People and purpose

Are young people resistant to work?

I am seeing a lot of articles and posts at the moment that propose there has been a fundamental shift in how young people see work. Just three examples

  • quiet quitting – doing the minimum to get by at work
  • resent-eeism – feeling you have no option but to stay in a job, but actively resenting it
  • resistance to “hustle culture” – a reaction to burnout where we prioritise other things than work

Gallup report that 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 20% are miserable.

Some of this is just researchers and writers trying to create a new term and I genuinely don’t know how widespread these attitudes are. I don’t see this in the young people I know personally.

Of course we need to find the work life balance that works for each of us, but I can’t agree that means we should neglect or resent our work. There is no part of life where we get more out of it by putting less into it.

Many of us spend 40% of our waking hours for 40 years or more of our lives at work. Work is a source of identity, meaning and the income that helps us look after our family and fund our other interests.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a Hungarian psychologist, and author of “Finding flow, the psychology of engagement with everyday life” monitored in detail what people spent their time doing and how they were feeling about it. He found that people reported three times more episodes of flow and engagement at work than they did during leisure, where they often indulged in passive activities.

If you give up on being happy and engaged at work, and that is 40% of your life, then you have no chance of a happy life.

Whatever you do, work or leisure, you need to put 100% into it to get the maximum benefit for yourself. If you are passive, disengaged and resentful then that is the quality of your life.

If you are truly miserable at work, then you always have a choice and you should exercise it by moving.

Whatever job you do it is possible to make it more engaging by actively working on three areas

  1. the tasks, can you spend more time on tasks you enjoy and less on the ones you don’t, can you find ways to reduce, or eliminate tasks you don’t enjoy, can you streamline them or find creative ways to make them more interesting.
  2. your relationships, can you improve your relationships at work, can you spend more time with the people you enjoy spending time with, can you connect your work more to your internal or external customers, can you broaden your networks.
  3. change your mindset, find meaning in what you do, perhaps through its impact on others or by connecting to the value your job or organisation provides.

The way you frame your experience at work is essential, if you see your work through a lens of resentment or an unwillingness to put effort in, then your mind will start to notice information that confirms your thoughts and you will be in a negative spiral.

The reverse is also true, if you reframe your experience as positive, as an opportunity to learn and contribute, then you will find evidence that confirms this everywhere.

If you want an engaged and happy life, and certainly if you want any form of successful career, these negative perceptions of work will definitely hold you back. Don’t believe they are normal or admirable in any way.

My advice for people early in their career would be to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the world of work and do the same to their leisure and outside work activities. Both are equally important parts of life – how you spend your time is the quality of your life.

If you want to find out more about creating your own engagement at work as an individual take a look here, if you’re a leader or organisation and want to empower your people to create their own empowerment look here.

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