The Big Family Fight Is Over How to Work. ‘They Think I’m Insane.’
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The Big Family Fight Is Over How to Work. ‘They Think I’m Insane.’

Generational debates about work may be brewing in the office, but they’re often louder on the home front

By LINDSAY ELLIS
Sat, Sep 23, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 5 min

Hybrid work. Hustle culture. Work-life balance.

Tensions over how to work don’t just permeate offices these days. They’re on full display within families.

“They think I’m insane,” Lisa Olson, 53, said of her children when she tells them she skipped lunch during the workday.

Her 25-year-old daughter, Emily Olson, tends to fit her job in advertising around her life, sometimes taking a midday break but also logging on after-hours if there’s work to be done. She thinks her mom struggles to make time for herself.

Like with the Olsons, many of these debates break along generational lines. Many parents in their 50s and 60s built careers in pay-your-dues work environments where 40 hours was the minimum spent in an office each week. They had clear-cut templates for getting ahead.

Their children, in contrast, joined the labor force over the past decade, as the gig economy took off, a pandemic upended 22 million jobs and millions of people embraced working from home. Technologies such as AI are scrambling their careers even more.

These debates about work are often more pointed, and personal, at home than on the job. Parents and their adult children say these conversations are often meaningful in navigating today’s multigenerational workforce.

“These are people who’ve known you all your life—you hope they understand what really matters to you,” said Megan Gerhardt, a management professor at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business and the author of a book about intergenerational workforces.

Emily has worked mostly remotely since graduating from college in 2020. One benefit is that she can integrate errands into her workday. Her mother, who works in financial services, urges her to go into the office.

“When you’re remote, you hop on a Teams call, and you talk about the issue at hand—and you don’t necessarily have extra time in that meeting to chat,” Lisa said.

Emily said that when she does commute to work, she often interacts with co-workers virtually since not all of her team lives in Chicago, where she’s based.

As long as she does good work and is responsive, working set hours in a set place isn’t important to her, she said. When a call was unexpectedly rescheduled to a Friday afternoon, when work is usually winding down, she logged on from the hair salon while getting highlights.

“It doesn’t have to be a rigid workday,” said Emily, who often works more than 40 hours each week.

Lisa, on the other hand, said she spent much of her career leaving for work at 7 a.m., and returning at 7 p.m., five days a week. “In my world, work is a completely separate item from my personal life,” she said.

Kristin Ned, 48, has logged long hours over her career in human resources, ready to respond to emergencies. Her 28-year-old daughter, Maaliyah Papillion, gives priority to rest when she’s not on the clock.

“She and I are not on the same page when it comes to what it takes to get something done,” said Ned, who lives in Lake Charles, La. “I know not everything can happen between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

Papillion started an executive-assistant job this summer in New Orleans. A priority was professional boundaries, especially since she was embarking on a master’s program and had less free time.

“If work is over, work is over,” she said.

One Sunday night, Papillion got a work call. “Can it wait until tomorrow?” she replied. Later, she consulted her mom.

No one wants to make a work call on a Sunday night, Ned said, so it must have been important. Papillion said she now sees that little gestures go a long way, especially when building professional relationships.

Ned said she’s also learned from Papillion’s approach to work, such as when Ned’s company held a back-to-school campaign allowing for more work flexibility as parents adjusted to new school drop-off routines.

“We tried to make it as easy as possible,” she said.

Kendrick Hering, 24, has been patching together temporary gigs in landscaping and fixing up rental properties while he tries to launch his own business as a digital artist. His dad, Doug Hering, wants him to apply for more steady work.

Kendrick lives at home in Colorado Springs, Colo., and pays rent to his parents. He has been applying for more full- and part-time work for months, but with no luck. He also doubts full-time work would come with the job security and benefits that would make all the hustling he’s doing now worth it.

“To actually even find out about a job that I’m probably, just statistically speaking, not going to get, I have to do an exorbitant amount of research,” Kendrick said.

Doug Hering, a 63-year-old financial planner, has recommended his son apply to several jobs each day. He also has suggested he make business cards and perhaps enlist a life or business coach.

“You can’t sit back and do some digital advertising and hope that the floodgates will open,” said Doug, who took Kendrick to a networking event this month.

Lisbeth Darsh, a 57-year-old marketer based in Seattle, said her kids often encourage her to vie for promotions, so that her pay and title reflect her expertise. Her son, Justas Rodarte, 26, said his mum’s skills in writing to engage an audience are hard to match and she is better than he is at social media.

“My son is good at reminding me that there’s great value in what I do, and I owe it to myself to get that value,” Darsh said.

She’s not alone in taking advice from younger generations. About three-quarters of nearly 7,000 workers surveyed worldwide this summer said 20-something co-workers had influenced their attitudes toward issues such as work-life boundaries, fair pay and self-advocacy, according to Edelman, the public-relations firm that conducted the survey.

In the past, employers haven’t fully recognised Darsh’s skills, her son said, but this summer she won a promotion to become a director.

Now, his mum has a position that “fits her skills really well,” said Rodarte, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in immunology. “It’s the sort of thing that I wish I’ll be able to achieve.”



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Anger Does a Lot More Damage to Your Body Than You Realise

We all get mad now and then. But too much anger can cause problems.

By SUMATHI REDDY
Fri, May 24, 2024 3 min

Anger is bad for your health in more ways than you think.

Getting angry doesn’t just hurt our mental health , it’s also damaging to our hearts, brains and gastrointestinal systems, according to doctors and recent research. Of course, it’s a normal emotion that everyone feels—few of us stay serene when a driver cuts us off or a boss makes us stay late. But getting mad too often or for too long can cause problems.

There are ways to keep your anger from doing too much damage. Techniques like meditation can help, as can learning to express your anger in healthier ways.

One recent study looked at anger’s effects on the heart. It found that anger can raise the risk of heart attacks because it impairs the functioning of blood vessels, according to a May study in the Journal of the American Heart Association .

Researchers examined the impact of three different emotions on the heart: anger, anxiety and sadness. One participant group did a task that made them angry, another did a task that made them anxious, while a third did an exercise designed to induce sadness.

The scientists then tested the functioning of the blood vessels in each participant, using a blood pressure cuff to squeeze and release the blood flow in the arm. Those in the angry group had worse blood flow than those in the others; their blood vessels didn’t dilate as much.

“We speculate over time if you’re getting these chronic insults to your arteries because you get angry a lot, that will leave you at risk for having heart disease ,” says Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at Columbia University and lead author of the study.

Your gastrointestinal system

Doctors are also gaining a better understanding of how anger affects your GI system.

When someone becomes angry, the body produces numerous proteins and hormones that increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can raise your risk of many diseases.

The body’s sympathetic nervous system—or “fight or flight” system—is also activated, which shunts blood away from the gut to major muscles, says Stephen Lupe, director of behavioural medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s department of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition. This slows down movement in the GI tract, which can lead to problems like constipation.

In addition, the space in between cells in the lining of the intestines opens up, which allows more food and waste to go in those gaps, creating more inflammation that can fuel symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating or constipation.

Your brain

Anger can harm our cognitive functioning, says Joyce Tam, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It involves the nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, the front area of our brain that can affect attention, cognitive control and our ability to regulate emotions.

Anger can trigger the body to release stress hormones into the bloodstream. High levels of stress hormones can damage nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, says Tam.

Damage in the prefrontal cortex can affect decision-making, attention and executive function, she adds.

The hippocampus, meanwhile, is the main part of the brain used in memory. So when neurons are damaged, that can disrupt the ability to learn and retain information, says Tam.

What you can do about it

First, figure out if you’re angry too much or too often. There’s no hard and fast rule. But you may have cause for concern if you’re angry for more days than not, or for large portions of the day, says Antonia Seligowski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who studies the brain-heart connection.

Getting mad briefly is different than experiencing chronic anger, she says.

“If you have an angry conversation every now and again or you get upset every now and again, that’s within the normal human experience,” she says. “When a negative emotion is prolonged, when you’re really having a lot more of it and maybe more intensely, that’s where it’s bad for your health.”

Try mental-health exercises. Her group is looking at whether mental-health treatments, like certain types of talk therapy or breathing exercises, may also be able to improve some of the physical problems caused by anger.

Other doctors recommend anger-management strategies. Hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness can help, says the Cleveland Clinic’s Lupe. So too can changing the way you respond to anger.

Slow down your reactions. Try to notice how you feel and slow down your response, and then learn to express it. You also want to make sure you’re not suppressing the feeling, as that can backfire and exacerbate the emotion.

Instead of yelling at a family member when you’re angry or slamming something down, say, “I am angry because X, Y and Z, and therefore I don’t feel like eating with you or I need a hug or support,” suggests Lupe.

“Slow the process down,” he says.

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