To reveal or conceal? Managers' disclosures of private information during emotional intelligence training

Thory, Kathryn (2016) To reveal or conceal? Managers' disclosures of private information during emotional intelligence training. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 27 (1). pp. 41-66. ISSN 1532-1096

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    Abstract

    To date, emotional intelligence (EI) training interventions have been under-researched. This study responds to this paucity of scholarship by investigating the occurrence of private disclosures during managerial EI training. Whilst an unorthodox practice, this article argues that trainers introduce opportunities to reveal private information to develop participants’ EI. The aims of this study are to explore the role of such disclosures and how emotion influences managers’ decisions to reveal or conceal private information. Data is drawn from participant observations and interviews with managers and trainers attending three externally provided, ‘popular’ EI training courses. Applying Petronio’s communication privacy management theory and Stiles’ fever model of distress disclosure to analyse the data, a typology is presented that suggests managers reveal private information for ‘self-awareness’ and ‘catharsis’ and conceal private information for ‘self-protection’ and ‘disengagement’. By applying Petronio’s theory to a new work context of training and extending Stiles’ model to a range of emotions, the article provides novel insights into managerial control over disclosures, privacy boundary turbulence and how emotions serve as a resource and condition to disclosure practices. These findings have relevance for trainers and their strategies to develop EI.