Millennials and stress have a difficult relationship. This generation, born roughly between 1980 and 2000, are already the most stressed-out generation ever. Millennials are often described as “entitled” and accused of being “tough to manage” in the workplace.
In this 15-minute kick-ass monologue Simon Sinek breaks down the four reasons Millennials are so vulnerable to stress in the workplace, and why millennials are not to blame:
(summary below partly from the video, partly my own research)
Millennials are already called “Generation Stress”:
- In a study by the American Psychological Association almost 40 % of millennials said their stress had increased over the past year compared to 33 % for baby boomers and 29 % for older Americans
- Over 50 % of millennials said that stress had kept them awake at night during the past month (37 % for baby boomers and 25 % for older Americans)
- Already, 19 % of millennials have been diagnosed with depression, compared to 12 % of baby boomers and 11 % of older Americans
Why is this happening?
1 | Failed parenting strategies
Millennials are sadly often described with one word: “entitled”. This generation have a reputation of collecting trophies, badges and accomplishments in the same way earlier generations may have collected stamps or Kinder surprise gifts.
It’s not exactly millennials’ fault – they grew up as victims of the ‘self-esteem theory’ linking high self-esteem with good grades and career success. As part of this theory millennial kids were told “they could have anything they want in life”. It was a well-intended theory, but along with parents dispensing praise and coaches giving out trophies just for participating, also came traits leaning towards self-absorption.
In the real world that’s not how it works – you can not have everything, and your mom cannot get you that promotion. For this generation the aftermaths of the financial crisis have been devastating. It’s psychologically difficult to adapt to dwindling job opportunities and increased financial insecurity when you feel you’re settling for less than you’re worth. As a result, millennials are now a generation of lowered self-esteem.
2 | Technology and social media
Millennials are the first generation to reach adulthood under the watchful eye of social media. Whereas earlier generations as young adults barely knew what happened outside their closest friends, millennials have grown up knowing all activities (that is, the social-media-worthy ones) of all their friends and acquaintances. The result? Nonstop social comparison resulting in feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness.
“Social media isn’t real. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement.”
– Essena O’Neil, 19, who had half a million followers and publicly quit social media
Engagement with social media and technology releases a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a feel-good boost. But dopamine is also highly addictive, comparable in its numbing effects to, according to Sinek, alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Now we have a generation that’s brought up with unlimited access to a numbing, addictive ‘drug’ that’s impacting millennials’ ability to properly cope with stress.
3 | Impatience
Millennials have grown up in an on-demand world. Buy something on Amazon – get it the next day. Want to see a TV-series – binge watch it all in one weekend. Need to get laid – no need to go out, just swipe right. Want to get rich – set up a startup and get an exit two years from now. Everything can be delivered instantly, which builds up an expectation of instant gratification.
But the things in life that really matter take a lot of time to build. Things like job fulfilment, things like deep relationships. You cannot simply swipe right or express deliver those things. It’s a lot of hard work, awkward practice, failure upon failure, and long-term commitment to get those things. With a generation characterised by impatience, the risk is that many will miss out on those things and the deep fulfilment it can bring.
4 | Environment
“we take these kids and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids.
They care about the short term gains than the long-term life time of this human being.
And [millennials] think it’s them. That it’s they who cannot deal.”
Sinek argues that it’s the lack of leadership, bad corporate culture, and an inability to teach millennials what it takes to succeed in the work place, the value of hard, long-term work and finding true job fulfilment.
Are you a millennial and recognise these?
Or do you employ millennials and can relate?