My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998) by Daniel Goleman is the sequel to the hit self-help book Emotional Intelligence first published in 1995, and the book is also a prime example of “professional nepotism” and “self-prohibited research.”
Another alumnus of Harvard we far too often see on the bookshelves for no better reason than they attended Harvard, Daniel Goleman begins the book with an acknowledgments section which basically sets out an extended thanks to those he will later primarily use to quote as the main support for his thesis and ideas. As a result, the very experts he uses to support his claims of emotional intelligence are in fact his close friends and fellow colleagues from Harvard, which questions the very validity of his findings and claims in the book. If this were a PhD thesis, it would be rejected immediately. But it’s not. It’s a self-help book published to make profits for the publishing company.
A few examples of the “professional nepotism” mentioned earlier, Goleman writes of Richard Boyatzis: “A colleague of David McClelland, and a good friend since our graduate school days at Harvard” (p ix). Goleman writes of David McClelland: “another main taproot of the thinking reflected here is my late friend David C. McClelland, formerly my professor at Harvard University” (p ix).
Another interesting note: Richard Boyatzis was “a past president at Hay/McBer.” This might not mean anything on its own but Goleman adds about the company often cited on every other page or so throughout the 330-page book:
“I was helped by many friends at the Boston office of Hay/McBer (the company David [McClelland] founded with David Berlew, a trusted advisor)” (p ix). So, David McClelland, co-founder of Hay/McBer, is also good friends with the author Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis.
Goleman goes on to cite many associates from Hay/McBer throughout the book as experts to support his claims on “emotional intelligence”:
“Lyle Spencer Jr., director of research and technology worldwide and cofounder of what is now Hay/McBer, the consulting firm McClelland started” (p 19); “Ruth Jacobs, a senior consultant at Hay/McBer in Boston” (p 21); “So I again commissioned Hay/McBer to reanalyze their database” (p 33); “McClelland protégé, Lyle Spencer Jr., director of research and technology worldwide at Hay/McBer in Boston” (p 36); and, “Mary Fontaine of Hay/McBer” (p 38). The research cited and quoted gets to the point when you see the name Hay/McBer so often throughout the book you quickly realize the research is not extensive but cursory at best.
Daniel Goleman even openly confesses he needed his data and facts checked and rechecked. So, who does he get to help double-check his research? Does he get an independent, unbiased company to audit his findings (as most professionals would)? No. Here’s Goleman in his own words:
“To make sure my findings weren’t a fluke, I turned to Hay/McBer and commissioned them to do an independent study” (p 31). That’s right. Daniel Goleman used his friends and fellow Harvard graduates and colleagues to help check his all-important data and research.
As you read Working with Emotional Intelligence, the educated mind begins noticing the trend of “professional nepotism” and “self-prohibited research,” which calls in to question the very research which is supposed to convince the educated reader the ideas of “emotional intelligence” from the 1990s are legitimate and trustworthy.
In addition (because that’s not all), Daniel Goleman further confesses that his company is also in alliance with Hay/McBer: “I’m delighted to be working together with him [Richard Boyatzis] in my new venture, Emotional Intelligence Services, in an alliance with Hay/McBer” (p ix).
What’s also interesting to note is that the Hay Group* (the company that owns Hay/McBer) takes credit for doing the initial research for this particular book: “In 1999, Daniel Goleman published Working With Emotional Intelligence with research conducted by the Hay Group” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hay_Group).
*Note: “Hay Group is a global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. [They] develop talent, organize people to be more effective and motivate them to perform at their best. [Their] focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.” (link: http://www.haygroup.com/us/about)
You can also read more about Hay/McBer at the following website (which at the time of this review the site looks to be outdated and forgotten from the age of the 1990s) here: http://www.humandimension.org/haymcber.html
Moving forward, Goleman further confesses that “professional nepotism” is vital for the success of “emotional intelligence” to even work. Lyle Spencer Jr., a former student of McClelland and director at Hay/McBer, boldly states:
“But these stars spent lots of time with [their clients], wooing them, going out drinking, telling them about new technologies and product possibilities that would improve their clients’ products—so they didn’t just keep the account steady, but made more sales. What mattered was relationship building, sensing the client’s hot buttons and enthusiasms and knowing how to play to them” (p 37).
By any intelligent indication from the above passage, “emotional intelligence” has nothing to do with the success of the “star performers” with their clients, but the fact that “wining and dining,” a now archaic form of doing business which remains for those who prefer to bribe clients with “money under the table.” Furthermore, the success of the star performers has more to do with “professional nepotism” and hours outside the office getting drunk and going to strip clubs and spending large amounts of money on clients, which has now become highly illegal in many countries around the world, including China, Vietnam and Japan.
Goleman even cites an example on “favoritism” and how detrimental it can be to business:
“Brought in to head a privately owned airline in a small Latin American country, he found the business a quagmire. The falling revenues were due to a legacy of cronyism and favoritism: The main sales agent for the airline was a close friend of the owner, and his contract was far more favorable than his competitors’, though his agency was weak in sales” (p 68).
Oh, the irony is rich, isn’t it? To learn more about “cronyism and favoritism” in Harvard University and Harvard Business School, you can read What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (2008) by Philip Delves Broughton, another alumnus of Harvard.
Probably the most alarming piece of information is the indirect mention and explanation on how governments and the elites keep the “working class” people running in circles and running the usual rat race. Here’s Goleman explaining how the mental process works:
“The prefrontal area is the site of ‘working memory,’ the capacity to pay attention and keep in mind whatever information is salient. Working memory is vital for comprehension and understanding, planning and decision making, reasoning and learning.
“When the mind is calm, working memory functions at its best. But when there is an emergency, the brain shifts into a self-protective mode, stealing resources from working memory and shunting them to other brain sites in order to keep the senses hyperalert—a mental stance tailored to survival.
“During the emergency, the brain falls back on simple, highly familiar routines and responses and puts aside complex thought, creative insight, and long-term planning. The focus is the urgent present—or the crisis of the day” (p 74).
In sum, by keeping the “working class” people (basically the working majority) on a mental high alert created by subsistence living (paying people the least amount possible to survive and not thrive), the people will be too mentally exhausted to do anything other than to handle the problems of the day at hand: which would usually include paying bills or dealing with relationship and/or job issues.
Later in the book, Goleman does mention some “secrets of success” and they are: “rapport, empathy, persuasion, cooperation, and consensus building” (p 229), and the secrets of “emotional competence” included are “astute political awareness, the ability to make arguments with emotional impact, and high levels of interpersonal influence” (p 259).
Nevertheless, there does remain some useful tips, most likely repeated from the first book, that provide the usual and mundane characteristics of successful managers (p 40-41):
- Self-control: The successful stayed composed under stress
- Conscientiousness: The successful took responsibility by admitting their mistakes and failures
- Trustworthiness: The successes had high integrity
- Social skills: The successes were empathic and sensitive
- Building bonds and leveraging diversity: The successes were more appreciative of diversity
One of the single greatest insights in this book is probably the one that disrupts Goleman’s “emotional intelligence” logic and research the most, and it is “Systems Theory,” explained thus:
“Systems theory tells us that in an environment of turbulent change and competition, the entity that can take in information most widely, learn from it most thoroughly, and respond most nimbly, creatively, and flexibly will be the most adaptive” (p 298).
Furthermore, what’s truly interesting to note about all this research done by Goleman and/or the Hay Group is that it all boils down to “Gut Feelings” (p 50):
“When it comes to decisions like these, our gut feelings—our deepest sense of what feels right and what is “off”—provide critical information that we must not ignore, lest we regret our choices.”
In conclusion, regarding a recommendation for Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998) by Daniel Goleman, I’m going to have to trust my “gut” on this one and advise you to go ahead and skip this book. Goleman’s sequel to Emotional Intelligence (1995) doesn’t offer anything new, nor anything enlightening, and the whole book with its “self-prohibited research” and its blatant and open admission of “professional nepotism” just feels, in the words of Goleman, “off.”
The book is “off” because its dated (published in 1998), it’s no longer valid in the real working world, it offers limited research (other than Harvard friends helping Harvard friends—which goes against the very principles of scholarly research), and it offers very little new light or new research (since the 1990s) on the twenty-first century work-life relationship.
Let’s face it: people have changed since 1998 and this book should be officially retired from the bookshelves. Go ahead and skip this book.
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 350,000+ followers