Social Media and Other Things that Overwhelm Millennial Assignees

Existential despair and/or emotional chaos. Those complex terms describe the debilitating reasons that are spurring tech workers in Silicon Valley, most of them millennials, to seek out psychiatric help. The New York Times’ thorough expose of the subject says that many of these tech workers are feeling distraught and depressed because, rightly or wrongly, they believe that they can no longer save the world. 

From the so-called coming disasters to be unleashed by climate change to fake news that is manipulating elections in favor of demagogues — this young workforce hold themselves partially responsible for their growth, either because they unwittingly caused it or are no longer in a position to curb it. Their laudable desire to make the world a better place has instead burdened them with a growing sense of helplessness, anxiety, and fatigue, which in turn combine to bring them to an almost irrecoverable burnout.

These feelings are not alien to previous generations of assignees who also had to wrestle with issues like alienation, economic upheavals, and the sheer pressure of the job. But psychologists say that millennials and zentennials of today experience rising fear from a whole range of issues that did not exist only decades ago. For global mobility managers who do have to watch over the well-being of the assignees, here are some of the concerns that keep them up at night:

A sense of purposelessness  
Remember that millennials are probably the foremost generation who equates career with significance. As the New York Times piece explains, they feel lost and inadequate when they think that none of their work has made a significant impact on global concerns like the environment, world peace, and diversity. Push notifications that alert them to news about a stolen election or oppressed immigrants can plunge them to emotional devastation.

Economic instability
According to BuzzFeed News, millennials also get depressed by the prospect that they might not have a fail-safe financial net, although that worry may too inflated, only because they feel they are actually spending more than what they are earning. Bills are piling high, student loan payments are draining their salaries, and the pension plans that their parents enjoyed might no longer exist by the time they themselves reach middle age. While birthing start-ups looks glamorous and empowering from the start, along the way they confront the fact that building a business can be tough; neither is there a guarantee on ROI. The flexibility and autonomy offered by the gig economy might appear attractive, but its lack of stable employment can force them to live on a budget smaller than they would have liked.

Unrealistic peer pressure caused by too much time on social media
The spontaneity of the news feed, the need to shine in their own Instagram or Facebook Story, and attaining a record high of Likes can add crushing pressure on young people to always be at their best, all the time. 

They have to look their best selves, say all the right things, win all the right awards, and have a great time at all the right parties in order to be accepted by the watching crowd on social media. But the truth is: nobody can always perform at their peak 24/7. And it’s that thought of failing — and possibly failing spectacularly in front of a global audience — that cripples these young millennials with paralyzing low self-esteem.

Global mobility managers, the next time that a millennial assignee’s performance deteriorates, or they show marked disinterest in their work, don’t be dismissive, or attribute it to the “usual reasons.” Take them out for coffee, listen to what they have to say, and pinpoint the causes, real or imagined, that are making them feel overwhelmed by life–or social media’s unstable reminder of what their life is supposed to be.