Mangers Need To Deal With Younger Team Members Who Feel Lonely

They may be in the office, but they still feel alone
They may be in the office, but they still feel alone
Image Credit: Pascal MaramisFollow

The goal of every manager is to find a way to get the most out of each of their team members. What this means is that we need use our manager skills to stay on top of them and always be monitoring what their current status is. What we need to be looking for are team members who are feeling remote or disconnected. They won’t be able to function well with the rest of the team and their work performance may start to slack off. One thing that managers need to keep their eyes open for is when the younger members of their team start to show signs of feeling lonely – this is when a manager needs to step in.

Why Are Your Younger Team Members So Lonely?

So what’s up with the younger members of your team? These workers have friends at work and good relationships with you. However, younger employees still feel alone at the office, according to a new survey. More than 80% of employed members of Generation Z – many of whom are just entering the workforce – and 69% of employed millennials are lonely, according to a recent survey. On the other hand, older workers have lower rates of loneliness and they are also less likely to say they feel alienated by their co-workers or emotionally distant from colleagues, the survey found.

In order to be a good manager, you are going to have to find out what is going on here. What we need to do is use our manager training and realize that for many younger workers, a day at the office comes with a sense of emptiness and the need to hide their true selves, according to the data that has been collected. More than 60% of both Gen Z respondents – workers who are 18- to 22-year-olds – and millennial workers – which the survey defined as those workers who are 23 to 37 – have a close friend at work. Yet these team members find their jobs less meaningful and feel more friction between their values and those of their companies, compared with older workers, the survey found. Young workers tend to experience loneliness at higher rates than other generations, based on a survey of 6,000 workers.

In the survey, participants were classified as lonely – or not – based on their responses to a 20-item questionnaire called the UCLA Loneliness Scale. This quiz assesses feelings of loneliness and social isolation. It turns out that team member’s communication styles might be feeding younger generations’ sense of isolation. They tend to shun phone calls and in-person conversations – the types of interactions that can lead to real connections – in favor of email and text messages. They may also shy away from any team building activities that you have the team do.

What Can Managers Do About All Of This Loneliness?

The survey also found a connection between social media use and loneliness. Interestingly, nearly three-fourths of heavy social media users were classified as lonely, compared with 52% of light social media users. It turns out that having a thousand friends on Facebook and Twitter does not necessarily help us to feel more connected. The relationship between social media and loneliness seems to have intensified a previous survey. In that survey just 53% of heavy social media users were considered lonely, compared with 47% of light social media users. In the most recent survey it was found that Americans are getting lonelier overall. Currently 61% of Americans as lonely, up 7 percentage points from three years ago.

The rise of remote work might be contributing to some employees’ feelings of loneliness. Telecommuting has become a hot benefit, with 27% of companies allowing full-time remote work last year, up 4 percentage points from three years ago. It has been found that remote workers were more likely to say their relationships with others weren’t meaningful and that they didn’t have anyone to turn to. Lonely workers take twice as many sick days as non-lonely workers – 9.5 days, compared with 4.2 days – and miss more days of work because of stress. Other research has found that lonely workers are less committed to their organizations and have lower performance ratings from supervisors.

What managers need to realize is that loneliness can lower team members’ social skills leading them to start sharing too much or too little with their colleagues. As a result co-workers start to view lonely workers as less approachable. Lonely workers will start to withdraw from the people they want to connect to. Once they hit a certain tipping point for loneliness, it’s very difficult to come back from. Emotions like loneliness at work can be contagious. Employees subconsciously mimic others’ facial expressions and then end up owning those emotions, ratcheting up the impact on an organization. Managers need to realize that this is not just the individual employee’s problem, this is the whole company’s problem.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers need to have their team’s operating at top levels in order to be able to produce the results that are expected of them. However, it turns out that this may not be possible if members of their team are feeling lonely. The younger members of our team are the ones who are the most likely to be feeling lonely. As managers we need to understand who may be feeling lonely and just exactly why they are feeling this way.

The younger members of your team, the Millennials and the Generation Z members are the ones who are the most likely to be feeling lonely. They are feeling a sense of emptiness and the need to hide their true selves. Communication styles where team members don’t have contact with other people can lead to their sense of feeling lonely. It turns out that the more that team member uses social media, the more likely they will be feeling lonely. As more and more teams are now working remotely, team members are starting to feel lonely. Emotions like loneliness at work can be contagious.

Managers have a responsibility to make sure that everyone on their team is working well with the rest of the team. If younger members of your team are feeling lonely, then you as their manager need to take steps to deal with this. If you don’t, then the performance of your team will suffer. Understanding what causes loneliness is the first step in helping managers to deal with it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What can a manager do if they discover that members of their team are feeling lonely?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I think that we can all agree that the world that we live in is changing. In fact, at times it seems to be changing very quickly. As managers we need to be asking ourselves what we are going to have to do in order to be effective managers in the future. This is actually a good question with no clear answer. However, we do know that the manager skills that we have to today are going to have to grow and change in order to be able to deal with the world of tomorrow. Now the question is how are we going to make that happen?