Emotional Intelligence Training Effects on Burnout within Active-Duty Military Servicemembers

Lindsey Hildebrand, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
Alisa Huskey, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
David Negelspach, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
William Killgore, University of Arizona, Tuscon, United States


Burnout is characterized as chronic workplace stress resulting in increased cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and reduced professional efficacy. Burnout is linked to an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and suicidality. However, skills such as mindfulness and emotion regulation have been shown to improve feelings of burnout. Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability and capacity to understand, perceive, and manage one’s own, as well as others’, emotions. EI is associated with a range of positive health, wellbeing, and behavioral outcomes. Methods to increase EI are greatly needed; particularly for military Servicemembers who experience a higher rate of adverse stressors and burnout throughout their career.  We developed an online Emotional Intelligence Training Program (EIT) for the military to train EI and related EI concepts. We hypothesized that military personnel who were assigned to the EIT program would experience a reduction in burnout as a result of training.

Participants and Methods:

There were 254 (NMales= 184, NFemales= 70) active-duty military Servicemembers who took part in our study (Mage=29.85 SD=5.853). Study participants were randomly assigned to either the Emotional Intelligence Training Program (EIT) or the Placebo Training Program (PAT) after enrollment. Over the course of three weeks, participants completed approximately 10 hours of interactive online training modules within their assigned program. The Maslach Burnout Inventory General Survey (MBI-GS) was measured at baseline and post-training. Higher scores on the MBI-GS indicate higher perceived workplace burnout. We conducted a mixed ANCOVA controlling for participant inconsistency to assess changes in perceived burnout pre and post program intervention (EIT and PAT) while also examining the effect of training program on different deployment statuses.


There was a statistically significant interaction effect of program intervention and deployment status on perceived burnout (F(2,184) = 3.311, p=.039, ηp2 = .035). Bonferroni post-hoc analyses revealed Servicemembers that were exposed to combat during deployment (n=46) and assigned to the EIT program significantly decreased in burnout post-intervention (M=53.370, SD=18.712) compared to pre-intervention (M=58.430, SD=16.363) (p=.011). This effect was not demonstrated for Servicemembers who deployed with no combat (n=32) exposure or non-deployed personnel (n= 28) assigned to the EIT program (p>.05). Additionally, this pre to post training effect was not observed for personnel with combat exposure who were assigned in the PAT program (p>.05).


Servicemembers who were exposed to combat during deployment and enrolled in the EIT program experienced a significant reduction in perceived burnout post-training. These findings provide insight into when EIT training may be most valuable. Given that military Servicemembers that experience combat are at greater risk for increased stress and mental health issues post-deployment, EIT upon reintegration may provide a preventative measure for burnout. Future research should examine the effect of EIT in improving outcomes for military Servicemembers with combat related mTBIs (blast, blunt, or blast-blunt) in reducing feelings of burnout post-injury. This is of particular importance to those with mTBIs since impairments in emotional regulation is a common symptom of brain trauma: EIT could provide the emotional skills to help reduce feelings of burnout after injury and increase feelings of professional efficacy.

Category: Emotion Regulation

Keyword 1: awareness
Keyword 2: emotional processes