Making sense of stressed, restless millennials, Gen Zs | Inquirer Business

Making sense of stressed, restless millennials, Gen Zs

By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 05:20 AM September 08, 2019

Finicky, impatient, restless.

These are just some of the common adjectives used to describe millennials and Gen Zs, who have baffled businesses so much that studies have been devoted just to understand their quirks.


Recently, the country’s advertising industry dedicated a whole afternoon to discuss, in a forum titled “Managing Millennials,” how exactly to work with these young professionals up to 30 years old, plus a related issue affecting not just ad agencies, but other companies as well—mental health.

The forum was spearheaded by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies Philippines through its Aral (study) program.


Raul Castro, McCann Worldgroup Philippines CEO, led the discussion and served as forum moderator.

Teeny Gonzales, CEO of independent marketing and advertising agency Seven A.D., pointed to two traits she had observed among her millennial and Gen Z staffers which she viewed as both their weakness and strength: passion and purpose.

“In my experience, passion makes [millennials and Gen Zs] highly emotional. Your Yolo (you only live once) [mentality]—our ‘seize the day’ back then, which is actually, just the same—when disrupted or challenged, the emotions that come with it are also sweeping and catastrophic,” Gonzales said.

As for purpose, Gonzales says sometimes, millennials and Gen Zs get too caught up on finding a company or workplace that they feel is purposeful.

She encouraged millennials and Gen Zs to instead focus on “finding purpose wherever you are placed,” and to be more resilient in the face of career difficulties.

“I’ve had millennials tell me that they need to leave [the company] because it’s just too difficult, that it’s sucking the life out of them. I want to tell them that difficulty is part of life, and that wherever you move to next, you will encounter it,” she said.

Based on the results of the most recent edition of McCann’s Truth About Youth study, which was discussed by McCann Worldgroup strategy director Earl Javier, it is taking longer for today’s youth to figure out what they want for themselves because of the myriad options within their reach.


“There are so many things available to [them] that they can’t help but feel that they should be able to try them all,” Javier said.

Filipino youth, in particular, are No. 1 globally when it comes to searching for “various influences and experiences.” (Sixty percent of Filipinos surveyed said yes to the statement that they were “bored if I only do one thing at a time.”)

The study, which analyzed over 30,000 interviews conducted among 16- to 30-year-olds in around 20 markets worldwide, revealed that adulthood was now more of a verb to millennials and Gen Zs, rather than a noun.

“[Adulthood] is something [they] opt in and out of, depending on the context,” Javier said. The study also revealed that globally, the majority of this age group are still living with their parents—globally, respondents said the oldest acceptable average age was 32; here in the Philippines, it was 31.

The research revealed, however, that today’s youth were basically facing the same issues as past generations in terms of three overarching themes: finding one’s self, finding one’s people and finding one’s place in the world.

The difference lies in their response to these issues.

While there is a need for millennials and Gen Zs to “find themselves,” they tend to take longer to do so compared to older generations.

Success, for them, doesn’t come in milestones (getting that first job, first car, family, kids, etc.), but in moments.

As for finding their people, or their social circles, the study revealed that like their elders, millennials and Gen Zs still want to be perceived as “cool.” What sets these generations apart is that, thanks to social media, they are more conscious of having an audience.

Javier said that there was a need among today’s youth to document their life online on a regular basis (51 percent in Asia Pacific; 37 percent globally). Some even go as far as putting up a “Finstagram,” or fake Instagram, so as to separate their curated posts from the more “authentic” ones.

“Being perceived as cool and as worthy of being a friend is something young people still think about and struggle with. What has changed is that we know people are watching, looking at our posts online. We try to cater to different people watching our feeds,” said Javier, himself a member of today’s youth.

As for finding their place in the world, Javier said that what has not changed was the youth’s hunger to create social impact; in fact, the study found that 16- to 20-year-olds were more concerned with social equality compared other older age groups.

What sets millennials and Gen Zs apart is who they see as allies in creating that social impact.

According to the study, 87 percent of the youth globally believe brands can make a better impact than governments (locally, that average is higher, at 92 percent).

“Perhaps this is one thing we can take into consideration when we are trying to see how we can get millennials [and Gen Zs] to stay longer in our companies,” Javier said.

But perhaps the most fleshed out workplace issue regarding today’s youth at the forum was that of mental health, particularly depression.

Dr. Edgardo Tolentino Jr. of the Makati Medical Center, citing a US study, said 18- to 35-year-olds are more prone to depression because they are perfectionists.

The pressure to be perfect comes not just from themselves, but also from others, exacerbated often by Fomo (fear of missing out) because they compare their lives to that of their social media friends.

The good news, Tolentino said, is that millennials have caused a cultural shift towards mental health—they want to talk about it.

“Millennials are a stressed out generation,” and their sources of stress are work and money,” he said. “But they are totally open to seeking mental health solutions.”

While this may be the case, Tolentino emphasized the importance of a company’s role, on all levels, in spotting the signs of mental health issues among colleagues.

These include: lateness or frequent breaks away from work, excessive sick leaves, presenteeism (on-the job absenteeism), reduced quality of work, high rate of accidents or errors, withdrawal or avoidance and missed deadlines.

Tolentino also listed the symptoms of depression, and advised participants to reach out to colleagues exhibiting these so as to avoid the worst possible outcome—suicide.

The symptoms include: changes in sleep (interrupted or too much), changes in eating patterns (excessive or too little); changes in performance at work, increased isolation, loss of interest in things he or she used to love and changes in mood.

Tolentino appealed to managers in the audience to make mental wellness a company priority.

“Have someone they can approach in the workplace. Provide educational and support solutions for both physical and mental health issues,” Tolentino said. “Early intervention is crucial, which means front-line and middle managers have that key role [in spotting red flags].”

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TAGS: Gen Zs, Managing Millennials, McCann Worldgroup Philippines, millennials, Raul Castro, young professionals
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