Let’s say you and I are talking in person — and I make a strange request: “Take your right forefinger and draw a capital E on your forehead.”

There are two ways to do that, of course. You can draw like the guy on the left or like the guy on the right.

But which choice you make might say a lot about what kind of boss you are. It’s all explained in this Sunday Telegraph column, which draws on pioneering research led by Northwestern University’s Adam Galinsky (a name all you social psych nerds should be keeping an eye on and who also happens to be the guy on the left.)

Photo credit: Adam Galinsky, Blackwell Publishing

13 Responses to “A 30-second test to determine whether your boss is a gem or a jerk”

  1. Great Telegraph article on the importance of soft skills such as empathy.

    With respect to the E test – what if you are asking a left handed person to do the test? Or by virtue of being left handed in a right handed world, are left handers naturally more attuned to the other’s perspective anyway?

  2. Avatar photo Dan Pink says:

    @Rashmir –Great point. In the experiment, they controlled for both handedness and sex when they analyzed the results. (Check page 1070 of the paper itself for more info.)

  3. Katherine says:

    I am usually pretty clear on whether my boss is empathetic or not – but I would think that this would be a great way to start a conversation with bosses that need some more empathy – from the standpoint of the person above them.

  4. Toni Brayton says:

    Where does that leave all the dyslexic people who struggle to write anything correctly at all?

  5. Red Denal says:

    Great insight and analogy about empathy. Thanks for sharing us your article on telegraph, Dan, but I agree that empathy shouldn’t be the only quality of leaders.

  6. Angel says:

    Excellent article. It reinforces Empathy as one of the most important assets leaders must embrace. Crushing numbers is not everything after all.


  7. Jack Uldrich says:

    Love it! I used this same research to explain why we might want to “Question the Wisdom of Experts”: http://www.unlearning101.com/fuhgetaboutit_the_art_of_/2011/02/question-the-wisdom-of-experts.html

    All the best,

    Jack Uldrich

  8. Christine Anderson says:

    Just an observation, half-way through your book, liking what I’m reading, caught in the call-center hell you talk about – it is the perfect description. Here is the irony heard about this book from a group at my company who are enthused. This company just introduced a highly restrictive adherence policy to better serve the customer. How that translates to happier customers when your employees are frustrated is beyond me. BUT, you book has led me to discover why I dearly love working for start-up companies. Thanks

  9. Kent says:

    Love it, I am the one who wrote the E backward so that my readers can read.

  10. Zsolt Fabok says:

    Is the letter E somehow special?

    I did the experiment with my girlfriend and we also tried other letters like, P, L, K, S, N – almost every letter which isn’t symmetric -, and we got a mixed result, but both of us missed the S and N which are really hard to draw in the right way unless one pays attention to them.

    I tried out what Rashmir suggested, and for me it didn’t matter whether I used my left or right hand (I’m left handed).

  11. okay, I was actually having a day where I felt like I have been doing a bad job at listening to others on staff. Then I saw your post and decided to try it out. I wrote the E so that it came out that I listened to others perspectives. Then I asked everyone in the office to try it and everyone wrote it the same way. Have we just created a great working environment or is this not accurate?

  12. Frode H says:

    This made some fun moments at work today. Asked a teamleader to do this and we had fun discussing how one little gesture is going to have such a psycological impact. 🙂

  13. Susan says:

    That’s an interesting concept. Funny, I’ve talked to an acquaintance about this a while ago and she said she would write E the correct way just because she finds it objectionable to have anything the wrong way around, even if I told her she doesn’t have to actually WRITE anything on her forehead. In her case, it’s may be more a matter of doing things the right way rather than being empathetic.