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Millennials, The Burnout Generation?

April 4, 2022, 5-min. read
Millennials, the burnout generation?

Fatigue, loss of meaning in what we do, a sudden slump in performance, cynicism. From time to time, most of us experience some of these burnout symptoms throughout our lives. But when constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted for a prolonged period of time, the impacts can be detrimental.

Burnout syndrome has been a very hot topic in recent years. Especially since we've become more accustomed to working remotely, the concerns over mental health have taken the world by storm. What is certain is that some people burn out more easily than others. But how much we are at risk of burnout is influenced by both external factors (type of profession, company culture, pressure to perform), and internal factors (i.e. our personality). 

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Those who are more at risk are those who are often very passionate about their work, have great drive, are bursting with energy, proactively take on new tasks and goals, want to perform at their best, and can't rest until they finish things. They don't delegate because they do things best themselves, they tend to be perfectionists, and at the same time have exaggerated, unrealistic expectations, and a tendency to toxic positivity & optimism.

But alongside external and internal factors, it turns out that there are also generational differences. By far the most at risk of burnout are the so-called millennials, i.e. people born between 1981 and 1995. Why?

There are multiple and mutually potentiating reasons. One cause may be financial stress caused by a combination of the increasing demands of starting a family along with the general economic situation (inflation, the economic downturn due first to the financial crisis, and then, a decade later, the pandemic). Thus, millennials are more exposed than other generations to the demands of high earnings and therefore high performance as a precondition. 

In addition, millennials are more focused on doing a perfect job and striving to excel. They grew up under the pressure of an upbringing focused on being successful, having the best schools, elite jobs - or in other words, just being perfect. 

Millenials, the burnout generation?

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At the same time, they have long been associated with the label of the "lazy" generation, which can create an even greater need to show that they are not, and to try harder. They spend more time at work than others, find it harder to take vacations, and, thanks to their active use of technology, spend evenings & weekends working. Thanks to the internet and smartphones, fixed working hours do not exist for them.

The fact that this is a generation for whom it is natural to navigate in the world of social networks also plays a significant role. A world where people present themselves through carefully curated or edited posts intending to portray perfection (perfect meals, perfect children, perfect holidays). When confronted with the lives of others presented in this way, it is very difficult to perceive oneself as successful, to be happy with oneself, and from all of that, they are only a step from feelings of anxiety, failure & stress. They have unreasonable expectations but cannot cope with failure. The upbringing they went through did not teach them to face criticism or failure. Moreover, social networks give the false impression that they are alone in it and deepen these feelings of isolation.

What does that tell us?

Looking at insights from across 30 countries and different segments gained through our continuous engagement mapping solution, we can see clear differences in how millennials perceive both importance and performance of various tracked indicators. 

Overall, millennials are by far the most fault-finding group. Of all generations, they perceive benefits and remuneration and the care they receive from the company most skeptically. On average, they see these areas 8-9% more negatively than others. Similarly, they are more critical of their own and the company's development, rating topics such as professional development, talent management, and innovation even 10-11% lower than others. They are similarly more critical of the companies they work for. They are less likely than others to recommend them as good employers. They rate significantly lower on strategy, values, top management, and how customer-focused companies are. 

In general, they are among the employees feeling the least loyalty, but also the least psychological well-being. They are more critical of the overall atmosphere and collaboration than others. They feel the least motivated of all employee groups.

Overall, millennials are by far the most fault-finding group.

This raises the question of whether there are any areas that millennials under 35, on the other hand, would rate higher. There are not many. Millennials under 35 are some of the most satisfied employees with the home office regime and the conditions they have for it. They are also more positive than others about the integrity and transparency of their respective companies, as well as the ability to work with and protect data. 

Overall, therefore, the data support the hypotheses and assumptions made in the first section and show that those under 35, in particular, may be more likely to feel burnt out than others. At the same time, however, the data give hope that the risk of burnout decreases when these crucial areas are managed accordingly, and the moment they move past the age of 35. 

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