Last Tuesday (January 12, 2016) we (Jacqueline Weesie and I) gave a lecture to students of the University of Amsterdam about stress experienced by Young Professionals and collaboration issues between younger and older employees. They were already aware of the fact that young workers are having a hard time coping these days, but after showing them how many percentage is suffering from burn-out (16,6% last year TNO, even 19% for Young Professionals with flexible employment contracts) they were still quite surprised (and shocked!). We told the students about the four main causes: stress of choice (because of the unlimited possibilities), job insecurity (many people staying unemployed), competition (i.a. aggravated because of social media) and perfectionism (to actually have a chance to beat the competition).
How is this different from stress experienced by older workers? We gave the students an answer to this question i.a. based on the survey research (2010) done by our colleague Frank Kuijsters in Singapore. Apparently older workers mainly have to deal with the stereotype of being conservative, while Young Professionals have to deal with the expectation of being ‘the next big thing’ (which also often leads to tendencies of perfectionism mentioned earlier). But even though they are told the future is theirs, Young Professionals still feel they are not taken seriously because of their lack of experience. They try to catch up by working extra hours, which causes even more stress and a work-life balance that is worsened.
Partly due to the differences mentioned above, younger and older workers also stumble upon challenges during times they have to cooperate in the workplace. For example:
- Older workers prefer to plan meetings about a specific subject beforehand, while younger workers want to discuss the subject whenever and as soon as it proves necessary.
- Older workers are often more formal in the way they dress and approach other people, while younger workers dress casual and speak in a more informal way.
- Older workers value personal contact, while younger workers usually think it easier to communicate through technology (i.a. e-mail and whatsapp)
This also gives possibilities to learn from one another. Older workers have a lot of work experience they are more than willing to share with younger workers if they actually are willing to listen. Younger workers are up to date with the latest technology, which they can help older workers to get acquainted with.
Cooperation between two (or more) generations will take time and patience. It all begins with wanting to learn from each other and have mutual respect for each other’s qualities. Welcome each other’s ideas and strategies. Working in harmony will not only enhance group performance, but will reduce stress in every generation as well. Just begin to talk to one another.
So… Tell us. Are you experiencing stress?
Note. We went deeper into two important factors that contribute to stress experienced by Young Professionals: self-efficacy and perfectionism. These topics will be covered in a later blog.