Stuck in the middle.
Do you HATE the boss, feel bored and frustrated at work and want a new start but can’t bring yourself to find one?
You are possibly entering middlescence, according to some Harvard researchers who have labelled the problem. It is similar to adolescence, but affects adults aged from 35 to 54. The US Harvard Business Review discovered that such negative attitudes appear in millions of workers.
Somewhat like being an angry hormone charged teenager, being a middlescent manifests as a frustrating, confusing and exasperating time of life. Middlescents leave work feeling “burned out, trapped and bored to distraction”.
Apparently only one in five actively seek an escape route while the rest float around feeling trapped and lacking the energy and motivation to escape.
Most of you will have some appreciative of adolescence – you might actually be experiencing it, whether it is on the receiving end of it as a parent of teenagers or experiencing adolescence. Adolescence is often a period of frustration, pent-up anger, confusion and hostility. Don’t worry, if you are perhaps feeling those sensations, they will fade away – however this may only be a matter of time.
A recent Harvard Business Review article has established that similar emotions and feelings arise in a different category of people – those in the 35 – 55 age range. These are generally regular members of the working public, diligent, reliable and dependable – in fact, the very core of many businesses throughout the world. The situation is they are experiencing is what , Robert Morison, Tamara Erickson and Ken Dychtwald term ‘Middlescence’. It arises in so many businesses that managing it is seen as being a vital aspect to improving productivity in the workforce and maintaining motivation.
Middlescence is identified in a core of workers who are at a stage in their career where the anticipation, drive and excitement of promotion have disappeared. Most are dedicated, faithful, often work long hours and occupy senior management positions, however according to the review, they are ‘bored, burned out and bottlenecked’. The people who occupy this same space are dependable, efficient and reliable so they tend to be passed over by the energy, enthusiasm and drive but perhaps less efficient and volatile younger employees.
Overlooking this group of workers is a bit of an issue. The research indicates that 30 percent of workers in this group feel marginalised and exhausted by their work and feel they are facing a career dead-end and are barely managing to balance their jobs, family and day to day life. The problem lies in the possibility that these workers might leave, which depletes the pool of skilled talent. 20 percent would like another job but are not driven to change so they stay stuck where they are. Problem with this is that a company is running on unhappy people, often in key positions – potentially bad for good business. On the upside, because the true desire has not really left these people business would be advised to unplug these people with a drive to help maintain a healthy atmosphere in the workplace. The research makes it very clear that offering promotions is impractical, it implies that other more practical tactics must be brought in to play. Facilities such as, offering sabbaticals to with opportunities for further education or social scheme activity are advised. It is suggested that training be given to rejuvenate skills and provide new enthusiasm to lead new projects; also, they can be motivated to use their skills and expertise to provide mentoring for other workers. These things might just provide for the needs that such a group require.
Many years ago Maslow and Herzberg, stated that recognition and esteem plus and the need to know and finding meaning were critical aspects of growth in the work place.
The study implies that there is enormous potentiality just drifting about in many businesses that could be unleashed. Ignoring middlescents could lead to vegetative management tier.
Middlescence is the HR opportunity – there is a need asses the situation, and address it or possibly face losing the “brains” that built the business in the first place.
Our suggestions:- start them on the “Unplugged Edge” program and then develop a collaborative strategic plan together with them. Instead of treating this as a therapy issue, middlescence can be considered to be an indicator, a signal that things need to change. These people often have strong strategic relationships. What they need is coaching and grooming and the opportunity to find some meaning. Establish meaning and you have a mature profitable resource that cares about making money for your business.
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