Millennials’ desire to do good can help make the office more joyful, expert says.
The strength of millennials in the workforce exists in their capacity for high ideals, according to Dr. Kevin Majeres of Harvard University’s Medical School.
At a 2017 Spring gathering organized by the IECO Institute at Harvard Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Majeres explored teaching millennials ethical leadership and trust with an expert panel.
He said the search for meaning and purpose in work is important to millennials in today’s workforce. Through their efforts, millennials want to make the world a better place through love and service. Focusing on virtue, rather than outcomes, helps millennials stay motivated to work at their best.
A psychiatrist, therapist, and co-founder of the Optimal Work model, Dr. Majeres sees millennials struggle with anxiety disorders, distractedness, and a growing reluctance to face challenges. According to a 2018 Quartz report, millennials and Gen Z experience work-disrupting anxiety twice as much as others.
He explained that a millennial’s high ideals are the solution to handling the three issues.
“The way we work is the way we live,” he said. “By improving the very way of working and learning how to bring ideals into that, we become the best version of ourselves.”
3 Steps to good work
A “Ready, set, go” mentality can help millennials find better focus and joy at work, Dr. Majeres said.
1. Ready: Is the task at hand a threat or an opportunity? He suggested reframing the perspective that tasks should be chances to grow, practice and exercise personal ideals and beliefs.
2. Set: Is the mind settled? Mindfulness can slow any possible distractions and unrelated thoughts. Greater mental awareness helps millennials identify distractions and refocus to the present. Only when the attention has settled and focused on the task, can the next step begin, Dr. Majeres said.
3. Go: The two previous steps, reframing a task as an opportunity, not a threat, and mindfulness, activate the “parasympathetic nervous system,” which Dr. Majeres said allows for singular focus. Tasks with limits need intensity, something adrenaline resolves and makes work easier to do.
Ideals set the stage
Using virtues and ideals to reframe a task is “cognitive reappraisal,” Dr. Majeres said. Positive or negative perspectives will yield similar appraisals, making improved focus more difficult.
“No one can focus at their best when they’re complaining or dreading,” he said.
Dr. Majeres suggested connecting a related virtue or skill to a difficult task, making it easier to enjoy and complete.
He offered this perspective: What virtue, quality or skill is this challenge giving me the opportunity to practice? Daily work often requires intensity, constancy and creativity. How can these challenges work with virtue?
This ‘ready, set, go’ mindset also applies to daily life, Dr. Majeres said. What virtues lead to being more “interested, engaging, loving patient [and] kind” in relationships?
These skills help people, especially millennials, do high quality work well, setting the stage to grow in virtue in any activity or setting.
“Work is the hinge on which everything turns,” he said. “Work is the ultimate training ground for virtue.”
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