L&D: EQ and EI – Falsehood and Fad?

Last Month There Was a Lively Exchange About This

It was between Donald Clark (Plan B) and a big EQ/EI proponent … with books and presentations and a whole career wrapped around the EQ/EI notion … that Donald knocked in this post and referenced on Twitter and then Replied to this person who took exception to his post and declared that it in fact had not been debunked by Research.

His 2016 Post:



Here – from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence

Some Excerpts from Donald Clark’s Post

EI and performance 
At last we have some good research on the subject which shows that the basic concept is flawed, that having EI is less of an advantage than you think. Joseph et al. (2015) published a meta-analysis of 15 carefully selected studies, easily the best summary of the evidence so far. What they found was a weak correlation (0.29) with job performance. Note that 0.4 is often taken as a reasonable benchmark for evidence of a strong correlation. To put this into plain English, it means that EI has a predictive power on performance of only 8.4%.  Put another way, if you’re spending a lot of training effort and dollars on this, it is largely wasted. The clever thing about the Joseph paper was their careful focus on actual job performance, as opposed to academic tests and assessments. They cut out the crap, giving it real evidential punch.



EI is a bait and switch

What became obvious as they looked at the training and tools, was that there was a bait and switch going on. EI was not a thing-in-itself but an amalgam of other things, especially good-old personality measures. When they unpacked six EI tests, they found that many of the measures were actually personality measures, such as conscientiousness, industriousness and self-control. These had been stolen from other personality tests. So, they did a clever thing and ran the analysis again, this time with controls for established personality measures. This is where things got really interesting. The correlation between EI and job performance dropped to a shocking -0.2.



Weasel word ‘emotional’

Like many fads in HR, an intuitive error lies at the heart of the fad. It just seems intuitively true that people with emotional sensibility should be better performers but a moment’s thought and you realize that many forms of performance may rely on many other cognitive traits and competences. In our therapeutic age, it is all too easy to attribute positive qualities to the word ‘emotional’ without really examining what that means in practice. HR is a people profession, people who genuinely care. But when they bring their biases to bear on performance, as with many other fads, such as learning styles, Maslow, Myers-Briggs, NLP and mindfulness, emotion tends to trump reason. When it is examined in detail EI, like these other fads, falls apart.

Go To Donald’s Post and the References He Cites

The Post (again):





Cha Ching

IMO – these fads/falsehood continue to make the rounds and gather proponents – because they “make intuitive sense” and so are immediately bought … hook, line and sinker … by many.

But “Turning Away From The Skid” is also intuitive.

And so is “Leaning Back Over the Uphill Ski” which is nonetheless wrong … while still being intuitive.

Here is a another link – to another Donald Clark post – about 20 more fads/falsehood in Education and Training:


Perhaps you should be familiar with these.

Forewarned is Forearmed. 

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