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Why some members of Gen Z are experiencing an early life crisis

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Members of a younger generation are hearing complaints from their bosses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Trouble for Gen Z in the workplace. Employers are reporting that this generation is the most difficult to work with.

INSKEEP: So we hear on the news. So NPR's Destinee Adams looked into it.

DESTINEE ADAMS, BYLINE: Generation Z - my generation, as it turns out - is apparently having an early life crisis. I asked Tess Brigham why. She's a life coach who focuses on this generation in particular.

TESS BRIGHAM: Gen Z has just entered the working world. I think that you've all been through a lot, as we all have, but I think that the pandemic and everything that's gone on in the last three-plus years has really affected you, your generation, the most. And I think you're tired - like, truly, truly tired.

ADAMS: The American Psychological Association reported that more than 9 in 10 Gen Z adults have experienced at least one symptom of stress, including anxiety.

BRIGHAM: Anxiety kind of gets us living in the future, and it gets us spinning our wheels and worrying about things that haven't happened yet.

ADAMS: She tells her clients to journal, work out and meditate.

BRIGHAM: Even if you think, meditation will never work for me, it will. It is a practice. You're noticing your thoughts and letting them go. Just because you have a thought like, I don't like my job, doesn't mean that you have to listen to it, act on it or do anything about it.

ADAMS: Brigham says once her clients start to see a pattern, they can start to figure out what's really going on.

BRIGHAM: I've seen this happen with clients where they realize their current job isn't that bad. It's really just, like, they needed to transfer departments or it was just a coworker they needed to distance themselves from.

ADAMS: While my generation is pretty candid, we're not the first to struggle with work-life balance.

JEANNE THOMPSON: My name is Jeanne Thompson. I hate to use the word balance because I don't really believe in work-life balance. To me, it's much more about a sway, an ebb and flow between work and life.

ADAMS: Thompson retired at age 54. She was an executive at Fidelity Investments, helping other people plan their own retirements.

THOMPSON: So I knew a lot about the financial side of retirement. And I even studied the emotional side of retirement, but that's the part I struggle with - not the financial part, but the emotional side.

ADAMS: Thompson says her life centered on work for 25 years, and she regrets that.

THOMPSON: I didn't have any hobbies. I didn't have any interests. I kind of lost, like, my self-worth outside of being that corporate employee and outside of being a mother, a sister. I didn't know who I was. And so I regret the fact that I lost myself along the way.

ADAMS: Four out of the 10 retirees I spoke with said they regret putting work ahead of their family and personal interest. Lynn Toomey, on the other hand, is a 57-year-old retirement coach who doesn't plan to stop working anytime soon.

LYNN TOOMEY: I think there's a segment of the population that does wish, you know, if I could do it over again, I would probably prioritize life over money. I also think there's people in the population that feel like they did everything just right, and they worked so that they could retire and not worry about their financial situation.

ADAMS: She says it's never too late to negotiate your best life. And for Gen Z, she says it's just the right time.

For NPR News, I'm Destinee Adams. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Destinee Adams
Destinee Adams (she/her) is a temporary news assistant for Morning Edition and Up First. In May 2022, a month before joining Morning Edition, she earned a bachelor's degree in Multimedia Journalism at Oklahoma State University. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the Stillwater News Press (Okla.) and participated in NPR's Next Generation Radio. In 2020, she wrote about George Floyd's impact on Black Americans, and in the following years she covered transgender identity and unpopular Black history in the South. Adams was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.