Millennial Burnout

Two office workers collaborating.

Adding to the stereotypes of Millennials being self-absorbed, spoiled, and dependent on handheld technology, Millennials are now often being referred to as the “burnout generation”. Of these qualities, the latter may be the only one with a ring of truth to it – it’s also the one that should give employers the most cause for concern, not about hiring Millennials, but about keeping Millennials as members of your team.

Far from being a burden, many find having Millennials at their place of work is an asset. Their generational high standards and deeply instilled sense of ambition make them valuable for how far they can push boundaries, elevating their team and company with them. At least, that’s what one can generally expect from Millennials in the best of conditions. Working against that possibility is this grim reality; Millennial burnout is real.

Before we get into how this happened and what it means for businesses, let’s talk a bit about burnout. The first thing you should know is burnout is officially recognized as a syndrome by the World Health Organization; ergo, it exists, and saying otherwise flies in the face of expert opinion. As far as what burnout means specifically, the WHO defines it as “Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” This is a strong definition because of those last key words; successfully managed. This implies burnout can be a result of lacking stress management tactics on the part of the individual, and that can be the case. However, there are external factors to consider beyond the areas of individual control. Burnout also occurs as a result of stress management becoming too difficult to be handled practically.

With burnout reaching an all-time high within a particular generation, the reasonable conclusion is that the conditions in which they work and live, and not the individuals, are the cause of the problem. One common theory is Millennials were brought up to expect one version of the world and were met with a different world entirely. Most Millennials were raised and educated with the ideals that they could achieve anything to which they set their minds. Their parents and educators, the preceding generations, strived to endow them with drive and ingenuity – in this, they succeeded. Then these driven and ingenious people were forced to contend with a ruthless job market, crippling levels of debt, and an economy that seemed to be constructed to work against them. Quite predictably, the result is that of young hopefuls having the things they were promised subsequently crushed, and therein lays the root of Millennial burnout. After being educated to think anything was possible, the discovery of so many systemic and structural obstacles is causing despondency and a “what’s the point?” attitude.

This is one theory, and there are others. While striving to understand the source of the phenomenon is important, what’s more important for employers and companies is to contend with this reality. It is worth the effort to combat the burnout epidemic and keep your Millennial employees satisfied and driven. Here are some of the ways you can help provide the future they were promised.

Provide ample opportunity for advancement

As has already been mentioned, Millennials are driven – but drive tends to flicker out pretty quickly without validation, specifically in the form of tiers advance and goals achieved. Ambition is a good quality, but it’s also a hungry quality, and keeping ambitious people on your team means satisfying their drive. If you want Millennials to feel like they aren’t wasting their time, make sure there’s room to grow.

Be a team player by listening to their input

The best results are a product of collaboration, and Millennials are great people to collaborate with. A huge chunk of their education model was based around working in teams. As such, Millennials thrive in circumstances where their input is taken seriously, and you win by being receptive to fresh ideas.

Take mental health seriously

Now, this is just a good practice whether you have a Millennial-heavy team or not. However, Millennials are acutely aware of mental health being taken seriously. By offering benefits and care for mental health, you not only provide your team with the necessary resources to offer their best work, but you also establish that you care for them as individuals. If you give to your team, they will give back to you.

Take your head out of your pocketbook and look at the bigger picture

Millennials want meaning. They want a sense of purpose. Therefore, you’ve got to look at your work as more than just a means to an end for making money. Find the passion and ingenuity in what you do, because that’s what Millennials are looking for. (In addition to a good living wage – they’ve been set up with enough money struggles, try not to add to that.)


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