The Role of Cognitive Ability in Understanding Behavior in the Workplace

Subject: Employee Relationships
Pages: 5
Words: 1110
Reading time:
4 min

To establish relationships with staff members and ensure that these relationships are based on trust and mutual respect, a leader will have to use their cognitive ability extensively. Namely, several cognitive skills such as emotional intelligence (ELI), perception, reasoning, intuition, and multitasking are critical for an effective leader. The role of the specified skills and the cognitive ability of a leader, in general, is very large since it extends across the multitude of issues that may occur in the workplace setting. Specifically, the use of the specified cognitive abilities will help to manage conflicts in the workplace, maintain employee engagement rates, management of workplace policies, and improve the company’s performance in a particular market, to name just a few.


The key advantage that cognitive abilities provide to a leader includes the opportunity to understand the intrinsic motivation of employees and the changes in their attitudes toward their workplace responsibilities by applying emotional intelligence and related skills. In addition, cognitive abilities allow dealing with more specific issues such as workplace conflicts in an objective manner. Namely, instead of solving the problem that lies on the surface of a workplace confrontation, a leader can deconstruct the very foundation on which misunderstandings in a particular setting are developed by using cognitive abilities.

Finally, creating a better rapport with staff members by using emotional intelligence is the advantage that cognitive ability provides. Specifically, a leader can appeal to staff members’ emotional perception of their workplace responsibilities, as well as their relationships with the company, in general, to ensure that these relationships last longer. Since loyalty toward the organization is based mostly on the emotional connection that employees develop toward their companies, the use of cognitive ability is absolutely necessary to prompt the specified tendency in employees.


However, with all its advantages, cognitive ability may also cause several problems in the workplace. For instance, the excessive focus on the emotional aspect of staff members’ relationships with the organization may lead to difficulties making rational decisions when approaching the specified relationships. Moreover, staff members may also experience issues with the development of constructive and logical thinking when approaching their workplace responsibilities in case the emotional attachment to the company remains the prevailing force driving them to complete their tasks.

In addition, the adoption of cognitive ability as one of the main tools in making hiring decisions may cause leaders to overlook the professionalism-related aspects of a candidate’s skill set. Indeed, although the use of cognitive skills in the organizational environment is crucial for increasing overall productiveness, professional skills should remint eh priority in recruiting employees. However, the specified argument could be seen as a rather contentious point since, unlike cognitive skills, which take quite a while to be developed, professional competencies can be acquired and trained successfully in the workplace. Therefore, prioritizing professionalism over cognitive ability does not apply to all organizational contexts.

Hiring Decisions

The phenomenon of cognitive ability has recently gained traction in the business environment as the measurement of company members’ potential as team members and important players in the corporate environment. The phenomenon of the cognitive ability itself is quite broad, with the subject matter being defined in a multitude of ways. For instance, Morgeson, Delaney-Klinger, and Hemingway mention the cognitive ability in their study as the set of skills “related to role breadth because it reflects a capability and competence that extends across all aspects of work”. Moreover, the authors continue to identify the subject matter as the “level of skill that is directly relevant to the specific tasks they perform at work,” referring to potential employees.

In turn, Dreher and Bretz assert that the phenomenon of cognitive ability needs to be seen as the “ability to prioritize and be innovative in novel situations”. Therefore, the concept of cognitive ability has been stretched to apply it to the hiring process as the notion that encompasses the essential characteristics of a qualified staff member.

As a result, cognitive ability has been extended in hiring decisions. Namely, when evaluating the candidates for a particular position in the organization, a leader needs to apply cognitive abilities assessment to the overall evaluation of a staff member. For this purpose, a set of tests has been designed, allowing HR managers to determine whether candidates have the necessary level of cognitive ability. The specified tests show the extent to which a potential candidate for the job is capable of applying corresponding cognitive skills to address workplace issues, including conflicts and their resolution, management of information, and collaboration with other employees.

However, since the concept of cognitive ability is quite broad, the tests used to perform the appropriate assessments of people’s cognitive skills vary vastly depending on the goals of assessments, their type, people involved, and other important characteristics. For instance, cognitive ability tests also often serve as the means of locating developmental issues in children and adults. Therefore, when conducting the assessment of a potential employee’s cognitive ability, an HR manager has to ensure that a correct test allowing for the evaluation of the appropriate capabilities is utilized.

Specifically, there are several key areas for cognitive ability tests to assess. As a rule, the testing process involves the evaluation of an applicant’s reasoning skills, namely, the use of logic and the ability to establish cause-and-effect connections. The specified skills are critical in implementing essential decision-making processes in the context of a company. Moreover, the application of the cognitive ability to planning, forecasting, and analysis of trends also deserves a mentioning. Being an important part of the development of appropriate strategies for improving performance and gaining traction in a specific market, the specified abilities allow staff members to perform their workplace tasks impeccably. Moreover, the skills in question provide the pathway to further learning, thus ensuring that the process of talent management takes place at the required pace.

In addition, memory and verbal skills are often assessed as a part of cognitive ability testing. The outcomes of the specified tests are also used quite often in hiring decisions since the test results inform HR managers about the potential that a candidate possesses and the opportunities that they can pursue in the workplace. Thus, the value of a candidate is defined with the help of cognitive ability tests, allowing HR managers to select the person that will manage workplace tasks most effectively and allow the company to gain greater influence in the target industry.