Younger Workers Experiencing More Anxiety

Our countrys economic decline is having a much more sizeable impact on young workers than on those from the Baby Boomer or Traditionalist generations, according to a study by MetLife Mature Market Institute study, administered in affiliation with Boston Colleges Sloan Center on Aging & Work. The studies findings were further detailed in the report, Engaging the 21st Century Multi-Generational Workforce.

The aim of the study was primarily to determine if age differences were a factor in the area of employee engagement. The study found this to be true. It is clear that different groups of workers are affected by diverse factors. While the report is an excellent resource for ideas to engage the different generations, it is also intriguing to learn how employees of different age levels are withstanding the economic unrest.

Employees age 26 and younger (Generation Y) and age 27 to 42 (Generation X) revealed a decline in engagement, while those over 43 showed very little change. This anomaly may be because younger employees have not been through similar tough times, while Baby Boomers and Traditionalists have. Having survived previous declines, the older workers understand that things sooner or later improve. Therefore, on a whole, older workers are better able to adjust.

These same findings were echoed in a recent Business Week article about the younger generations reaction to our recession. The Age of Anxiety piece pointed out that the younger generations first experience in the workforce could not have come at a worse time, and that the career decisions they make will have financial impact to them for many years to come.

Both the MetLife study and the Business Week article indicate that managers need to do more to help younger workers cope with the anxiety of living and working in a recession.

With all the other demands on your time, it may seem that to handhold younger workers is the least of your concerns. To the contrary, my experiences and those of Harvard professor Bob Sutton have shown that when workers become overwhelmed by stress, overall productivity in the work place will decline.

If you are a manager from the Baby Boomer or Traditionalist generation, you will find it very beneficial to overall productivity to take time with the younger generation employees to discuss how they are braving the stresses from the recession. You may want to divulge your own stories from previous declines and share ways that you were able to cope, as personal testimonials such as these will help to improve the younger generations productivity and ultimately the bottom line.

One of my clients, a vice president from a defense company, has initiated a town hall meeting within her company that gave experienced employees a chance to encourage and counsel the less experienced workers. They more tenured employees gave palpable suggestions to deal with upheaval, stress and extra work loads. There was an instant sense of relief within the entire room and a positive energy among younger and older employees alike that had previously been missing.

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