The toxic nature of older colleagues in the workplace
One of the most daunting phenomena for young people in the workplace is the bitterness displayed towards them by their older colleagues.
Firstly, a history of disagreement, animosity, disdain, and victimisation pervades the world of work. The strength of these types of conflicts often filters into new decades and new work eras. Who could be the possible carriers of this history of conflicts? It is certainly not the newly employed; therefore, it has to be the older employees in the workplace.
Typically, when a colleague is newly employed he or she is usually furnished with information about former times in his or her new workplace. That person may get this information from people who choose to tell him or her directly or he or she may make inferences based on interactions among the older people in the workspace. Having ascertained that this is how the world of world operates, many young people decide to either resign, adopt similar traits, or become isolated.
For many people the psychosocial atmosphere of the workplace is fraught with toxicity. Consequently, they become withdrawn, self-serving, or misanthropic. This is a response that is natural, as even Abraham Maslow in defining the third level of his hierarchy of needs – sense of belonging – asserted that individuals engage in hobby and profession to feel a sense of belonging. Maslow also posited that when this sense of belonging is sapped or is not felt people resort to ostracism. When individuals ostracise themselves or other people, the toxicity in the workplace is perpetuated.
This resentment can become overbearing. Why do people think many of our nurses, teachers, and corporate personnel are migrating solely for better remuneration? This is not always the reality. Many professionals, especially our talented young people, migrate to countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America not because there will not be miserable, sad, and bitter people in those work environments but because they believe that if they are going to experience these unfortunate circumstances it is better to experience them while earning competitive remuneration. Can we blame them?
Secondly, several of these older workers are clearly jealous of the skills and enthusiasm that many young people bring to the table. Many of the older employees have not achieve half the accolades that many young people are achieving in the workplace now. Many of them wait until they are 40 to do a master’s degree, for example. In fact, many did not even complete a bachelor’s degree until age 40.
If one conducts an empirical assessment of the number of young people with graduate degrees these days, one will find that, compared to 10 years ago, far more young people pocket these degrees by age 30. This a laudatory phenomenon that provides said young people with skills that cause them to sometimes enter the workplace and surpass the older folks in a short period of time. This results in some older employees clapping their hands for the young people but with bitterness in their hearts. That is even if they care enough to at least feign the applause.
Not only that, but sometimes young people come into the workplace with so much enthusiasm that they contribute more to achieving the mission of the organisation than those who have been there for 10 or 20 years. This usually lands them warranted recognitions and promotions, which is like a dagger in the hearts of many older employees.
I invite young people and new employees to continue to be trailblazers, trendsetters, and models of excellence despite all the nays and toxicity they experience in the workplace. After all, they have higher heights to climb and a future that they need to create and sustain.
Malik Ewan is and educator. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.