Prior research findings showed that competent, satisfied and committed employees performed effectively in several domains [1, 2, 3]. Among other competences, there is an increasing interest to understand the role of emotional competence (EC) as another significant competence at the workplace [4, 5]. Previous research related to the importance of EC by health professionals as crucial competence which seems to promote adaptive reactions in emotionally charged situations . Mintz and Stoller´s  systematic review documents that health professionals need to be able to regulate their own emotions and those of others. Research studies highlighted the impact of EC on job satisfaction [1, 6, 8, 9, 10] or on organisational commitment [1, 6, 10]. The purpose of the current study is to investigate the moderating effect of EC on the relationship between job satisfaction and organisational commitment.
EC is defined as a multidimensional set of individual abilities and skills of dealing with own emotions and emotions of others in emotion-related situations . It implies cognitive processes or skills (e.g. perceiving, expressing), but goes beyond these in terms of empathy and regulation . For several years, there is a controversial debate concerning the EC construct, as to whether it should be presented solely in terms of ability, or whether it should account for both ability and personality characteristics [13, 14]. In the meantime, the term “emotional competence” is used as a strongly related term to emotional intelligence (EI) [15, 16]. In the present study, we preferred to use the term “emotional competence” due to its multidimensional framework based on the theory of Stamouli , which synthesizes the different models of EC and EI [16, 18, 19, 20, 21], excluding components that overlap with personality traits. The construct refers to a four-component-model (see Table 1) used to measure emotional perception, emotional sensitivity, emotional expressivity and emotional management . Understanding the four-component-model of EC Stamouli  points to the importance of a rating criterion that has to be fulfilled to describe someone´s behaviour as emotional competent or not. Based on Saarnis´  suggestion about the relevance of one´s own self-efficacy (behaviour according to own targets and values) as criterion to understand the level of someone’s EC Stamouli  adds that a bilateral rating criterion (subjective and situational context) is necessary. The subjective context may clarify the motives of certain behaviour, but the situational context seems to be just as meaningful as a rating criterion to describe a behaviour or action as competent. Understanding EC means to take into account that its impact can vary depending on the organisational and work situations.
Referring to the job characteristics theory of work attitudes and performance , organisational commitment and job satisfaction are determined as important work outcomes. Organisational commitment is defined as “the totality of internalized normative pressures to act in a way that meets organisational interests” [23, p. 418]. Based on the three-component model of organisational commitment by Meyer and Allen  there is a distinction between affective, continuance and normative commitment. Referring to the purpose of our study we concentrate explicitly on the component of affective commitment that describes an “emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organisation” [24, p. 67]. Previous research to the field of organisational commitment has focused mainly on outcomes of relevance for employers. In contrast, a growing body of research exists examining the links between organisational commitment and relevant outcomes for employees including stress and work-family conflict, job satisfaction and work performance [25, 26, 27]. Considering the role of emotions in work situations (e.g. stress, anger) and their effects on employees, we expect that additional individual factors, such as EC, moderate the relationships between organisational commitment and relevant work outcomes for employees.
Job satisfaction has been broadly recognised in both academics and industry. The relationship between job satisfaction as work outcome for employees and organisational commitment has been repeatedly examined in recent research [28, 29, 30, 31, 32]. Nevertheless, there are only few studies that examine additional individual factors (e.g. EC) that have an effect on the two concepts [6, 10, 33]. For better understanding and assessing the construct of job satisfaction, Weiss  proposed three approaches to examine job satisfaction as a result of: evaluative judgments about jobs, affective experiences at work, and beliefs about jobs. We focus on the approach relating to employees’ job satisfaction as an affective reaction to the job. This type of reaction refers to the extent a person likes her/his job. It may be considered as the “emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job as achieving or facilitating the achievement of one’s job values” [35, p. 1342] and these values are compatible with one´s needs. Bowling et al.  posited the importance of job satisfaction as a board construct which is associated with a complex set of interrelationships of tasks, roles, responsibilities, interactions, incentives, and rewards.
Emotional competence in healthcare
Academic literature indicates that healthcare professionals work in a high-stress environment [37, 38]. Ashkanasy et al.  elaborated that EC can influence the reaction to stress in the work environment. Humpel et al.  added that the ability to monitor one’s own, and others feelings, and emotions and use this information to guide one’s thinking and behaviour, would seem a useful competency in dealing with work stress. Additionally, EC is fundamental to reduce the risk of burnout among healthcare professionals [41, 42, 43]. Thereby, the triggers for work stress are not only organisation-related, such as the pressure to reduce costs, increase quality and reduce risks, but are also found on the intrapersonal as well as interpersonal level. Especially in healthcare, work stress is characterised by the interpersonal involvement with patients and carers  and the necessity to earn their trust. Healthcare professionals often have to deal with aggressive, introverted and devoted patients, who sometimes only cooperate insufficiently or who reproach, because their recovery does not proceed as desired . In addition to that, carers and patients often mistrust healthcare professionals. Patients and their carers tend to ask the same or similar questions repeatedly and thus strain the patience of health professionals. According to Giesenbauer and Glaser , dealing with emotions and feelings is an essential part of caring and can influence the interaction with patients positively. However, Kim, Kim and Byun  argue that the healthcare professionals try to gain an emotional distance as a protective mechanism towards the patients to not get overwhelmed by negative feelings. The gap between social, work demands and protective mechanisms in form of individual skills and competences often leads to difficulties that healthcare professionals have to deal sufficiently within stressful emotional situations. Dealing with one's own or others' emotions (for example those of patients) is part of the work of healthcare professionals and demonstrates the relevance of individual EC for coping with these work tasks . Physicians and professionals need EC to meet the requirements of the healthcare profession [48, 49].
Our basic hypothesis is that EC contributes to synthesize work demands (here as organisational commitment) and individual needs (here as job satisfaction).