For a while now the media has showed us the alarming numbers of young employees who suffer from an increase of stress and consequently, burn-out. Every media outlet offers us the cold facts about the consequences for both employee and employer. What strikes me while reading these articles is that (almost) none of them actually mentions or tries to explain WHY it is that young employees suffer more from burn-out than their older counterparts. Isnt it way more interesting to assess WHY these young people are having these reactions and emotions than to merely report it. With that knowledge organizations and the employees themselves can actually work in bringing these stress and burn-out symptoms down and continue on the road to the best possible outcome for both the person and organization.
With this in mind I started doing my research at the University of Amsterdam to search for explanations as to why these starters experience more and more burn-out. During the course of 6 months I got in contact with different organizations and developed a scientifically validated survey that could hopefully give some answers and explanations. During this research I focused on three cognitive elements that occur during work: Role ambiguity, ways of coping with stress and job security.
The results were pretty clear and provide a good basis for further research in this interesting phenomenon. The biggest results from the research were:
- Young employees suffer from more burn-out due to more role ambiguity.
- Young employees suffer from more burn-out due to their ways of coping with stress.
The first explanation is actually pretty obvious and easily preventable. When you start working most of the times you have more questions than answers. What can you do, what is expected from you, what are your responsibilities and how are you being evaluated. Most of us that are at the start of their careers ask themselves these questions, and the road to their answers are often riddled with stressful encounters. When your role within an organization is clear from the start, this will result in less stress/ burn-out and faster improvement and results!
The second explanation is one that can be trained from the start of a career. Young employees often handle stressful situations by means of their consequences, the negative feelings and emotions, whereas older employees look at the root of the problem. Young employees are focused on these negative feelings and try to turn those around. They try to avoid them or distract themselves from these emotions. On the short term this can help reduce these negative emotions and result in less stress, but in reality you havent done anything about the source of these stressful feelings. On the long term stress will keep coming back and eventually lead to burn-out which renders you unable to work for possibly a long period of time. A solution can be found in not (only) looking at the emotional outcomes of stress (the outcome), but more so where the stress is coming from (the problem). A better understanding in how to combat your stress and look at the root of it instead of the consequence will also result in less stress and more productivity and happiness.
These two results stand out the most as explanations as to WHY younger employees suffer from more burn-out than their older counterparts, and both are easily trainable as long as you recognize Organizations should focus on making it clear what is expected from their youngest employees right at the start, combined with a training that teaches them how to assess stressful situations, to focus on the source rather than the consequence. This is exactly what Digne Consult has done with their Young Professional training. Digne Consult wants every Young Professional to be able to start their careers in the best way possible to be able to develop themselves into the best version of themselves. Burn-out can be a major setback in someones development and to experience that at the start of your career can seriously slow down that process. For that reason the Young Professional training is open for everybody, with free e-learning on the website so that everybody that wants to can actively shape their professional and personal career the best way possible.
Young people are the future for every organization, and by making sure that they can develop themselves in a positive and clear environment will result in better, more productive and most importantly, happy individuals!
Floris de Vries
Ps. Ofcourse this is just a small fragment of the research that has been done, if you are interested in the whole thesis, you can find it by clicking here!