Yale University

Working at Yale

From academics to application: University managers learn about emotional intelligence in the workplace

Click image for larger view

On May 22, over 200 graduates of the Great Manager and Extraordinary Leadership programs packed the Whitney Humanities Center.

When the premier session of the Managing at Yale Leadership Forum began, the overall mood of approximately 200 managers registered “pleasantly energetic” on research scientist Marc Brackett’s Mood Meter.  Given Brackett’s expertise in emotional intelligence, talent for presenting and a sharp wit, it was no surprise that the meter continued to rise along with the crowd’s positivity and energy level as the session progressed.

BrackettBrackett, the guest speaker for the inaugural forum, serves as director of the new Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (formerly the Health, Emotion, & Behavior Laboratory founded by President-elect Peter Salovey). Research conducted at the Center has shown that how people feel influences their thinking, decisions, relationships, and everyday behavior. “What people do with their emotions is especially important. Every day, emotions drive much of the success of managers, including the success of the people they lead,” says Brackett.

To jumpstart his popular talk on emotional intelligence, Brackett first displays his handy four-colored Mood Meter matrix to help his audience quickly assess how they are feeling when they first gather.  “I can ask people how they are feeling and most people can talk about their energy level or say whether they are feeling pleasant or not, but when asked to pick a specific word, we generally have difficulty finding the right word,” Brackett points out.

Guest speaker Marc Brackett (at left), Yale research scientist in psychology, kicked off the Managing at Yale Leadership forum series with a lively discussion on emotional intelligence in the workplace. Photos by Alaina Pritchard


Using the outcome of the Mood Meter assessment as a spring board, Brackett then turns to his research on how the emotional climate of an environment and the emotional intelligence of its constituents can affect job performance. At the heart of The Center’s signature program lies the The RULER Approach (“RULER”) to social and emotional learning — essentially five critical skills for emotional “literacy”: understanding how we learn to recognize emotions in ourselves and others, understanding the causes and consequences of a wide range of emotions, labeling emotions using a sophisticated vocabulary, expressing emotions in socially appropriate ways, and regulating emotions effectively. “These anchor tools provide a common language and set of strategies that can be integrated easily into the Yale workplace to enhance effectiveness as a manager,” explains Brackett.

mood meterDirectly aligning with their Mood Meter reading of “Excited”, “Happy” and “Inspired”, an overwhelming majority of the forum’s attendees declared it a valuable session and a success.  According to one manager who attended the forum, “Professor Brackett’s presentation was not only informative, thought-provoking and interesting, but entertaining as well!  I brought back to my office several take-aways that were very helpful for me to understand my approach to others in the workplace, and at home, too.  Thank you for sharing one of Yale’s finest professors.  I look forward to attending other sessions like this.  It helped me connect more to the Yale community of scholars as a staff member and to what is taught to Yale students.”  Many others in attendance echoed these sentiments and suggested offering similar seminars in the future.

Like the “mood” ring sensation of the 1970s, at any given time, the Mood Meter can be used to assess how you are feeling to better guide your emotional response to others. The Mood Meter will soon be available in a convenient app for mobile devices.


The forum series is a natural progression of the popular management training series, Managing at Yale, that launched in April 2009. “As Managing at Yale enters its fourth year, we are delighted to announce a new development dimension for managers who have completed the Great Manager and/or Extraordinary Leader programs,” says Elena DePalma, Human Resources’ director of Organizational Effectiveness and Staff Development. “The Managing at Yale Leadership Forum gives Managing at Yale graduates the opportunity to network with each other and hear from renowned thought leaders in the field of leadership development to keep their learning alive,” notes DePalma.

DePalma is especially pleased to connect Yale managers with world-class academic research.  “We look to tap into Yale's academic expertise to help continue the conversation,” she adds. It was by happenstance that DePalma connected with Brackett after a manager from his area participated in the Managing at Yale program, but she knew that he would be the perfect fit for the new program.  “We looked at his TED talk and felt that he would be just the right guest speaker to launch the forum series,” says DePalma.  Brackett and DePalma are looking forward to continuing the beneficial collaboration. “In addition to the forum with Marc, we are also experimenting with a half-day training program in June. The session is open to all Yale staff members for enrollment,” adds DePalma.

Watch Brackett's TED talk for a brief overview of his research on emotional intelligence and the R.U.L.E.R. approach.

It is a unique opportunity for an organization's managers to have direct access to cutting-edge research. "We are fortunate that much of the most important research on emotional intelligence has been pioneered right here at Yale," said vice president of human resources and administration Mike Peel in his remarks to the audience. "Understanding and utilizing the principles of emotional intelligence is particularly important for those of us who work in highly decentralized university workplaces where the ability to influence — rather than positional authority — is vital to getting things done," he continued. Given the palpable enthusiasm in the room for the subject matter, it is likely that many attendees wiil be turning principle into practice, and, as they do so, positively influence many additional staff members in their individual and varied workplaces across campus.

For more information on the Managing at Yale forum or training series, please send e-mail to managing@yale.edu