The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market

Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska* University of Gdańsk The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market Abstract As shown in literature re...
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Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska* University of Gdańsk

The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market Abstract As shown in literature research, psychosocial competence has attracted relatively little interest among labour and organization psychology researchers. The likely reason is that psychosocial competence is of subjective nature and, as such, it is hard to be measured. A contemporary labour market seems to emphasize its increasing importance to professional development and employee’s achievements in a growing number of occupations. New trends in the labor market highlight that an employee needs to demonstrate at least moderate levels of psychosocial competence. In the literature can be found the issues of the growing importance of personal and social competency for the effectiveness of teamwork. There is a growing awareness that the fulfilling of an employee’s duties is not the same as the obligatory tasks that are specified in the employment contract. The Concept of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) seems to be a clear example of this.


Introduction to the Problems of Psychosocial Competence

From a  functional point of view, psychological skills (intrapsychic) ​​and social competence (interpsychic) provide effective self-management and high interpersonal performance. Intrapsychic competence is defined as the  attitude towards oneself, the degree of self-awareness of one’s character, behavior, strengths and personal abilities, defects and limitations, and the specifics of the treatment of other people. The more an individual knows and understands him/herself, the more he/she is fully able to use his/her abilities more effectively to cope with life experiences and trials, and as a  result is more *

Correspondence address: Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska, University of Gdańsk, Institute of Psychology, e-mail: [email protected].

114 Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska competent in this area. Interpsychic competence is essential for adequate interpersonal interaction and the development of social bonding (Goldfinch, Wronski, 2006; Meconium, 2008). Both terms appear in the literature under the collective term psychosocial competence. Group psychosocial competence was neglected for a  long time and existed outside the  realm of scientific attention. It only gained significance in the middle of the twentieth century in the course of research on the determinants of effective action and has become the most important universal group of professional competences (Moczydłowska, 2008). Currently, psychosocial competencies are called the competencies of the employee of future organizations (Filipowicz, 2004, Meconium, 2008, Grabus, Ambush, 2012). In the area of training, one can observe considerable interest in psychosocial skills training among representatives of different professional groups. At the time of the writing of this article, the business portal Modern Company reported that in Poland 5,406 personal skills improvement training courses were being run, including 1,220 courses in effective communication. There were 283 registered coaches and more than 1,044 trainers, experts and consultants in the field of professional development, including 435 personal skills trainers (, date 14.12.2012). QQ

The Competence of the Modern Labor Market

In today’s labor market, a  deficit of psychosocial skills among staff is considered as the most important competency gap (Smolka, 2008). Research shows that nearly 70% of competence for the above-average realization of work is due to social skills (Smolka, 2008). The  high level of these competencies is particularly important for higher-level management. Managers deprived of psychosocial skills arouse discontent among subordinates, which contributes to their absenteeism and resignation from work (Argyle, 2002). The importance of the ratio of technical knowledge and social skills for the success of a company has been provided by personal advisors: “70% of work is obtained thanks to expertise and 30% thanks to social skills. 70% of work lost is due to a lack of social skills and 30% because of a lack of expertise” (Flis, 2012). Psychosocial competence seems to play a  vital role in the process of networking in order to maximize job performance as “the one who has developed more relationships with others and has richer social ties is the  one with greater access to information” (Balwajder, 1992, pp. 13). In companies of the future, lower psychological and social skills in interpersonal relationships can be a cause of serious dysfunction (Siciński, 2003).

The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market


Psychological and social competence as components of emotional intelligence (EI) can affect a wide range of employee behaviors in the workplace (Zeidner, Matthew, Roberts, 2004, Carmela, Josman, 2006). In recent years in western countries, it has become common to use emotional intelligence tests in the recruitment and evaluation of employees, especially in large corporations (Śmieja, Orzechowski, 2008). Such practices are increasingly common on the Polish market. Watkin (2000) suggests that using EI for employment decisions leads to a 90% success rate. In the literature can be found the issues of the growing importance of personal and social competency for the effectiveness of teamwork (Druskat, Wolff, 1999, West, 2000; Druskat and Wolff, 2001; Ross, 2006; Jablonski, 2009; Lencioni, 2012). The employee of the future will be required to work collaboratively with others in an authentic way (Grabus and Ambush, 2012). QQ


Katzenbach and Smith (2001) express the view that mutual understanding and a sense of common purpose while working on a team cannot be achieved without psychosocial skills. These include the ability to take risks and accept constructive criticism, to listen actively, to communicate, as well as to assertively argue reasonable doubts, and to work under stress and time constraints. Teams are perceived as the best place to encourage creativity, which is critical in the  current job market. In the  context of creativity, emphasis needs to be put on the importance of high psychosocial competence in the management of conflict in an organization. Low levels of competences can not only kill the creativity of individuals, but also destroy the trust of the team and thus degrade the quality of its work. High-risk behaviors for destroying creativity in teamwork include interpersonal attacks, negative emotions and a loss of self-control, which is associated with low levels of psychosocial competence (Jemielniak, Kozminski, 2012). In Poland, more than 50% of workers in various companies and institutions carry out their professional duties in a team (Kożusznik, 2002). Teamwork is a skill that is not easy, especially for the individualistic-minded people of Gen Y, also called the Me Generation. Workers’ need for improvement in teamwork is perceived by training companies. According to the website Modern Company, at present there are 423 training programs in operation. Caremli and Josman (2006) from studies conducted in different work environments have proven the importance of psychosocial competence

116 Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska (as a  component of emotional intelligence) for the  purpose of performing standard professional tasks, and achieving altruism and compliance. These researchers have found that individuals characterized by a high level of psychosocial competence manifested in their relations to other co-workers exhibited more altruistic behavior. Altruism is defined as the voluntary and conscious actions aimed at supporting the people within an organization. Such persons are more willing to help other employees in the case of work overload and are willing to grant support to those newly hired. These workers are also more conscientious in observing punctuality and waste less time on idle talk. The depth of compliance, according to these authors, reflects the degree of internalization and acceptance of organizational roles as well as rules and procedures at work. An employee characterized by a high degree of compliance adheres to the rules in an organization, even in the absence of control by his/her superiors. QQ

Selection of Candidates for Work as a Result of the Interview

Flis (2012) has expressed the view that employers overestimate the value of hard and fast competencies (academic knowledge and professional skills) at the  expense of psychological and social competence. This phenomenon is present even during interviews. This is due to the fact that it is easier for employers to check a candidate’s academic record and work history. This is done through diplomas, certificates from language schools and references confirming previous work experience. Problems begin when the candidate is asked about psychosocial skills. According to this author, Polish managers are unable to talk about these types of issues. Another difficulty is the fact that people in leadership positions are not able to easily verify the accuracy of a candidate’s answers to these questions. It occurs that a job applicant has a great degree of skill in self-presentation, but real life situations may disclose his/her total incompetence. For these reasons, the area of ​​psychosocial competency during an interview is less closely explored than other issues. However, psychosocial competence is a factor that can most accurately predict the behavior of the candidate and his/her future success in the workplace (Flis, 2009, Guryn, 2012). New trends in the labor market highlight that an employee needs to demonstrate at least moderate levels of psychosocial competence. The Civil Behavior Concept seems to be a clear example of this.

The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market



The Concept of Civil Behavior in an Organization

Carmeli and Josman (2006) expressed the  view that there is a  growing awareness that the  fulfilling of an employee’s duties is not the  same as the obligatory tasks that are specified in the employment contract. During an interview, a potential employee can meet expectations that involve behaviors that go beyond the  formal requirements of the  job description (extra-role behavior) and which relate in part to psychological and social competence. This position is the basis for the concept of Civil Behavior in the Organization (Organizational Citizenship Behaviors - OCBs). The essence of OCBs is the voluntary attitude toward the execution of tasks that are not directly rewarded. These are behaviors that are a matter of personal choice, so are not subject to punishment if they are not carried out. However, they are important components of employee behavior. The literature on OCBs highlights the enormously positive impact of such behavior for the personal relationships within an organization and that they work for the effective functioning of the organization (Vigoda-Gadot, 2007). OCB’s theory is built on seven principals. These include: 1. Behavior aimed at helping others; 2. Behavior of showing good sportsmanship; 3. Organizational loyalty; 4. Organizational compliance; 5. Individual initiative; 6. Civic virtue; 7. Self-development (Podsakoff et al., 2000). Psychological and social competence seem to be the core and the binding factor of separate areas, thanks to which they maintain their practical status. Skillfully applied, psychological and social competence play an important role in the process of social interchange and contribute to the psychological welfare of the organization, which may be reflected in an improvement of the organizational climate, greater mutual trust and openness, a higher sense of fairness, an increased ability to give effective criticism and praise, and improved channels of communication between employees. QQ


Conducting research on the  assessment of the  effectiveness of psychosocial functioning in a professional environment is not an easy task. Smółka (2008, p. 13) says that “although it may be the most precious soft competency, it is irrational and impossible to accurately appreciate, even if we still do not know the basis on which a number of social competencies depend [...] however, these skills are noteworthy and we should take note of them. “ “Assessment

118 Elżbieta Szutowicz-Rozwadowska of the social competence of individuals is essential to determine whether and how it should be improved, as well as in conducting research on social skills” (Argyle, 2002, p. 108). An increase in teamwork in business will increase interest in the psychological and social skills of the labor market. The negative consequences due to a lack of social skills by professionals may result in the  following situations: “termination of employment or in the  best case of being frozen in a low position” (Adams and Galanes 2000, p.13). Research conducted by GFMP Management Consultants (Jamka, 2011), whose purpose was to track trends in the area of ​​Human Resource Management, shows that Polish companies more often declare that they use rather than introduce a management system based on competency. A component of these systems are often psychosocial competencies (Siejka, Pala, 2007). Despite the  difficulties, management of organizations with competencies is becoming a reality. It is the language of the modern market, where psychosocial skills have become a valuable part of personnel politics. They provide an opportunity for a more human face of business and services.



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The Importance of Psychosocial Competence in the Labor Market


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