Ethics Often Drives Millennial ‘Job Hopping’

-Traci Pedersen

Many younger millennials get a hard time about their sensitivities on political and employment issues, including their tendency to job hop. A new study published in the journal Sustainability indeed finds that young workers often leave a job because of a disconnect between their own beliefs and the workplace culture.

“Fewer people of this generation are just looking for a paycheck,” said Jung Ha-Brookshire, Ph.D., an associate professor of textile and apparel management and associate dean of research and graduate studies in the University of Missouri (MU) College of Human Environmental Sciences.

“They have been raised with a sense of pro-social, pro-environment values, and they are looking to be engaged. If they find that a company doesn’t honor these values and contributions, many either will try to change the culture or find employment elsewhere.”

For the study, the researchers interviewed employees working in textile and apparel industries involved in corporate supply chains. They found that young workers expressed the most frustration when their employers publicly voiced a commitment to environmental sustainability but did not follow through substantively in areas such as:

  • materials selection, including the use of recycled materials;
  • proper management of pollutants, including chemicals and dyes;
  • working conditions in textile factories;
  • product packaging, distribution, and marketing to consumers.

“We were interested in workers’ values regarding sustainability and corporate sustainability practices and whether a gap existed,” said Rachel LoMonaco-Benzing, a doctoral student in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Not only did we find a gap, but we also found that workers were much more likely to leave a job if they felt their values were not reflected in the workplace.”

To ensure a good fit with a potential employer, the researchers suggest that job seekers speak with current and former employees at various levels of the organization, asking questions about areas that are particularly important to them, such as sustainability, work-life balance policies, or community partnerships.

On the employer’s side, the researchers encourage businesses to understand that the new generation of workers have high ethical and social expectations. Being transparent with job candidates about corporate culture can help eliminate future frustration, they said.

Furthermore, allowing employees to have a say in cultural decisions through membership on committees and outreach efforts can help increase morale.

“I think this is another sign to the industry that business as usual is not going to work if you want to attract and retain these valuable workers,” Ha-Brookshire said.

6 Ways to Banish Anxiety and Speak Up In Meetings at Work

-Melody Wilding, LMSW

Another meeting is coming up at work, and you’re dreading it.

Like so many professionals — probably many more than you realize  —  it’s not a comfortable environment for you. Maybe you’re shy, introverted, or you genuinely enjoy listening to others’ ideas. Perhaps it’s important to you to show respect by deferring to the leaders at the table.

Situational factors can play a part, too. Certain co-workers may dominate the discussion, not allowing you to get a word in edgewise.

Whatever the case, sitting frozen through yet another meeting can be a terrible feeling. By now you might even take it for granted that feeling self-conscious in meetings is part of the job. You may wonder if it’s really worth all of the effort to speak up, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Elevating your visibility at work is essential if you want your career to evolve and grow. You work hard and have great ideas to contribute  — you should be making an impact and getting the recognition you deserve. If you want to get ahead, then it’s important that your voice is heard. It’s within your power to take control and ditch the habit of staying silent in favor of speaking up.

Here are some very simple strategies you can confidently implement at your very next meeting. With a little practice, you’ll finally feel like the integral team member you’ve always been.

1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters

Your hands are shaky. Your stomach is doing somersaults. You suddenly start second guessing if you spelled the client’s name correctly on the agenda. These are common pre-meeting anxieties. It’s normal to experience anticipatory stress when you feel as if your intelligence or contributions are being evaluated.

Instead of interpreting your jitters as a sign that you’re inadequate or otherwise not up to the task at hand, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests befriending your stress response, reframing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best to the (conference) table.

2. Ease Into It

It may be tempting to arrive right before a meeting starts to appear prompt or avoid awkward small talk. But if you feel rushed or short on time, this will only exacerbate the existing stress you already feel during meetings.

Instead, build in a buffer and plan to settle in before things get underway. Give yourself the opportunity to ease into the physical meeting space. If it’s a virtual teleconference, get comfortable with the webinar controls, your mic, and webcam ahead of time.

As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time, which can feel both socially fulfilling and less overwhelming. You’ll also already have an “in” of sorts as the meeting begins and conversation turns towards agenda items. This can help ease anxiety and make speaking up for the duration of the session seamless.

3. Commit To Speaking Early

Have you ever come to a meeting with ideas and plan for what you want to say, then left realizing you said nothing the entire time? While you’re not alone, staying quiet is doing yourself a disservice. It typically gets more difficult to enter the conversation as a meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety will build.

Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to speak up early. Set a simple strategy to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session–whether it’s to welcome attendees, present your main argument, ask a question, or offer an opinion on a new business proposal. It’s a surefire way to ensure you contribute.

4. Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up

You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up a coworker’s comment with a simple, “Great idea! I can see that working really well.”

You can also focus on asking powerful questions. Especially if you consider yourself an introvert, you’re likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

Another way powerful way to increase your impact and visibility even after the meeting wraps is by following up with an email to your boss summarizing key points raised, or better yet, providing a proposal for a new project sparked by the conversation. You’ll build up a reputation as someone who makes useful contributions and you’ll come to everyone’s mind more quickly when promotion time comes around. More importantly, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

5. Be The One To Take Action on “Next Steps”

Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.

This is a great example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards behaviors you desire. You’ve committed yourself — now you’ll be more motivated and likely to follow through.

6. Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing

Many people’s leadership instincts may not have been nurtured to their full potential in childhood, and subconscious insecurities can seep into our behavior to this day when it comes to speaking up. So how do you overcome old, outdated scripts holding you back from feeling confident about speaking up? It requires a deep-dive into your presumptions about self-worth and speaking up.

Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts such as, “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”? If you find yourself easily devastated by real or imagined negative feedback when you express your ideas, consider that you may be reverting back to an immature identity when your self-esteem was more contingent on other people’s (especially that of authority figures’) opinions.

When you have a point to make yet find undermining thoughts creeping in, thank your inner-critic for trying to do it’s job by keeping you protected. Fear can signal you’re saying something of significance. Seize the moment. Stop playing small. Remember, you’re part of your organization because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.

You’ve got a lot to offer — now it’s time to let everyone know it.

Achieve More Work/Life Balance

1) Plan Ahead: You’ve got so many tasks that you are responsible for and without taking the time to write it all down, it can really magnify in your own mind, causing all kinds of unnecessary stress. Taking a bit of prep time at the beginning of each week to completely plan out your schedule (including your time off) will really reduce your stress levels.

2) Focus, Then Unplug: With iPads and SmartPhones, work is constantly with us, long past the traditional “end of the work day”. The days of leaving work at the office are seemingly long gone, since we all have constant access to tech and more of us are working from a home office; the temptation to check emails or social media accounts is often too hard to resist. Scheduling specific time periods everyday for checking tech and commit to unplugging once the set time period has ended. This will force you to focus on the important tasks at hand and prevent getting sucked into the internet black hole, allowing for a real, concrete distinction between work and personal life.

3) Value Yourself: There’s no faster way to burn out than to under-value yourself. Your time and work are very valuable, so make sure that you are getting enough money to make working worth your while. When you aren’t being adequately compensated for your work, it can cause you to stress out about things that normally wouldn’t bother you.

-Carol Roth

3 Foolproof Ways to Prevent Work Burnout, Backed by Science

Over-working leads to burnout, here’s a better way to get things done.

Our culture is obsessed with productivity. But research shows that stressing ourselves out over an ever-expanding to-do list actually works against us—no matter how “productive” we may feel. After all, we’re seeing 50% burnout rates across industries.

Not only does workaholism double the risk of depression and anxiety, it actually lowers productivity and decreases work performance, according to research by Steven Sussman at the University of Southern California. It also leads to sleep problems and shortened attention spans, both of conspire to get in the way of our ability to do good work. Workaholism is bad for employers as well: it leads to stress-related accidents, absenteeism, higher employee turnover, lower productivity and higher medical costs.

So why have we gotten caught up in a frantic approach to productivity? As a Stanford University research psychologist who has spent years looking into this literature, I believe the problem lies in our constant focus on the future – we believe we always have to look ahead in order to succeed and be happy. This belief leads us to forego personal happiness in the present and spend our days hunched over our computers, grinding our teeth and reassuring ourselves that the eventual payoff will be worth it.

But the truth is that nonstop focus on our work leads to the opposite of what we want: we are stressed, tired and never satisfied because there’s always something more to be done. Two simple changes could make us much better off.

1. Detach When You’re Not Working

First, detaching from work can actually make us more productive. Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim in Germany, has found that people who do not know how to detach from work during their downtime experienced increased exhaustion over the course of one year and became less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions. By contrast, gaining some emotional distance from highly demanding work tends to help people recover from stress faster and leads to increased productivity.

“From our research, one can conclude that it is good to schedule time for recovery and to use this time in an optimal way,” Sonnentag shared with me. Recommended activities include exercise, walks in nature, and total absorption in a hobby that’s unrelated to work—whether that’s shooting hoops with friends, doing some woodcarving in the garage or learning to make dim sum. Positively reflecting about your job after work hours can also help replenish you, according to research by Sonnentag and Wharton Professor Adam Grant. In other words, thinking about the good sides of your work at the end of your workday – in particular about the ways in which you are benefitting others – results in higher well-being and happiness. If your work directly benefits others (e.g. you are a firefighter or a nurse), this exercise will be straightforward. If, however, you don’t feel that your work product benefits others substantially, you can still think about how your work is impacting others in a positive way. For example, it is benefitting your family. Or your attitude at work is benefitting your colleagues. Research shows that, when we are engaged in any kind of prosocial or kind action, we become happier.

2. Calm Down Rather than Amping Up

Our addiction to caffeine and other stimulants is another big issue. In the name of productivity, we have learned to keep our adrenaline levels high with copious amounts of coffee. Caffeine is a drug – albeit a socially accepted one. It is a stimulant. When we drink coffee, it raises cortisol (the “stress” hormone) above its natural levels.  Cortisol is naturally occurring in our body – it helps us wake up in the morning and have energy to start the day. However, raising it to unusual levels through coffee is the reason we sometimes feel so jittery after consuming caffeine.

This means we wind up depending on anxiety to fuel ourselves to get through our overscheduled days. Other people may rely on stimulants like sugar, energy drinks and even potentially addictive drugs like Adderall to help themselves stay up and focus for long hours.

Then, over-stimulated and unable to calm down when we come home, we turn to depressants like alcohol, sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medication to achieve balance. The constant back-and-forth between stimulant-induced anxiety and depressant-induced drowsiness places an enormous burden on our already exhausted nervous system.

Cutting back on stimulants and cultivating calmness in your life – through yoga, walks in nature, and tech-fasts, for example – can help you turn down the dial on your adrenaline-filled life. By balancing these calming activities with the more high-intensity demands of your life, you will end up managing your energy better, having more emotional intelligence and making better decisions.

3. Breathe

Research that I led with veterans (arguably some of the most stressed individuals in our society when they return from war) shows that learning conscious breathing (sudarshan kriya yoga) can help significantly reduce our stress and anxiety levels—sometimes in minutes. Breathing is among the most neglected solutions to stress, since it mostly happens on its own while we’re not paying attention to it.

But research suggests that you can change how you feel using your breath. By taking deep breaths into your abdomen and lengthening your exhales so they are longer than your inhales helps your nervous system relax – your heart rate and blood pressure may even decrease. Having a more relaxed nervous system will actually help provide you with more energy. Instead of wearing yourself out quickly with adrenaline, by remaining calm and engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, you will be able to restore yourself and manage your energy throughout the day without crashing.

There is little evidence that leading an adrenaline-fueled life makes you more productive. However, there is plenty of evidence to show that a chronically stressful lifestyle damages your physical health and your cognitive faculties. So if you’re really interested in becoming a more accomplished and happier person, stop driving yourself up the wall with productivity hacks—and commit to learning how to take a breather.

Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. Based on a section of her new book, The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your success (HarperOne, 2016)

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Place the index and middle finger of the right hand on the center of the eyebrow, and place the thumb on the right nostril, and the ring finger and pinky on the left nostril. The left hand rests on the lap, palm facing up. Take a deep breath in and, closing the right nostril with your thumb, breathe out through the left nostril. Then take a deep breath in through the left nostril, close the left nostril with your ring finger and pinky at the end of the inhale, and exhale through the right nostril. Take a deep breath in through the right nostril and, closing the right nostril with the thumb, exhale on the left side, and start over. Do this with your eyes closed for about five minutes. Notice the effects on your body and mind.

When changing careers isn’t a realistic option

  • Try to find some value in what you do. Even in some mundane jobs, you can often focus on how what you do helps others, for example, or provides a much needed product or service. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy—even if it’s just chatting with your coworkers at lunch. Changing your attitude towards your job can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.
  • Find balance in your life. If your job or career isn’t what you want, find meaning and satisfaction elsewhere: in your family, hobbies, or after work interests, for example. Try to be grateful for having work that pays the bills and focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy. Having a vacation or fun weekend activities to look forward to can make a real difference to your working day.
  • Volunteer—at work and outside of work. Every boss appreciates an employee who volunteers for a new project. Undertaking new tasks and learning new skills at work can help prevent boredom and improve your resume. Volunteering outside of work can improve your self-confidence, stave off depression, and even provide you with valuable work experience and contacts in your area of interest.
  • Make friends at work. Having strong ties in the workplace can help reduce monotony and avoid burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve the stress of an unfulfilling job, improve your job performance, or simply get you through a rough day.
  • Consider the following steps to planning a career change. Even if it’s something that you’re unable to act on at present, having a plan for someday in the future (when the economy picks up, the kids have grown up, or after you’ve retired, for example) can help you feel energized and hopeful, and better able to cope with the difficulties of the present. Simply sending out resumes and networking can make you feel empowered. Also, making a career change can seem far more attainable when there’s no time pressure and you break down the process into smaller, manageable steps.