Friday, February 20, 2015

Emotional Intelligence Improves Millennial Communications at Work

Guest Post by Joanie Connell, Ph.D.

A mom confided in me she had gotten so frustrated with her 7-year-old daughter that she started crying. She said that once her daughter saw her crying, her daughter immediately stopped misbehaving and came over and held her to comfort her. The mom was beating herself up for letting that happen, but I offered a different perspective.

Look at what the daughter learned from that experience. Her behavior frustrated someone so much that it led them to cry. When someone cries it’s good to comfort them. And, the mom got over it and was fine after that. How empowering to the daughter to see how someone can get upset and get over it. How educational to understand how her behavior can affect the emotions of others and vice versa.

Emotions are at the root of human communication. In fact, it is widely believed that emotions evolved as a method to communicate. When we squelch emotions, we limit communication. The “poker face” is desirable in situations when we don’t want others to know how we feel. On the other hand, if we all walked around poker faced all the time, we wouldn't be able to interact with each other effectively. I coach business people on this frequently. To be effective communicators at work, we need to be able to express, interpret, and manage emotions.

The problem is many younger employees have been brought up in an emotion-deprived environment. Think about it. The PC movement has killed people’s ability to say what they think and feel. Schools now ban fighting and even ban words like “stupid.” When conflicts between students arise, their parents handle them. Kids are shielded from disappointment and showered with praise. “Everyone’s a winner” in sports and in the arts. By the time kids get to their first jobs, they haven’t experienced—or been allowed to express their experiences of—emotion.

Managers complain frequently that Millennial workers lack communication skills. Technology is often cited as the reason, but lack of emotional intelligence is another. How can managers help young employees develop emotional intelligence?

There are many great books, tools, and training programs out there and my new book, Flying without a Helicopter, is a great place to start. The key message is that emotions are core to communication and they need to be paid attention to. They aid us in building relationships, making decisions, and reducing conflict. Being in tune with our own and others’ emotions takes us to a whole new level of leadership in an organization. For people who have missed out on that training earlier in life, it is important for them to get it now. The good news about emotional intelligence is that it can be learned at any age.

Joanie B. Connell, Ph.D., is a talent management expert and career coach for people across job levels, ages, and industries. She works with companies to attract, develop, and retain top talent and she works with individuals to improve their success and happiness in their careers. Learn more about Joanie and her new book, Flying without a Helicopter online at

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