Why are American Millennials Burning Out and Quitting Jobs in Record Numbers?
What Ails American Millennials?
Of late, just about the time the Covid pandemic was making its presence felt worldwide, the United States has been witnessing a hitherto unrecorded trend of large numbers of professionals and workers quitting their jobs. While this has been dubbed The Great Resignation, by experts and business leaders, the focus in this article is on how burnout and stress as well as the overall environmental factors are contributing to higher rates of attrition and the other trend of Millennials taking time off to attend to their mental health issues.
Indeed, the alarming rates of burnout and stress have left even seasoned business leaders such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Sundar Pitchai of Google/Alphabet wondering about how to tackle The Great Millennial Burnout.
While it is undeniable that the pandemic led to these and other age cohorts reevaluating their lives and reprioritizing their goals and objectives, the impact of technology and our increasingly hyper speed 24/7 world cannot be overlooked either. More importantly, the Millennials or those between 25 and 40 years of age are also experiencing a disconnect with the world.
The Impact of WFH (Work from Home), Lack of F2F (Face to Face) Mentoring, and Virtual Lives
A key reason why so many American Millennials are burning out is due to the disruption caused to their work and personal lives on account of the pandemic. While WFH was welcomed initially and met with great enthusiasm, studies have shown that prolonged remote work impacts the mental health of younger workers rather than older Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Remote work, by definition, entails completely digital interactions and so, the lack of F2F is leading to a sense of disorientation among the Millennials.
Added to this is the fact that both on boarding and Mentoring of new and existing employees needs handholding and taking them through the paces of Onsite work. In the absence of this, many Millennials feel as though they have lost out on a critical aspect that defines our working lives.
In our personal experience, we have found that new employees become comfortable with their settings and the organizational environment in 2-3 months after they join and acclimatize to work in the presence of peers, colleagues, seniors, and other coworkers. The pandemic has robbed the Millennials of this vital experience.
How Technology Has Become the Problem and a Leading Reason for the Burnout and Stress Epidemic
Back in the 1990s, when we started our careers, there was much optimism and hope that technology is the answer to the problems of the world. Two decades hence, we no longer hold this view and recent research into the Millennials and their burnout and stress epidemic has flagged the role of excessive reliance on technology that is driving them to attrition and causing Mental Health issues among them.
In a way, the Millennials are the Digital Natives, or those who were born with technology, unlike us Gen Xers, whose tryst with technology began well into our 20s. Moreover, the virtual work and personal lives have placed tech at the center of our existence and as I discussed in the previous section, the pandemic years, with their lack of personal F2F bonding are leading to burnout and stress among the Millennials.
In addition, the Millennials have large amounts of student debt that places an additional burden on them coupled with the fact that the pandemic happened just as this age cohort was settling in their careers or were awaiting promotions to middle managerial roles.
The Millennials are More Politically Aware, Socially Conscious, Making Them Question Work and Life
Much has been written about how the Millenniums children or the Millennials are more engaged and connected, literally and figuratively, with the world around them. This heightened awareness of their place in the world often makes them more questioning than older Gen Xers. This can lead to conflicts as our hyper-partisan world which is becoming more toxic by the day, seeps into their self awareness and makes them prone to trends such as quitting jobs to find themselves and other such journeys of exploration.
Otherwise, why would celebrities such as the ace tennis players, Naomi Osaka, pull out of Grand Slam events because they wanted more time for themselves to find their balance? Moreover, why would European governments mandate corporates in the EU (European Union) to have dedicated psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, so that their employees can receive help with their mental health issues? Indeed, the acute burnout and stress and the epidemic of mental health issues among Millennials is no longer confined to the US, as it is a worldwide problem. This requires multi stakeholder participation and involvement to address the underlying factors and causes.
The Role of Older Employees, Business Leaders, and Trained Counselors in Tackling Millennial Angst
During the Industrial Age, work was something that complemented personal life as workers and executives in manufacturing firms bonded with each other, beyond the office hours, and made lasting friendships, that were sometimes more important than immediate familial relationships.
As we transition from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age, we need newer approaches to how employees and their mental wellbeing in the workplace are addressed. With more and more virtual interactions, this is the time for older employees to step in and step up here.
Some of the causes and the approaches that have been discussed so far are the findings of the annual Work Trends Report, sponsored by Microsoft. This has been the initiative of the business leaders mentioned earlier as the Millennial burnout has implications for Corporate America and its competitiveness.
To conclude, Millennial burnout and stress and the epidemic of mental health issues at the workplace have become a serious problem and something that needs urgent intervention.
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