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Why Are Millennials So Unhappy at Work?


Seventy-one percent of Millennials are disengaged at their jobs. That’s a big problem.
IMAGE: Getty Images

An interesting phenomenon has developed in the generation born between the late ’70s and the mid-’90s, a group we now call Millennials. According to the Gallup Organization, Millennials are the least engaged generation at work–with only 28.9 percent of U.S. Millennials engaged in their jobs. That means 71 percent are not.

For some reason, Millennials are unhappy in their jobs, and for our organizations to prosper now and in the future, we need to do something about it–and soon.

Millennials live seemingly perfect lives, emphasized by the highlight reels of every post on Facebook, every photo on Instagram, every short video on Snapchat. Yet, as more and more people boast their constant happiness, the increasing cases of anxiety and clinical depression show something totally different.

But before we can find a solution to all this unhappiness, we must first get to the root of why so many Millennials feel so dissatisfied. The reason, as it turns out, has largely to do with the idea that one’s personal happiness is based on the individual’s reality versus his or her expectations.

The concept is quite simple: If someone’s expectations are lower than what occurs in reality, that person will be happy with the outcome. If someone expects more than what actually happens, however, then he or she will inevitably feel let down. The resulting disappointment will leave the person unhappier than when he or she started out.

The disparity between expectation and reality is the reason behind Millennials’ unhappiness–and their lack of engagement at work.

Millennials are a special generation, one indoctrinated by their Baby Boomer parents’ insane ambition, and a little bit deluded into believing that they are special–and somehow a little bit better than the people with whom they are competing.

In the job market, for example, Millennials enter unprepared for rejection, unwilling to believe that maybe their own application will not stand out in a pool of others. They enter believing that, somehow, they are the ones who are destined for greatness.

Yet, in reality, careers are difficult to build and rejections are inevitable. The Millennials’ expectations have far exceeded their realities. They are confused, dismayed, and–perhaps most important of all–disappointed in their own self-worth.

In addition to their own rejections, Millennials are bombarded with their peers’ success via social media. Second-guessing their own capabilities–especially in comparison with the accomplishments of others–then leads to a great deal of self-destructive thought and an increase in negative feelings, discouraging them from applying again.

How, then, do we break such a vicious cycle?

Soaring ambition and idealistic dreams have never been negative qualities, but addressing the entitlement that plagues Millennials could do wonders for their overall happiness. Recognizing that everybody is just as talented as you are, in some way or another, is the first step in overcoming the thought that you are more special than anyone else.

Second, Millennials must not be fazed by the successes of their peers. They must keep in mind that, on social media, many present an inflated image of their lives. There exist people who struggle; they just simply don’t post about it on Facebook.

So, if you happen to be a Millennial hot in the middle of this season of college, internship, or job rejections, remember to broaden up your perspective.

Sometimes, what you don’t know won’t kill you–but it can hold you back from being happy.

Why Are Millennials So Unhappy at Work?