New Study: Emotional Intelligence Supports Neurodiversity in the Workplace

February 12, 2020

London, UK – A new study involving neurodivergent individuals shows that developing Emotional Intelligence (EI) leads to significant improvements in personal and interpersonal capabilities. The study included 324 employees from a UK public sector organization.

These findings are explored in a paper, Championing Neurodiversity and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, a partnership between PSI’s Talent Management team and ERC’s mental health specialists.

The ground-breaking study demonstrates how a self-development program led to improvements in EI for a group of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) employees containing a high representation of neurodivergent individuals.

In an initial EI assessment, participants in the program scored lower than the comparison group (middle managers) in all 16 aspects of EI. At the end of the program, participants completed the EI assessment again. The group showed: [i]

  • Significant improvement in all aspects of EI, with an average improvement of 12%.
  • A significant increase across 7 scores most notably Self Regard (+21%), the primary aspect of EI that underpins all other scales, and Reflective Learning (+18%).
  • Scores higher than the comparison group in 3 areas – Regard for Others (+10%), Authenticity (+10%) and Trust (+6%).
  • Scores the same as the comparison group in 7 areas, and below the comparison group in just 6 areas.
  • An improvement of 13% in both feelings scales (Self Awareness and Awareness of Others).

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to describe those of us whose brains and thinking styles are slightly different to the norm. Many businesses currently attach little value to these behaviors, with competency frameworks that merely assess and reward for behavioral norms. This paper shows why, and how, an understanding of how to value and nurture divergent thinking styles can improve performance and well-being.

Dr. Jo Maddocks, Chief Psychologist at PSI Talent Management, said, “Neurodiversity is a term that many of us in the corporate world are becoming familiar with. But to date there has been little understanding of how to nurture the non-typical thinking styles that are crucial for innovation in our fast-changing world.

This new study supports the view that developing attributes of EI can help neurodivergent individuals to work to their strengths and cope with the emotional and functional challenges that they face at work. It’s not about changing people but helping them to learn to manage their emotions and their relationships to become happier and more effective at work.”

Cathy Harris, Director at Executive Resilience Coaching adds, “We believe it’s time for a paradigm shift in HR practices which recognizes the relationship between peoples’ emotional state and their effectiveness. Ultimately, we’re looking to help people fulfill their potential in a healthy way. This requires teaching people how to manage anxiety, attention, and energy levels in healthy and effective ways as well as raising awareness for HR professionals.”

Download the full paper here.

Details of the Program

The program started with an EI assessment, to recognize specific patterns in capabilities and the patterns in difficulties that go hand-in-hand with these. Individuals were then supported to work to their strengths during a 3-month development program involving experiential workshops, a habit change activity, and recording their experiences via an app. The aim was to increase effectiveness at work and reduce the risk of burnout that occurs when a person’s potential goes unrecognized.

About PSI 
PSI Services LLC (PSI) is a global workforce solutions provider that designs robust solutions for clients by blending best-in-class assessment content, leading-edge technology, and deep consulting expertise across the entire career life cycle. PSI Talent Management helps organizations attract, recruit, develop, and retain talent globally.

Working in partnership with organizations, PSI’s science-based solutions create lasting and sustainable change. Highly engaging programs draw on a comprehensive suite of leading diagnostics and robust tools including personality, emotional intelligence, leadership climate, situational judgement tests, virtual assessment centers, and competency-based interviewing.

PSI Talent Management has offices across the EMEA, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific, and an extensive global partner network. It is a division of PSI Services LLC. With a 70-year track record, PSI delivers over 15 million assessments annually in over 50 languages and runs programs in 160 countries for the world’s leading organisations.  PSI Services LLC is headquartered in California, USA.

About Executive Resilience Coaching (ERC)
Specialists in mental health and well-being, ERC have over 20 years’ experience in working with neurodivergent populations. They offer tailored, solution-focused coaching and training interventions to support senior executives and teams struggling to manage workplace stress.

Press Contacts
Transform Communications Ltd
Karolyn Andrews or Veronica Hannon
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[i]Relative changes in EIP scores pre and post an EI development program with STEM sector employees: 

Table showing relative changes in EIP scores pre and post an EI development program with STEM sector employees