The Struggle with Gen Z and Millennial Employees

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Hi there, I’m Monica, a Gen Zer and the Operations Manager at Employee Fanatix. I was recently on an HR Power Hour call when the idea for this blog post dawned on me. The conversation wound down as we discussed mental health, but the last point brought up struck a new chord. One of the call participants said something along the lines of, ”the youngest generation of employees are missing soft skills”.  

A few more people chimed in about issues with ghosting, generational etiquette, disregard for personal networks, and a misunderstanding of reputations. Although I am a part of that generation, I don’t feel targeted or thrown under the bus by these comments. But I thought I could offer my perspective on this situation. 

If your organization is one onboarding primarily the last of the Millennials and the first Gen Zers, as more and more enter the workforce, then you will need to be well equipped and prepared to manage them. That’s where I come in. More importantly, that’s where Caring Leadership comes in. 

The Threats that Come with Younger Employees
Ghosting

This youngest generation is fond of ghosting, or “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” This unfortunate action has perhaps reached a new peak, as Covid-19 and the rise of dating apps have forced these people who grew up on the internet to dive even deeper into the web. This lack of assuming responsibility for one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, is often the easiest and most cowardly way to avoid confrontation. Ghosting, the trendy easy-way-out fix, has now wormed its way into our workplaces. 

The Randstad COVID-19 2020 U.S. Compensation Insights survey revealed that 48% of Gen Z and 52% of Millennials admitted to ghosting employers. That is, after they have already accepted a job offer. 

Reputation

55% of Gen Z use their phones for 5 hours a day and 26% are on it for 10 hours a day. Do you know how much information you can come into contact with in 5 minutes on a smartphone? It’s a lot. However, the data shows that the longer a person spends on their phone, the less valuable information becomes. After all,we’re already processing so much. Essentially, many aspects of life might mean “less” to Gen Zers while others matter more. It’s a social media phenomenon. This generation is swimming in algorithms that can essentially influence what we do and don’t care about. 

Did you know that for this generation, our presence in this world can be fixed with a FaceTune app, filter, or delete button? We were taught that what you put on the internet will never come down. But for the majority of us, this quip has not come back to bite us yet. We can construe our images and our reputations. We can do it without ever worrying about who knows our secret or our real identities. 

Couple this nonchalance for how we present ourselves in real life with insecurity towards personal interactions, and we have our issue. A good reputation probably bears less weight in this generations’ minds. It’s essentially the outcome of desensitization to the impact that information has. 

Etiquette

This latest generation matured while society claimed hold of a newer values system. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging are at the forefront of many of our minds. Some might perceive these young minds as soft or easily offended. While these perceptions are maybe at times accurate (we’re human after all), what organizations are welcoming through their doors is a group of young people who actually care about caring in a new and really relevant way. 

An article from Review 42 states:

Most of the Gen Z and Millennials demographic feels that businesses have directed too much focus on company agendas without considering the contributions to society. Gen Z statistics indicate that companies should focus on issues like inclusion, diversity, and flexibility.

Generation Z research shows 35% of adults consider “bullying” and “not getting along with others” as the most significant stressors in their lives. These are followed by “personal debt,” which stresses 33% of Gen Zers.

Gen Z and Millennials do care about manners and etiquette, whether or not they exhibit them well. 

Personal Network

Add onto that, this generation boasts online networks with hundreds of thousands of people we don’t know or have never met. They can be unfollowed, blocked, ghosted, or ignored without the bat of an eyelash. So now, Gen Zers all walk into their first workplaces and don’t have the comfort of sending an unsolicited friend request anymore. Now we have to shake hands and make small talk. For some, this skill is stronger than for others. But, information has become less valuable. Why make ourselves uncomfortable and expend effort into forging connections with people who may not understand us, when we can just connect on LinkedIn? 

This generation relies heavily on the use of Google, Youtube, and Reddit. We don’t even need to have a conversation with someone to solve simple problems and answer most of our questions. This has devalued personal relationships. Why would we seek a mentor to help us develop in our career, when most of us got through school, college, interviews, and resumes without needing anything more than our laptops?

The Organization Response
To Combat Behavioral Differences

Obviously, organizations do not have to bend and cater to every whim and need of their youngest employees. But having a strategy and empathetic perspective will work wonders to assimilate these people into your workplaces. 

In terms of ghosting, we would like to see less of it. How do we deal with this shirking of responsibility, the avoidance mentality? Accountability. We can only begin from within our organizations to ensure that you practice having a set of standards and maintaining it. Provide the example that owning up to one’s actions or inactions is, in fact, the richest way to grow. Ensure that your accountability system does not result in fear of retribution. We must allow people to be free to make mistakes without fear of losing their jobs. 

There is a call for Gen Z to learn resilience, but I can assure you this will come, but it may require guidance. I encourage organizations to establish these real personal bonds that young people are craving. Show us trust, real care, authority, and respect. Have the hard conversations, give the tough feedback. But also recognize that this younger group won’t stand for the older workplace cultural thorns of bullying, yelling, public humiliation, etc. Lead with the example of accountability and watch as this generation that would rather hide than face adversity realizes that hiding is not the proper response. 

Get a Move On

I’d advise any organization stuck in the ‘we’ve made our stance and haven’t really made changes’ phase, to get a move on. This generation believes not taking action is essentially a complicit acceptance or even continuance of wrong behavior. 

The best way by far to win over the Millennials and Gen Z currently entering the workforce is through Caring Leadership. These young people are very responsive to calls for empathy, compassion for all, inclusion, and belonging, among other things. Be the organization that exhibits those traits of Caring Leadership. I assure you, Gen Z and Millennials will happily find a home within your walls, whether virtual or not. For assistance in strengthening your organization’s culture and finding out more ideas about managing and leading the youngest employees, join our Caring Leadership Community.

Reimagine the future of remote work and employee engagement

Reimagine the future of remote work and employee engagement

One Response

  1. Joan
    | Reply

    Thank you for this insight. I’ll admit the photo made me cringe, and my first thought was, “Didn’t your mother teach you how to cross the street?” I see this behavior as a death wish. Please God, keep those Zers safe! 🙂

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