Five tips to help you better understand your Gen Z coworkers
Offices today include a mixture of coworkers, ranging from Boomer to Gen Z. You’ve likely noticed interoffice dynamics are not the same as they were even five years ago. A global pandemic, national recession, supply shortages and the threat of international warfare will do that.
What many of us haven’t noticed in the mess of the previous two years is that a new generation of workers has entered the game. Known as the generation that eats Tide PODS, watches too many TikToks and is glued to their phones, Gen Z has arrived. Lucky you. However, you really are lucky because with their arrival come new skill sets and perspectives that are sure to bring some much-need fresh air into the office.
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these “Zoomers” on your team, there may be a few things you need to know. Here are some insider tips (from a Zoomer herself) on ways to better adapt and understand this new generation of workers.
1. Gen Z strives for stability.
Gen Z was raised during the 2008 recession and entered the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. While young, they’re not a stranger to hardship. They grew up witnessing family and friends lose their jobs, homes, cars and more. The insecurity of these major life events might be the reason they crave structure, goals and plans. It’s important for this generation to have a secure job, steady income and keep an eye on potential unknowns that will disrupt the stability in their lives. In fact, contrary to the Millennial generation, 69% of younger coworkers prefer a stable job over one that excites them. While you may laugh and think your younger coworker is ridiculous for asking for a raise, it comes from a good place and they’re not completely out of line, as 57% of Gen Z participants in a Workforce Institute report announced they expect to be promoted once a year.
Tips to adapt: Have open conversations regularly that establish their position at the company, expectations and unknowns that may disrupt their productivity.
2. Gen Z values connection and communication.
While Gen Z is the first generation born into a completely digital era, they prefer face-to-face interaction at work. In fact, 83% of Gen Z employees would rather talk to their manager in person. While online communication is readily available to this generation in and out of the office via Slack, email, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, (should I go on?), 90% of Gen Z workers crave and prefer human connection at work. Their desire for human interaction may be because they know the dangers of living a completely digital life, or perhaps it’s because they are classified as the loneliest generation. Either way, they know the value of connection and communication. While young in age, they’re old at heart.
Tips to adapt: Be available. This generation values knowing they can approach others to solve a problem or ask a question. If you’re a manager, ask them if they prefer to connect via phone call, Zoom or in person the next time you need to chat.
3. Gen Z wants to have a voice.
This generation was born into a world of terrorism, school shootings and the Great Recession. These harsh realities have made them skeptical, but also inspire them to be knowledgeable and make a positive impact. A generations research and management consulting firm describe this generation as the “most informed” compared to teenagers of other generations. They naturally embrace diversity and accept change. This makes sense when you consider a Black man occupied the White House for most of their lives and same-sex marriage was legalized when some of this generation was just 3 years old. They’ve lived through many societal changes, so it makes sense they seek jobs that allow them to have a voice in what is going on.
Tips to adapt: Include younger coworkers in your conversations, whether you’re discussing work-related tasks, politics, beliefs, etc. You might be surprised what they contribute. And if they aren’t sure what you’re discussing, tell them. They’ll be willing to learn and will appreciate feeling informed.
4. Gen Z wants feedback.
This generation is incredibly ambitious and always searching for ways to improve. Naturally, the best way to do that is through feedback. Zoomers welcome failure as an opportunity to grow and learn and want to hear how they’re doing regularly with 60% wanting weekly check-ins from their managers. It’s important for them to track progress so they know how to improve, but they also simply want to know their efforts are valuable and they are doing a good job (who doesn’t?). It’s extremely important for this generation to have clear expectations but unfortunately:
- 6/10 know their job expectations
- 4/10 truly enjoy their work or connect with their team
- 3/10 feel connected to a team member who invests in their career
Tips to adapt: Establish weekly meetings to go over job expectations and project details. Having a routine form of open communication will allow younger coworkers to feel comfortable asking questions. If time is pressing, send an encouraging email. This will help them know they are on the right track and reassure them if they made a mistake.
5. Gen Z is individualistic.
The most important thing to learn about a Zoomer is they have an obscure sense of humor. While hilarious to them, others may not find their self-deprecating and quirky jokes quite as comical. That’s OK. They might not understand the hype around avocado toast or teased hair (Don’t hide. We know you did it. We’re fabulous at finding things on the internet, remember?) Where older generations are likely to present themselves in a structured, professional manner, younger coworkers know this isn’t always realistic and prefer to be authentic. So, the next time a younger employee makes an odd joke, makes a reference to an unknown TikTok or uses a questionable email sign off, remember it’s not meant to be disrespectful or unprofessional. In fact, this is their way of letting down their guard and nurturing interoffice relationships in a way that is authentic to them.
Tips to adapt: Allow your younger employees to show up as themselves. They see right through the corporate mold, and they don’t want to be molded to it. Laugh at their jokes or ask about a meme you don’t understand. They’ll be more than happy to fill you in.
Gen Z vibe check
While you may be thinking some of these new Gen Z employees still belong on the playground and not in the office, give them a chance. They’re still learning and have a lot to teach you as well. While they may appear timid and unsure at first, they have a toolbox of qualities that can enhance your office dynamics and ultimately increase success.
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