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Millennials have 'higher emotional intelligence'

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.”