HR Management

Is "Feelings" Training Next for Your Managers?

No one needs training to feel emotions around the Thanksgiving table, but how about around the conference table? Has the time come for emotional intelligence testing and training?

“I wish I had a decoder for each relationship at the office.”

“When one of my direct reports starts talking to me about her medical problems, I don’t want to be unsympathetic, but it makes me uncomfortable.”

These quotes, from a recent article in Fast Company, illustrate why there is a growing interest in emotions in the workplace. It’s thought that some people have high “emotional intelligence,” and that, as a result, they can more empathetically relate to colleagues or employees. As a result, relationships will go more smoothly, and work will go better.

It’s further thought that emotional intelligence (EI) can be tested, and that if deficiencies show up, special training can help improve individual performance. All of this is a relatively new concept, and a controversial one. Would training in emotions benefit your employees? Can EI be measured? Should it be?

One EI Program that Really Worked

One organization that seems to think so is the U.S. Air Force, which was bedeviled by recruiter retention problems. Each year, reports Fast Company, they would hire and train 400 new recruiters (at $30,000 a head), and then have to dismiss about 25 percent of them by year-end for failing to meet recruitment quotas. The direct costs of the problem were about $3 million, and indirect costs were estimated to be even greater.


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Wondering if emotional factors—the inability to empathize with potential recruits—could be the problem, the Air Force administered an EI test to its current recruiters and found that the instrument differentiated the top and bottom performers quite clearly.

When they then applied the EI test to new recruiters, the results proved to be “remarkably accurate.” All with an “excellent” fit achieved their quotas, as did 90 percent of those with “good” fits.

Intrigued by the results of the recruiter program, the Air Force then administered the test to two other groups: substance abusers and spousal abusers.


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Members of those groups shared low scores in certain areas. For example, substance abusers scored low on problem-solving skills, social responsibility, and stress tolerance. Spousal abusers lacked empathy, had poor impulse control, and an inflated self-regard. The testing helped the air force realize that it could better aid such individuals by offering counseling and training in those specific areas, rather than, say, giving them all generic anger management training.

Is Emotional Testing Right for You?

EI testing and training worked for the Air Force. But will it work for you? To find out, the experts advise finding out by testing and observing.

First, test current workers to identify high scores common to the successful people in a job, which are not present in those less successful. Then test applicants to see if the test predicts success. If it does, EI testing may very well deserve a place as one factor in your selection process.

As we said, this is all very new, and we wonder if any of our readers have experience with these concepts and methods—or an opinion on them. If so, please use the Share Your Comments button and let us know what you think.

Meanwhile, from all of us at Daily Advisor, have a happy (and emotion-filled) Thanksgiving!


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