Gen Z’ers have a bad rap in the business world. And they haven’t even been in it that long.
A new survey from ResumeBuilder of over 1,300 managers has found some rather stark numbers about how they view Gen Z. 74% said Gen Z was harder to work with than other generations. Of those managers, half said they were hard to work with “most or all of the time” and about an eighth said they fired a Gen Z’er before the end of their first week on the job.
About 64% of the managers who found Gen Z cumbersome said they would rather work with Gen Xers (30%) or Millennials (34%).
As a member of Gen Z myself, these numbers upset me and I’m more than willing to go to bat for my generation. But I don’t want to use that bat to bash my elders. Instead, I want to point out what is behind these numbers.
COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. The pandemic disrupted learning at all levels–college students included–in an unprecedented way that may have left Gen Z unprepared for jobs from an educational perspective. But especially for students enrolled in institutions of higher learning, the pandemic was a serious impediment to the development of professional communication skills. Adam Garfield, marketing director at Hairbro, addresses this when he spoke with regards to the survey:
“…one area where I believe GenZ could improve in the workplace is their communication skills. While they are proficient in using digital communication tools, they may lack some of the interpersonal skills required for face-to-face interactions. Gen Z’ers could benefit from developing their communication skills to build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients,” he said.
The pandemic, however, is secondary to the entrenched generational differences that these managers find irreconcilable. They cited many reasons as to why Gen Z was tough to work with and easier to fire, from how they feel younger workers are more easily offended, to the feeling that they are less productive, less motivated, and less disciplined. The characterizations make sense to some extent: Gen Z is a diverse generation intertwined with the internet, cutting-edge technology, personal independence, and activism. Think of how those traits may lead to a shortened and diverted attention span, less regard for traditional workplace norms, an intolerance for certain authoritarian workplace environments, and valuing flexibility over inflexibility.
Comparing Gen Z to Millennials demonstrates the negative perceptions of these traits; The managers who said they prefer to work with Millennials mention productivity (44%) and technological skills (42%) as the top reasons. The older Millennials have overcome an old bias of being needy and entitled and have now become the generation encapsulating the workaholic and adaptable employee that any manager would love to have. Gen Z’ers know the Great Recession happened; Millennials lived it, and that’s probably the defining event that separates these generations. If you were a boss, and had to choose between a Millennial who has student loans to pay and the motivation to work for every penny or a Gen Zer who is less experienced and more of an independent personality, who would you choose?
These sweeping generalizations need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it seems that Gen Z in general could have a bigger tendency to be obtuse in the workplace. yet at the same time, Gen Z has a history of calling attention to issues that have garnered muted reactions from older generations. For example, Gen Z and younger Millennials are more likely to report disengagement and burnout. Does that mean that no previous generations suffered burnout? Absolutely not; they are the generation most willing and most able to articulate it.
A stubborn manager could lament firing an employee since they couldn’t swallow a particular remark, but a smart manager would look to harness the competitive, entrepreneurial spirit that is within Gen Z for good, rather than letting it wallow behind more undesirable qualities.