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Gen Y on Emotional Intelligence in the Digital Age

Written by: on  March 26, 2012

Emma Trachtenberg


Enter Emma Trachtenberg:


The leaders in my life, who I will never forget, are the ones who have taken the time to get to know each and every person in the team. They have always been, to me, someone who can handle constructive criticism and always takes it on board and makes the appropriate changes. Good leaders leave fond memories, rather than intimidating ones. Leaders, I have heard, have changed over the years and especially with the research into EI, it has been found that successful leaders score highly on most aspects of EI (Social skills, Adaptability, Social awareness, self-management, self-awareness) and not just technical or strategic skills. I wonder whether leaders are evolving in order to effectively lead the younger generations. We may be more intelligent than previous generations, but are we perhaps more emotionally sensitive and therefore need leadership that effectively handles our emotions as workers and employees?

Being from Gen Y, I have very much been brought up in a Digital Age. I feel that those born around the same time as myself and especially those born after – have grown up with the technology at their fingertips. This technology allows them to speak to their friends and family whether they are on the other side of the world or sitting right next to them! Communicating through text messaging, Facebook, Twitter etc. are all mediums of communication that do not necessarily need effective EI in order to communicate sufficiently and have a digital relationship. And these relationships can be with someone you have known for years or someone you have never laid eyes on. Discussing the topic with my friends we all agreed that we frequently misconstrue what the other is saying through text messages. We even think the other person is angry with us if there aren’t kisses or a smiley face at the end.  Nuances of speech and clues to genuine meaning are evident only in person.

I read recently that the co-founder of Twitter, Christopher Stone, has appealed to Tweeters to cut down on their addictive habit, as he emphasises that Twitter is for responding and facilitating events, and not there to replace them. Being a Gen Y who is fully integrated within social media and an active user, but also a sociable person who enjoys interacting with her friends and new people all the time, I can only agree, as now-a-days the advantages of networking through social medias is immense and if used effectively -can add to and help cement a relationship you made years ago or the night before, or even a future relationship – for work, for fun or for your personal life and shouldn’t replace a relationship.

I am in the recruitment industry and in one training session a group of us discussed whether every candidate should (ideally) be registered in person. I immediately said yes, and still stand by my answer. I have not been in recruitment for very long but I believe that if you have a strong candidate who looks good on paper, says the right things on the phone and you think you can easily place them in a role – That candidate still needs to be able to prove themselves in person. Nothing quite beats learning more about someone face to face. The subtle give-aways are there to make someone more or less credible. How can I place a leader within a company without knowing the strength of their EI?

My generation has been found to be more intelligent than the one before and the one before that, perhaps this is partially due to the access to knowledge that was simply not readily available before. You can see some young people are very savvy and well-informed but are they more or less emotionally intelligent? And how will leaders need to adapt in order to ensure the emotional intelligence of todays youth? I can only assume that the following generations will become less emotionally intelligent as human interactions become less frequent. Young people aren’t learning to read facial expressions, body language and subtleties of speech while spending hours on the internet – or heads down on their phones. Personally, I will be making a concentrated effort to be with the people in the room.



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  • Anonymous

    Raised via helicopters boomer parents who provided trophies for participation and they expect the same when they enter the workforce. They talk a good talk about their global outlook but are completely ill prepared to accept and deal with global competition in the work force and market place which is whey they respond to false prophets and claims of “fairness” and “justice”.  They have solid technology skills but rely on them far too much forgetting that the generation behind them though smaller will be more savy then even they are. Gen Yers have been taught to be almost ceaseless self promotors in society and the work place. “See me” and you have to “appreciate me” is there modus operandi. Statistics demonstrate they are less academically inclined then Gen Xers before them who placed a higher emphasis on academic achievement and on average hold higher percentages  of advanced degrees. They are not without redeeming qualities in that when motivated they can become true believers and are less skeptical then say Gen Xers. They are high maintenance though, and require near constant feedback to manage. They can perform tasks quickly but need instruction and reassurance.

  • Andy

    Love your comments and I’m finding companies are increasingly challenged by the generational differences, especially as we now have four generations in the workplace. A great source of research for me is through TomorrowToday who specialise in the future of work. It’s worth having a look at the research they’re gathering

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