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Mid life career crisis is a phenomenon where many employees find it difficult to adjust their life according to present situation and want to change the working processes to satisfy their needs. Sometimes they are successful in finding and adopting new processes and become shining example in front of others and many others fail. HR department of an organization can play very important role in identifying such employees in early stage of this crisis and help them to weather the same with the help of counselling andadopting different other processes & tools. This paper discusses such situations with the help of three different case studies and remedial measures which can help such employees to come out of the crisis at the earliest.
Mid life career crisis: Mid life career crisis is a particular period in individual’s life in which he / she starts to realise, understand and face his / her mortality. Person starts asking questions like what am I doing and why I am doing these things? Depending on person to person, this phenomenon can occur between the age of late 30’s to 65 years. It can happen due to various different reasons. One of the most important reasons can be feeling of choosing incorrect career in life, disliking current work, strong under feeling that life is too small and one should try something different which he / she likes. If these individuals do not find suitable work to carry on, it results in mid life crisis in their livesWho am ICrisis: [image: ]Many times, employees after competing few years in the organization under specific roles, find out that they are not made for this role. Sometimes they start wondering why in the first place they chose this role. Normally these things begin to happen during mid life. Till this time, most of the employees are expert in their existing roles, but do not want to continue with the same, due to too much expectation, repetitive nature of jobs, peer pressures etc.
People have earned enough money and generally they are settled in life. Here they start thinking about alternate roles which they may like to do. Sometimes employees like to do other jobs, but they may not be high paying, so they are not able to take decision between their liking vs existing income. Some employees, who are confident about themselves, approach HR departments with their willingness to shift careers. Some others, who are not bold enough to express themselves, continue their existing jobs, and by the time they realise that they cannot really continue with the job, it’s already too late. Their performance in existing job starts deteriorating and they can’t really go elsewhere. Normally these employees face the axe of the employers and life becomes too difficult for them. They really do not want to do the job they were doing earlier in any other organization, and other organizations are not ready to employ these people in different roles without any experience. Right guidance at right time: Whenever any organization hires any employee, it invests in the same. Organizations spend money on identifying resources with specific skill sets, who can do particular tasks and then train them. It is expected that all this investment in an employee will be profitable, subject to long career of the employee with the organization. Many times we observe that these senior employees had certain skill sets earlier, but these people are now doing people management and have lost their original skill sets. When some employees start feeling mid life crisis, their performance start deteriorating and this is the phase where they require some professional help or guidance. Sometimes it is easier to handle the expectations of people and sometimes they are totally different. HR can play critical role where expectations can be handled in organizational level. Sometimes these are only fascinations and at certain juncture, employees suddenly feel that they can do these dreamed roles. Here HR can clearly tell them that it’s impossible to do such a transition and employee should face the reality.
Case StudyI:Vinit, Senior Project Manager in one of the reputed IT companies started getting bored about his day to day role. He was excellent coder of C# & java and he wished to continue coding. Due to his excellent programming skills along with social skills he climbed the ladder of success very fast and was considered as one of the youngest project managers in the company. Everybody looked after him as icon of success and role model. As Vinit was promoted to Senior project manager post, his main work was to handle the team of 50 programmers, and get the allocated project work done in stipulated time.
Vinit disliked people management work, but he was earning handsome salary and hence kept quiet. Being a service oriented organization, there was always pressure from the client to get the work done as early as possible and Vinit’s focus was to meet the deadline. Vinit hardly used to code now. He used to find lot of corrections during code reviews, but he had to ask his team mates to correct the same. He had communicated his problems to the management earlier, but management said that if he wants to succeed, he should accept a higher responsibility of people management rather than individual contributor. Higher expectations from client and handling 50 people with their different expectations, Vinit got frustrated. He had now lost touch with coding and was expert in Excel management. Although he was struggling on both ends, Vinit was trying to carry forward the work. Soon client became dissatisfied, as expected output was not delivered on time. Management approached Vinit with the issues from client.
Management told him upfront, that with the kind of salary he is getting, he can’t become individual contributor. Vinit had lost a touch with programming, so he was not confident enough, if he can become technical architect, which was an important individual contributor position. One day, Vinit became so much frustrated, that he resigned. HR and management then tried to discuss the situation with him and even offered him individual contributor role for short time, but it was too late. This can be considered as one of the examples of mid level crisis. If Vinit and HR would have identified what he likes, perhaps Vinit would have upgraded his skill sets at right time to become technical architect. Perhaps he could have made little less money, but he would have been happy. I am not born for this job: (Eureka moment of life)Many times people like certain things, but cannot make them as career due to different reasons. In developing counties, generally there is pressure from parents on children to become successful in their individual corporate careers and jobs and most of the children study and work under the burden of these expectations. These people always have their likings suppressed over the period of time and when they settle down in life, they start dreaming about those alternative jobs /wishes.
Life becomes difficult for them as they cannot concentrate on existing jobs and they cannot have their dream job. If the employee is working in good organisation, HR can play very important role here to understand the wishes of employee and if possible provide limited opportunities within the organisation to fulfil his wishes.
Case Study II: Best Trainer in the company Suresh started his work as mechanical engineer in a company. Although he was good in his day to day work, he didn’t seem to be happy with what he was doing. He was outspoken and had good teaching skills. He used to explain the concepts to his colleagues very well. After few years, one day head HR found that Suresh was waiting outside his cabin. HR greeted him and Suresh told him that he does not want to do assembly line work anymore. He has good communication skills and teaching knack and wants to explore a career which will help him utilize his skills and give him mental satisfaction. Head HR asked Suresh to join MBA course. HR encouraged Suresh that if he gets good score, company will refund his course fees and then he can think about alternate career in company itself rather than outside. Suresh wanted to do something as a part of his mid life career crisis, but it would have been hazardous for him to leave the job.
After completion of MBA, HR started involving Suresh in management meetings. Suresh also started taking technical and general trainings within the company. After few years, Suresh became in-house trainer in the company for any management or technical trainings. Company saved lakhs of rupees in engaging corporate trainers. Here HR thought about the needs of the employee and engaged him at the right time. This benefited company and Suresh in the longer run. Mid life career crisis due to lack of clarity regarding future career path:Many times we find that people work on jobs that involve repetitive processes. Although one needs to be skilful enough to handle these processes, employees usually adopt to the situation very well. After certain time period, they start feeling bored about existing job. At the same time they become worried about their future, because they are working on jobs which are based on repetitive process. Workers especially working in industries like BPO show these tendencies. There is lack of clarity about future of the job. In such scenarios, employees start worrying and sometimes victom of Mid Life career crisis.
Case Study III: Nitesh is working on a voice based process in one of the leading BPOs in India. He started his career in the company six years back. Normally due to rotating shifts and few other reasons, there is lot of attrition in the company. Nitish was always loyal to the company and worked for 6 years. Now he is team leader, but do not see many peers around. Those who had joined during his time or later, left the company long back. Some of them chose different careers successfully and others are struggling to settle down. Nitesh does not know what’s going to happen to him in next 2-3 years. Company has opened a new voice based process in Manila and it’s cheaper to do business from there. Nitesh is now getting increasingly frustrated about his future role and future in the company. It started affecting his health, and people used to notice his abnormal behaviour at times. It’s time that Nitesh meets HR and talk to them about a) His future in the organization b) Company’s future plans in India c) Working in regular shifts. If the company is transparent with fair HR policies, he should get answers of all his questions without any problems. If some policies are not clear e. g. future plans of company regarding Indian operations, HR should be able to tell Nitesh about the same. At the same time they should try to convince him about his good future in the company. If he has any health issues due to rotating shifts, they should be addressed and if possible, he should be allowed to work in regular shift. HR department came to know about the concerns of one of the senior most employee. They thought it’s high time to engage everyone in one to one / group based discussions to clarify doubts in the minds of employees. They also started long career award in the company (minimum 5 years) and Nitesh was one of the few to get them. Now Nitesh is assured that he has good future in the company and slowly getting back to his previous efficiency in work. Triggers of mid life crisis situations among employees:
Employees in the organisation can face mid life crisis due to following:
Therefore people hardly bother to care about those who are facing the crisis situation. Additionally interdisciplinary work or cross team work is a concept which is still in nascent stage. In western countries, many times, due to lack of new resources with specific skill sets, existing employees are encouraged to take new roles. In India due to abundant work force with variable skill sets, this encouragement is given to limited extent. This situation may not change in near forcible future. Those who become unemployed while going through this problem typically face 40’s syndrome, where it is difficult to get a new job. Life becomes very tough for such people. They are not treated well in families and friend circles, which again worsen the situation. Very few of them come out successfully from this crisis with alternate careers or entrepreneurship.
Conclusion: Mid life career crisis is a phenomenon which is faced by many individuals. This may happen due uncertainty about future career path, working on non challenging processes for several years,working on something which people hate to do. People are generally adoptive to the situations to certain extent, but when the situation goes out of hand, it starts showing in their behavioural patterns. These people think that they haven’t done much in their life till date and very small life is remaining ahead of them. They start taking hasty decisions and accepting new challenges which may or may not be handled by them. It is important to identify such people in early stage and appropriate counselling should be done to understand their state of mind. If possible, and available, they should be allowed to work on new challenging processes. This becomes a win-win situation for employee and organization.
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