I just hung up with my 26-year-old friend, Lisa, and let out a big sigh. She's sounds headed for burnout. She can't foresee having kids anytime soon because her boss is so demanding. She feels like she's in constant overdrive and she's barely spending any time with her husband. I could hear the frustration and unhappiness over the fact that her life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.
Larissa Faw at Forbes.com has intrigued me with her take on why the Millennial generation of women who seem to “have it all” are burning out at work before they reach 30. She writes: one reason that women are burning out early in their careers is that they have simply reached their breaking point after spending their childhoods developing well-rounded resumes. They work like crazy in school and enter the workforce exhausted. Faw points out: No other generation was reared to excel at the same level as Millennials.
Faw also notes another reason for their frustration: Many also didn’t think of their lives beyond landing the initial first job. “They need to learn life is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Kelly Cutrone, president of People’s Revolution PR and author of Go Outside If You Need To Cry.
Even those who did plot out their lives past the initial first career have unrealistic expectations about full-time employment -- underestimating the actual day-to-day drudgery.
Then they encounter what my friend is experiencing. They struggle over their next move. "Simply quitting or changing careers isn’t an option because the education for their professional jobs has burdened them with substantial student debt. Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men," Faw points out.
Faw includes some findings: Millennials are less likely than Gen Xers, Boomers, and Seniors to say they are doing a good job managing their stress. Some 53 percent of entry-level jobs are held by women, but that drops to 37 percent for mid-management roles and 26 percent for vice presidents and senior managers. And, men are more likely than women to do things that help their personal well being at work such as going to lunch or taking breaks, thus negating burnout
As a first step, these women are requesting more flexible schedules or seeking different work responsibilities. Some employers are compliant. I just attended the Work-Life Focus: 2020 and Beyond Conference by SHRM and FWI, where we heard lots of speakers talk about big changes in workplaces where Millennials dominate.
The flip side of this trend toward burnout is that Millennial women are highly educated and they've been trained to lead from a young age. They may have debt but they are more nimble than other generations and determined. They know how to negotiate to get their needs met. I think they're the ones who are going to convince businesses to operate differently -- maybe even get them to rethink how and where work gets done.
Readers, what do you think? Do you think Millennial women are burning out faster than previous generations? Do you think Millennial women have the ability and desire to change workplace attitudes and reverse the trend toward fewer women in the higher ranks?