Naomi Osaka of Japan preparing for the 2021 French Open
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The generational divide in the commentary about Naomi Osaka’s refusal to give post-match interviews to preserve her mental health, and her subsequent withdrawal from the French Open is noticeable.
It’s striking that many people aren’t grasping that this isn’t specifically a Naomi, tennis, or even a sports issue, it’s more a wider millennial and Gen-Z thing.
The debate is a microcosm of a wider, rarely dissected tension between what millennials and Gen Z require or even at times demand of the spaces and working environments they enter, versus the generations that came before them regarding attitudes towards work and mental health.
Naomi’s decision reminds me of my 23-year-old self on BBC’s business show The Apprentice.
Joanna Jarjue, former Apprentice candidate and commentator
I experienced being thrust into one of the most publicly toxic working environments at a young age and having my mental health deteriorate week after week as the tears became more frequent.
With similar sentiments to Naomi, I requested to remove myself from the process entirely by week 7 but was convinced to stay by show bosses.
I may have survived to the Final 5 stage of the competition, but it was at a major cost to my mental well-being.
Now watching 23-year-old Osaka prioritise her emotional health in her working environment somewhat makes her a Gen-Z Icon who I watch in awe, predicting it will be her who will be on the right side of history.
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Gone are the days where people wear their years of service with the same job and employer as a badge of honour, or where they take pride in the hardship encountered having waited countless years to climb up the greasy pole in their job.
In this case, gone are the days where people are willing to sacrifice their mental health, especially for huge establishments where they are often treated as just another number.
Millennials and Gen-Z are a new, different breed and corporations will have to adapt or die.
It’s in fact in the best interest of corporations to adapt and to do so quickly as the tide has already turned, showing that a disregard for mental health is proving to be bad for business.
Do you agree? Have your say in the comments section below.
The Centre for Mental Health says mental health problems at work had cost the economy £34.9bn n 2017; some of which relates to the cost of employee turnover due to poor mental health.
Naomi Osaka’s actions this week don’t make her any less conscientious than the likes of legends such as Billie Jean King, nor does it make her any less committed to her craft.
What it does make her is self-aware and a leader in the making.
On-lookers currently complaining because she won’t do press interviews straight after a match, or at worst calling Naomi a spoilt brat on social media will not change the fact that she is the perfect example of our future workforce whether we like it or not; Talented, superconscious, and willing to challenge the status quo.