Our workplaces today are encumbered with stress. What is the reason? Is it the need to generate extraordinary results, paucity of time and resources, excessive work pressure or implausible challenges that are the contributing factors to this stress? Probably not, these factors were, are, and will remain an essential part for any workplace. Vivek Mehrotra, head operations academy, Reliance Retail Ltd., shares an interesting article highlighting the easons for stress and stress busters which can come to our rescue.
One of the reasons for stress is the fact that today’s workplace has a mix of employees from various generations, right from Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) to Gen X (born 1965 to 1976) and Gen Y (born 1977 to 1990). Most of the senior managers in organizations today are Baby Boomers whereas middle line managers and front line employees are a mix of generation X and Y. Conflicting expectations from each other and consequent behavior is the genesis of stress at workplace. Unless people from various generations will try to understand each other’s point of view, the differences between them will never subside. Ensuing write up is an effort to sensitize Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y about their actions that give rise to stress at workplace and what they should do to de-escalate it.
Gen Y is tech savvy. Exponential technological advancement is providing an unprecedented exposure to Gen Y. They are fascinated towards computers, mobile phones, internet and video games. Email, SMS, BBM, WhatsApp, etc. have become an integral part of Gen Y’s life. They spend hours and hours on these gadgets in order to be connected with each other. On the contrary Baby Boomers consider these activities a waste of time and Gen Y’s casual approach towards work. However, Baby Boomers can take advantage of Gen Y’s high affinity towards technology/gadgets and social media by providing them freedom to use the same at workplace for producing extraordinary results. Nevertheless, if Gen Y can show the tangible benefits of their understanding of latest technology for improving business results, they will come closer to their seniors effortlessly. This will help them to expel apprehensions of their seniors and will also ease out unnecessary tensions between them.
Feeling of Independence
Another factor contributing to Gen Y’s mindset is the prevailing socio-economic conditions. Unlike the ‘West’, Baby Boomers in India grew up in an era of scarcity and control, whereas Gen Y has an abundance of both resources and the liberty to live their own life. This feeling of empowerment and independence has not only made Gen Y demanding but is also shaping up their personality, and consequently the behavior. This new age persona and associated behavior of Gen Y causes differences between them and others. When they ask questions it is taken by others especially Baby Boomers as an attack on their authority. Gen Y’s suggestions are perceived as radical and their life style as provocative; it looks as though they always want to break the rules. No wonder, such perceived notions and resultant responses from Baby Boomers and Gen X make Gen Y revolt. Needless to mention, this leads to stress at the workplace.
On the face of it, Baby Boomers seem to be on the receiving end, yet ultimately who is the loser? It is Gen Y as they have their whole life to live. A healthy life full of joy needs to be devoid of stress. Today, no one gets surprised on hearing the news of death due to heart attack of a youngster at the age of 29. This is because while Gen Y remains in euphoria of their self-created empowerment and independence, they do not realize that stress originating due to imposition of their feelings on others harms them more.
For Baby Boomers there are fixed office timings e.g. 10 to 6 pm. Whereas Gen Y does not believe in fixed timings. For them 24 hours is a continuum depending upon their convenience any time frame is good for work. By not being able to explain logic or benefits of their lifestyle to others, Gen Y only adds to their own agony. Many a times this leads to friction between them and others. However, Baby Boomers can take advantage of Gen Y’s flexibility in terms of work timings by providing them opportunity to ‘Work from home’ or ‘Flexi timings’. This will encourage Gen Y to put that extra energy and efforts which otherwise they waste in resisting ideas of Baby Boomers.
Yeh Dil Mange More
Gen Y expects higher salary, better increments, an early promotion or the next grade all at once. Unlike Baby Boomers who prefer security over growth, Gen Y does not fear insecurity; they aspire to become nothing less than a CEO, that too over night. But is it that only they are responsible for this mindset. When a Gen Y hears the news of fresh graduates from premier B-Schools recruited at senior positions they starts thinking, “Why not me?”. Is it their mistake? Today management institutes instead of teaching marketing as a subject believe more in using it to market their own institution. They propagate that they have formula which can give success to anybody in any field. Not only this, today, you go to any job portal and invariably you will find experience required for even a senior level position as just 8 to 10 years. All this put together is responsible for Gen Y’s state of mind which is considered as demanding nature of Gen Y or unrealistic expectations not only from organizations but from themselves. To channelize their efforts, it is the duty of people managing them to make them understand reality by jointly carrying out expectation setting exercise with them.
Gen Y’s expectations of higher ROI both in terms of money and time should not be compared with that of Baby Boomers. It is true that Gen Y expect more, however, it is equally true that they are capable of delivering more. If one can understand this fact and can link their performance with corresponding rewards, one can certainly expect the best from them. Once again onus for convincing others about their capabilities lies with Gen Y. They need to prove that apart from making flashy presentations they are equally competent of achieving projected business results.
Craving for Feedback
Gen Y is infatuated about getting feedback, especially the appreciation. They crave for it; remain eager to hear good words about their work. It may be a presentation that they just made or drafted a memo; they want to listen as to how good it is. Think for a while reason about their mindset. Till now whether college or at home they were getting instant feedback may it be positive or negative. They expect the same from their seniors as well. Baby Boomers may take advantage of their hunger for feedback as an opportunity to provide constructive feedback to them. However, before criticizing, Gen Y should be clearly communicated about standards and landmarks to measure their performance, so as when they are criticized for their under performance, it does not come to them as a shock.
Apparently, it looks like Gen Y is by nature impatient, as they want instant gratification. They do not want to stay at one place. Since, they are fearless, on a slightest sign of discomfort or dissatisfaction they do not hesitate in changing organizations. However, it is not so, most of the times switching over jobs on account of poor relationships with line managers especially the immediate boss. It is rightly said, “People do not necessarily leave organization but they do leave people”. Gen Y leave people with whom they are not compatible. Gen Y resists top-down approach as they have never encountered it in the past. May it be their parents or teachers, they were able to negotiate the issue in their favour. Now when someone senior to them (Boss) comes across as a real authority, it gives them a shock. They resist not necessarily the person but the approach. Instead of ordering they should be persuaded as to why they should do, what they are supposed to do.
Ready to Experiment
Unlike Baby Boomers, Gen Y has no fear of failing, they are ready to experiment. This must be optimized by offering them challenges which will persuade them to stretch their boundaries and perform to their full potential. This will not only keep them fully engaged but will also motivate them to continuously perform at a higher pedestal. However, Gen Y must realize that, “There is no short cut to success”. A mango tree takes 12 years to bear fruits. Similarly, it takes time to develop required expertise in performing any job. According to a research published in ‘Harvard Business Review’ it takes 10000 hours or approximately 10 years to develop mastery in any given field. It is observed that when Gen Y fails in their initial attempts, they get demoralized, and start feeling dejected. A persistent feeling of disappointment on account of early failures is one of the most common reasons for today’s high rate of attrition across industry. Failures are inevitable in life; one must learn from mistakes and mend his or her ways of working to produce better results.
Monotony at Workplace
Gen Y is averse of monotony at work place. Routine work frustrates them and leads to stress. They need to be offered challenging projects. In addition, Gen Y likes to mingle with each other. To take advantage out of it, they should be encouraged by offering them team projects both at work place and non-workplace; projects which will keep them energized. On Gen Y’s part, they should not forget the fact that all human beings are alike. What is the guarantee that in new organizations they will not confront the similar issues that was the cause of concern in their previous organization? They should not forget that motivation is always intrinsic; only they can keep themselves motivated in all circumstances.
What is in it for Me?
Unlike Baby Boomers while venturing out on to a mission, Gen Y would first like to know “What is in it for me?”. Before carrying out any job or mission everybody wants to know but hesitate to ask, however, Gen Y boldly seeks explanation. This should not be considered as if they are questioning the authority, rather it should be taken as their interest towards the job. One needs to be open to their ideas. Instead of expecting Gen Y to silently follow instructions, if they are involved in decision making or asked to participate in strategy sessions, they produce better results. This satisfies their tacit need, “What am I contributing to organization or to the world?”. Gen Y is much more sensitive towards social issues and therefore, they like to be engaged in CSR activities.
On the other hand, Gen Y need to appreciate the fact that communication is one of the most important competency that they need to have for building lasting interpersonal relationships at workplace. Also, that while communicating more than their words it is their tone and body language that communicate their message. Despite having good intentions behind asking a question or seeking a clarification, it might still be taken otherwise. This could be on account of inappropriate body language or tone of voice, due to which a simple act of seeking clarification might be interpreted as a sign of arrogance.
Owing to their vast exposure Gen Y starts believing in MMS philosophy (Mujhe Mat Sikhao). They do not realize that exposure cannot be a substitute to experience. Their belief that they ‘know all’ leads to a major disconnect with others. They need to be shown the real picture. Instead of criticizing them on mistakes occurring on account of their inadequate knowledge of subject or issue, they should be provided opportunities to encounter the facts, the ground realities. This will help them realize their shortcomings. This self realization will force them to improve. Nevertheless, responsibility lies on their (Gen Y) shoulders. Instead of living in fool’s paradise that they know everything, they should introspect what they really need to learn in order to be successful.
You Matter – We Care
Last and not the least, no one on this universe is identical and therefore, NO RULES fit ALL. Every individual has a right to be different. Baby Boomers need to appreciate this fact especially while interacting with Gen Y. Instead of looking every time from their myopic lenses of so called experience, they should offer autonomy to Gen Y and an opportunity to experience the ground realities in their own way. A feeling of “You Matter – We Care” is vital to get the best out of them. “You can’t clap with one hand” is an old saying. Gen Y too needs to create the confidence in others that they deserve their care and are equally interested in fulfilling other’s expectations.
No doubt, Gen Y have some fantastic arrows in their arsenal (being fearless, not time constrained, exposure to technology etc.) but what they lack is the understanding of when to use which arrow. This comes from experience and more often by failing. Gen Y must appreciate that there is no substitute for hard work. However, in order to succeed, Gen Y must learn not only how to WORK HARD but SMARTLY.
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