r = 0.038, based on the earlier paragraph there is a negligible relationship therefore we reject H1.

When culture (nationality) was correlated with self-awareness, r = 0.00, based on the earlier paragraph there is no relationship therefore we reject H2.

When culture (nationality) was correlated with self-management, r = -0.08, based on the earlier paragraph, there is no relationship therefore we reject H3.

When culture (nationality) was correlated with social awareness, r = -.101, based on the earlier paragraph there is a negligible relationship therefore we reject H4.

When culture (nationality) was correlated with relationship management, r = 0.294, based on the earlier paragraph there is a weak positive relationship therefore we partially accept H5.

Based on the survey carried out and the method of analysis used, four of the five hypothesis generated were rejected that is indicating that culture had no effect on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-management and relationship management; this rejection of hypothesis developed is similar to the works of (Singh et al., 2012) where four out of six of the hypothesis tested were rejected. Although nationality was seen to have a weak relationship with relationship management, this is in accordance with the works of (Engle and Nehrt, 2011) where relationship management varied among the three countries used in their case study; this is also in line with Beckman et al., (2009) where a relationship was seen between culture and relationship management. 


There is a huge difference among various cultures and individuals, when university students studying project management were experimented on to check if their various cultural backgrounds had an effect on their emotional intelligence when working in teams, the result showed that culture has no influence on an individual’s emotional intelligence when working with teams.

Based on this we can conclude in this research paper that an individual’s emotional intelligence level is not governed by their culture but by the attitudinal characteristics or personality perspective of an individual.

Further research is encouraged due to the limitations in sample size and the general sampling method.


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