Millennials have 'higher emotional intelligence'


If a measurement or assessment is discriminating between age groups, something is wrong. How was this conclusion possible?

Read More Abel Jimenez
Add a comment

Leaders need to adopt new management styles to effectively manage those with higher emotional intelligence than previous generations

Younger people generally have higher emotional intelligence in the workplace than previous generations, according to cognitive neuroscientist and business psychologist Lynda Shaw.

“In terms of emotional intelligence they are much better,” she told HR magazine. “They are observant, responsive, and they react accordingly. While that is a generalisation, it’s my experience.”

Shaw suggested that the increased emotional intelligence of millennials means that in order to be managed effectively they need to be led in a different way to previous generations.

“If you have somebody who is good at reading people and can respond accordingly, who is interested in their emotional wellbeing, they will be more effective when compared to the old style of manager who doesn’t ‘do’ emotion in business. The young person would feel squashed under that old type of management.

“We need to be mindful of how we’re managing the younger generation; more so than ever before,” she added.

Shaw also said millennials have a more serious outlook on work than previous generations. She explained that the environment teenage brains develop in dictates how someone will understand the world as an adult.

“Someone who is in their early sixties would have been growing up in the ‘60s, so they will have been influenced by Martin Luther King, the use of the birth control pill, and anti-Vietnam demonstrations. That generation are very much the idealists. Even now, in their sixties, those people will still be idealists,” she said.

Millennials had a different experience, she explained. “If all you hear is adults bleating on about the government, how the financial situation is bad, how things cannot be afforded, that will certainly influence how you feel about money,” she said. “Twenty-year-olds now have been brought up with both parents working. They are independent, they are very serious, and they are geared up. Many have university debts they are trying to clear and want to get on the property ladder. It’s such serious stuff. Compare that to my generation, whose twenties were in comparison quite hedonistic.”

Shaw believes the assumption that younger people are worse at communicating because of social media is a myth. “If you think about it, using gadgets can facilitate better communication in some ways,” she said. "We assume that if young people are always using a phone or a screen it means they’re not communicating ‘properly’. In my experience it actually makes them very good at communicating.”


I tend to disagree and I am not sure the writer has done her research in the real world. 'Twenty-year-olds now have been brought up with both parents working' is not actually correct and many are brought up in households where their parents and sometimes grandparents have not worked hence the work ethic is not there. It's a bit different at the coalface running, or trying to run, a successful company when dealing with millennials who are unable to structure a coherent email, use the apostrophe in the right place, or spell.


Hi Carol, thank you for your comment. I checked the ONS, and found the following data regarding 'workless' households: "Out of the 20.7 million households (where at least 1 member is aged 16 to 64), in April to June 2015, in the UK, 11.6 million (55.9%) were classed as working, a further 5.9 million (28.3%) were classed as mixed and 3.3 million (15.8%) were classed as workless. The broad picture since 1996 is one of an overall increase in the share of working households and a declining share of workless households. There has also been an overall decline in the share of children aged 0 to 15 years old living in workless households since 1996." 'Workless' households also included cases such as lone parents who are students. Source:


In my experience, outside of the USA, I find the complete opposite.


While the influence of teenage/young adulthood years is certainly strong, that childhood years are equally strong if not stronger. I am a Boomer and was born and raised in the UK. I therefore had my early experience in post war Britain, with bomb sites as playgrounds, broken soldiers everywhere, rationing still in place to some extent, etc. Could those and similar experiences have created the idealism that led to things like support for anti-Vietnam War responses and a focus on love, reinforced by the US Civil Rights movement, availability of birth control, etc.? Even in North America, where I now live, where bomb sites and rationing were not part of the experience (other than Pearl Harbour, of course), and with, unlike Britain, a booming economy, the Boomers reacted against the horrors of war with an idealistic (and looking back, perhaps unrealistic) focus. My point here is that we need to look at childhood experience rather than teenage, and see how that generates the worldview in teenage years. The other concern I have is that this article has a very WASP focus, yet our Millenial youngsters in the workplace are very often from many other ethnic and cultural backgrounds, with very different experiences and values at many levels, so how does that play out? I recognise that this is a general and short post, and that the author acknowledges that the observations of the psychologist are anecdotal, not based on empirical evidence. Nonetheless, I would like to have seen more depth - what behaviours did the psychologist observe that suggest higher levels of EI, for example? My experience is that Millenials tend to prefer working in team environments, which may result in greater EI, but why is that? Is it because they have greater EI in the first place, or because Millenials grew up in a knowledge- and learning-based world where working independently is virtually impossible if people are to succeed, combined with the technology that fostered team approaches?


If a measurement or assessment is discriminating between age groups, something is wrong. How was this conclusion possible?


The statement that millenials have a higher EQ than older generations is a bold claim, one for which I would expect far more evidence for than an opinion. At the least I would have expected more than one expert to weigh in and certainly not one who used the words "in my experience" rather than citing research. There should at least be a reference to a social science study indicating the same.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

All comments are moderated and may take a while to appear.