In the past few years, I’ve had the honor of working with a number of professionals who are part of Gen Z. They’ve been honest, principled people who care about the world around them. I have been impressed with their awareness of current events, and how strongly they feel about social issues.
But, employers are also complaining that Gen Z is hard to work with. One poll of managers found that 74 percent find Gen Z to be challenging to work with. Another found managers were more likely to fire Gen Z than any other group. You can find the frustration in these surveys, and in casual conversations with friends and coworkers.
This may be a case of young people being young people. Every new generation is considered difficult at some point in time. But, there may be more to it with Gen Z. After all, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with computers and technology in their hands from day one. And, they went to college during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let that sink in for a moment. An entire generation has communicated more using technology than any other generation. And, not surprisingly, many of the complaints from managers are around communication skills. At work, your ability to communicate is often just as important as your technical knowledge. Some employers also reported that Gen Z is entitled, easily offended, and not productive.
If you’re a manager in this situation, there’s hope. Many Gen Z employees are looking for more mentoring. They may also need more direction and coaching at first. Because they have spent part of their early career remote, they haven’t had as many opportunities to observe those around them. Spend more time with them, and they will thank you.
If you are a Gen Z employee, it’s important not to overlook this concern. Being smart is not enough to get ahead at work. You must also learn to communicate well with others, and to work together with a team. If you feel you are lacking in these areas, it is your responsibility to learn. A workplace is much different than a university. Your boss and peers aren’t guaranteed to teach you, or to keep you happy. If you’re learning new material, seek out mentors who agree to help. Or, look for online resources or classes you might take.
It’s also important to remember that the workplace is made up of people with very different viewpoints. And, although it’s fantastic that companies are trying to be more aware of social issues, you will disagree with some coworkers about personal or political topics. That doesn’t mean that the work isn’t still important.
Your career is something that’s built, block by block, over many years. You are the CEO. If you’re struggling, it’s your responsibility to ask for help. It’s your job to keep working at it. It’s the only way to move forward in your career.