Workforces are presently facing the inevitable reality of having 5 generations at work for the first time in history (Meister & Willyerd, 2010). Discussions of multigenerational issues in the workplace often quickly take the shape of Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials and Gen Zs extolling the virtues of their cohort. Over the past few years, there has been a wealth of material published describing best practices for engaging each generation in the workforce, from communication preferences to leadership tips and tactics. What has not been fully explored is whether there are generational differences in how the workforce experiences personal problems.
In our last paper, we concluded that the impact of anxiety might have a different impact on the work performance of each generation. Our findings suggested that workplaces might benefit from considering generation specific prevention and intervention strategies to combat anxiety at work. In this next chapter of our multigenerational journey we explored the relationship between employee depression and declines in work performance.
Major depression is a serious psychiatric disorder that affects both work and life functioning. Unlike anxiety, a crucial issue with depression is the reality of suicidal ideation. As such, depression must be recognized as a risk to the workforce. Individuals suffering from depression may experience recurring long-term episodes of depressed mood, decreased energy, and loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Almost 10% of Americans struggle with depression every year, and 75% of those people do not receive formal treatment (NAMI, 2010). The disabling symptoms of depression place an economic burden on society in both lost productivity (almost four times the amount lost from non-depressed employees (Stewart et al., 2003)) and health care costs. While recent public health initiatives continue to enhance and expand our understanding of the social and economic costs of depression, as 80% of persons with depression report some level of functional impairment (Pratt & Brody, 2008).