Why People in Their 30s Feel Miserable at Work

Are you in your 30s? Did you start noticing that you hate your job more and more every day? If so, there is no reason for surprise, since studies show that people in their 30s truly experience reduced job satisfaction.  As for the question of why, a new study provides the answer: When they reach 30s, people begin to experience increased time pressure and less support from their co-workers.

The study which was conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia, used a sample of 771 construction workers. Their age ranged from 17 to 74 years, and they were asked to indicate two things: First, to which extent they are satisfied with their job and second, how emotionally exhausted their work makes them feel.

Supporting previous findings, results showed that job satisfaction drops when people are in their late 20s and rises again when they are in their early 40s. As for emotional exhaustion, results indicated a reversed pattern – people feel the least emotionally exhausted when they are in their 20s, and feel most exhausted in their early 40s.

Why does this happen? As it seems, support from co-workers drops in the same period when job satisfaction drops, and time pressure increases in the same time when people start feeling emotionally exhausted. Thus, people in their 30s begin to feel less satisfied with their jobs because they have less support from their co-workers, and they begin to feel more emotionally exhausted because they are more pressured by time.

A possible reason why 30s bring less support from co-workers is that, during this period, everybody starts competing for a promotion.  In a way, co-workers become rivals and they stop supporting and helping each other. Also, people in their 30s feel less hungry for new social networks than younger people do, and thus they don’t forge new friendships that could provide them with a support at work. As for why 30s bring more time pressure, researchers note that this is because people start feeling older and their expectations to find success become more substantial. In short, everybody starts feeling as if their time is ticking away.

The Implications of the Study

What is the practical implication of this study? As study’s leaders note: “These findings suggest that organizational interventions may help increase the relatively low levels of occupational well-being in certain age groups." Some techniques that organisations could employ to help people in 30s feel more satisfied with their jobs include training in time management skills, as this would decrease the experience of time pressure, and reducing competition between mid-level co-workers, as this would increase the benefits of strong social support.

If you are in your 30s and you began disliking your job, and your organisation is not implementing any techniques that would make you happier, what you could do is simple: Be sure to organise your time well as well as to maintain a supportive and non-competitive relationship with your co-workers. If you manage to have a socially supportive environment and to avoid battling with time, you will be less likely to feel unsatisfied and emotionally exhausted.