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Are your Feelings Driving Your Decisions?

Monday, April 3, 2017  
Posted by: Evelyn Levine
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Dr. Magda Du Preez speaks at ATD NYC March Chapter Event


At the March ATD NYC chapter event, Dr. Magda Du Preez shared a research model illustrating the impact of feelings on decision making. The model is the outcome of her study of middle managers across a variety of organizations.

The study found that feelings do indeed affect decision making. However; the effect of an individual’s feelings can be moderated by their personality traits; and is dependent on the work context.

The “Uncertainty” Effect

A key variable in determining the effect of feelings is the context in which decisions are made. Specifically, when situations are “uncertain” (i.e., where there is no agreement as to methods or results), emotions are higher and have a greater effect on how an individual makes decisions. For example, if managers are tasked with increasing sales in an environment where there is no clear way to accomplish the goal, they will feel a heightened level of uncertainty and their emotions will have a greater impact on their decisions.

An individual’s internal context also plays an important role. Managers will vary on what they consider an “uncertain” situation, depending their level of skill, cognitive processing, and previous experience.

In addition, a manager’s personality traits can moderate their emotional responses to situations. For example, a manager who is feeling proud may take inappropriate risks. Without the personality trait of ambition that drives the manager to do the hard work necessary, the risks taken may be disastrous. However, if feeling proud is moderated by ambition, the risks taken may be calculated, leading to great reward.

Training Managers to Navigate Uncertainty

The key value of this model is that it integrates multiple factors—feelings, personality, and decision making—that contribute to excellence in leadership.

Managers can be trained to be able to recognize uncertain situations and their own responses to them, and to leverage their personality to make appropriate decisions.


Dr. Du Preez has reported that after training groups of managers in the model:

  • Managers learned to listen more effectively
  • Managers improved their decision making
  • Employees were more engaged
  • Managers reported a higher level of trust in the organization


Feedback from managers who have been trained with this model has been very positive; participants felt it was scientifically sound, integrative, and practical.


Check out the upcoming ATD NYC events  – there are more events like these happening all the time. 

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