ADA and Emotional Intelligence

Welcome back!

Yes, the blog has been on hiatus. Some was vacation, but the last several weeks have been spent on a website upgrade. I hope that after you read this week’s entry you’ll take some time to check out the rest of the site (

I’m not a big fan of the term “Emotional Intelligence.” It is a reaction for, or on behalf of, people who do not do well on traditional measures of intelligence (TMOI), such as problem solving or IQ tests. TMOI’s are not perfect, but they are the most accurate (though not perfect) predictors of job performance when compared to tests of EI, personality measures, interviews, background checks, etc. Period.

This article takes an ADA approach to critiquing EI. The author contends that measures of EI are potentially discriminatory towards people with Asberger’s Syndrome or autism. The logic is that these are medical conditions covered under the ADA and that since people with these conditions process emotions differently they would be at a disadvantage on EI tests, but not necessarily on the job. Under the ADA, an employer would have to show that EI is an essential job function in order to screen for it. Potentially, the employer would have to provide a reasonable accommodation on the job (and when taking an EI test) for people who are disabled by not having EI. How many companies can truly document that EI is an essential job function (e.g., people without it are unsuccessful) in order to defend their practice of hiring based on it?

A more effective path is to focus your hiring processes on the behaviors that EI (supposedly) influences, such as communication, providing clear instructions, staying calm under pressure, etc, rather than any underlying emotional or psychological process. This allows a clear focus on what a person can do, regardless of any potential disability.

For more information on legal pre-employment testing systems, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

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