Emotional intelligence... is becoming one of the top traits employers desire in candidates, especially among recent grads and young professionals

There are countless articles on LinkedIn and career blogs that proclaim being emotionally intelligent will help you advance in the workplace and save you from the pitfalls of office drama.

In most ways, those articles are right. The ability to not blow up in your boss’ face after a bad review or pout when your idea is rejected helps maintain the peace and, more importantly, your employment status.

Millennials are often accused of lacking emotional intelligence, which can be viewed as a nuisance in the workplace. I sometimes think that our passion to do well is mistaken for a lack of emotional intelligence and tact, which boils down to being misunderstood by previous generations.

As with any newbie to an important, full-time, grown-up job, there is a possibility that Millennials may lack emotional intelligence because they don't have professional experience or weren't taught the do’s and don’ts of the workplace.

When I started my professional journey after college, it took time to develop the ability to read others and hold my tongue when I felt like the world (or, at least, my job) was against me. Eventually, I learned the language of my environment and became more confident in interjecting my feelings and opinion with diplomacy and without entitlement. Although I’ve mastered my verbal responses, I will admit that my facial expressions have the tendency to tell a tale of disgust, discontent, disappointment or whatever emotion work provokes without my permission– but that’s another story.

If you are struggling to handle your emotions in the workplace, here are a few tips that will keep you ahead of the game:

Emotional intelligence or “soft skills” is becoming one of the top traits employers desire for candidates, especially for recent grads and young professionals.

In a perfect world, being candid, transparent and honest feedback would be an accepted part of professionalism. Unfortunately, we live in a world where words must be filtered through unwritten rules and mixed with fluff before the final message is given. Employers desire candidates who can handle “constructive” criticism, changing business needs and working with many different personalities.

A college degree and limited work experience does not guarantee emotional intelligence, so it is important that Millennials monitor their actions and reactions with a critical eye. From experience, I know that careful observation and consideration to the flow and politics of the workplace will quickly help you understand the most appropriate ways to react when you want to shove professionalism to the side.

If you are in a multigenerational workforce, it is very likely that mentalities about how to handle your emotions in the workplace may vary- if not clash.

I frequently hear different theories on how to conduct myself in the workplace when certain situations arise. “Never tell your manager how you really feel,” or “Never let people know what’s going on at home – it’s no one’s business.” While I understand the revelation of these items can give someone else an opportunity to get under your skin, I believe that Millennials may handle these situations differently.

Millennial employees are more expressive than their Boomer and Gen X counterparts, in part because workplace games are exhausting and time consuming. I believe many Millennials have the ability to get to the point an say what they feel with tact.

Unfortunately, workplaces do not have a synchronized philosophy about emotional intelligence, so be wary of others who may be out to test you with games established long before you were an employee.  

Millennials should figure out which type of emotional intelligence they use and not allow fear to skew their message.

I have determined there are two types of emotional intelligence: scared and progressive. Scared emotional intelligence are traits shown in employees who are afraid to be expressive and always “play it safe,” even if they feel that they have been wronged in the workplace. Progressive emotional intelligence is defined by individuals who realize that being tactful in their communication is critical to getting their point across without diluting their message.

Millennials should strive to avoid fluffing their opinions and ensure that their feelings are conveyed respectfully. Masking your true feelings all the time quickly discredits your backbone. Don’t be viewed as a “Yes Man" (or woman). Be firm and polite when you disagree, do not allow fear to dictate whether you are comfortable within the workplace.

Emotional intelligence needs an upgrade. Ultimately, I believe in the power of respecting your boss and co-workers; however, I believe the landscape of emotional intelligence will eventually evolve into transparency. My prediction is that Millennials will advocate for being their authentic self and no longer modify the context of their message to spare egos or feelings. Until then, we’ll have to have to settle for good ole’ fashioned emotional intelligence – one situation at a time.


AuthorWhitney Barkley