Where is the Next Generation of Health Care Leaders?

A striking pattern emerged when I was looking through a large data set on the engagement and aspirations of health care providers.

I saw a dip in the middle of the age range.

One part of the pattern was that the Boomers are the most well adjusted, happiest cohort. It was as if the structure of health care organizations had been made by them and for them. And when you think about it, it does seem to be the case. While Boomers are aware of the system’s shortcomings, for the most part it works for them.

The second part of the pattern was that GenX—those from around 30 to 45—are the least happy with their jobs and their collegial relationships. In their working relationships GenX experiences more supervisor incivility and more coworker incivility than do Boomers. And, not all that surprisingly, they behave uncivilly towards their colleagues more often.

These patterns have implications that went beyond the quality of social relationships at work.

Both GenY and GenX employees report greater exhaustion, more physical symptoms of stress, and less work engagement do Boomers. But GenX also are also more cynical and have fewer indicators of mental health that the other generations.

This pattern is troubling. By the time they reach their 30s and 40s, GenX should have enough experience in health care to manage the demands and uncertainty of the job. The force pushing towards burnout rather than towards engagement may be more a matter of values than overwhelming demands.

Values have a compelling force. Effective leaders embrace the core values of their organizations and convey that commitment to their employees. Something is not working for GenX leaders. Part of the problem is that organizations are not sufficiently responsive to their changing workforce. Part of the problem is that individual employees lack the perspectives and skills necessary to bring about profound change in those organizations.

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