With Baby Boomers retiring and Generation X and Millennial leadership growing, it’s more important than ever to understand how to work with Generation Z (born mid-1990s-early 2010s) employees in a way that leverages their skills — and speaks to their values.
Plenty of older generations have grumbled about those who follow, and Gen Z hasn’t been immune to the snide comments. But Gen Z has so much to offer the professional world if only workplaces can make minor adjustments to welcome them into the workforce.
Here, we tell you everything you need to know about Gen Z’s work ethic and the stereotypes that cloud their reputation as team members and employees.
Generation Z’s Work Ethic
For Gen Z, identity is a major factor in the workplace.
Born and raised with the internet, self-expression as currency is second nature to Gen Z. They’re known to have a “pro-self” attitude rather than blindly following the rules and regulations of an organization. While that might rub some more traditional generations the wrong way, we can reframe it as a positive: This fearless individuality contributes to a more inclusive workplace that cultivates genuine diversity of thought. Instead of fighting it — and coming off like a relic — try leaning into this point of view and witnessing the genuine benefits.
Gen Z sets boundaries at work.
The word may elicit eye rolls, but hey –– boundaries work! Especially at work. Gen Z knows a thing or two about self-care, and having come of age with an iPhone glued to their fingertips, they are acutely aware of the benefits of a regulated nervous system, along with the ways that hustle culture destroys the brain and body. In the words of Indeed, Gen Z is “over hustle culture.” Being firm about when they are on/offline isn’t scary to them. We could all learn a thing or two.
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Gen Z wants support in the office.
If Millennials are people pleasers, Gen Z are compassion junkies. They respond best to managers and coworkers who lead with support. Think: constructive feedback and offering help versus criticism. In creating a work environment that leans toward the supportive, consider letting questions and curiosity lead your communication, displaying a genuine concern for their ease and peace of mind in high-stress situations, and being faithful to providing feedback that has clear opportunities for improvement. It’s a more human-centered approach to the workplace, and frankly, it’s a long-overdue change.
Gen Z expects flexibility at work.
While the working world has undergone a major shift since 2020, there’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to fitting work into employees’ lives — and not the other way around. Gen Z doesn’t see remote work as an imposition on their productivity, and in fact, they understand the endless benefits of a job that doesn’t require you to live in an impossibly expensive major city. This is a generation that builds community online; they are adept enough to call in from anywhere, any time, and to multitask digitally so as not to miss deadlines or lose hours to the vortex of Instagram.
Generation Z Stereotypes — True or False?
Gen Z is glued to their phones.
There’s truth to this stereotype, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Gen Z has grown up in the age of information overload, and filtering how they process it gives them an edge in cutting through the noise that other generations simply do not possess. Their attention spans were trained to be short, so their communication is hyper-efficient.
Gen Z is anti-authority.
That “pro-self” Gen Z does not respond well to “because I said so” leadership. What’s more: Their identities aren’t tied to their work the same way previous generations were, so they don’t fear losing themselves when they lose their jobs. They will simply find a new one and continue living their lives. (It’s some impressive resilience!) Critically, they don’t accept that it’s normal to cry in the bathroom after a meeting. They expect more from their mentors and managers and go the extra mile to support team members alike. If you can be discerning about the tasks you are giving them and show them the concrete ways their contributions benefit their learning, not just your success, you’ll earn their respect and gratitude.
Gen Z is mental health-obsessed.
Gen Z has watched their predecessors burn out at work, and they know their brains and bodies deserve better. Taking the time to confirm your Gen Z employees are receiving all of the support they need so that they don’t have to take their work home with them is crucial to building trust. Work is where many of us spend the majority of our lives, and assuring it’s additive to our overall well-being is a concept all of us would be well advised to adopt.
Gen Z job hops.
Understandably, employers are reluctant to find the silver lining in a tendency to leave a job soon after being hired. However, Zoomers aren’t job hopping because they’re flakey. With stagnant wages and untenable working conditions, job hopping is sometimes the only way to get paid competitive salaries and earn critical benefits. For hiring professionals worried about retention, there’s a simple fix: Provide Gen Z employees with rewards for their efforts, along with a clear path for career growth. They actually value stability as it works in tandem with their desire to have a more full and varied life outside work.