Intergenerational generalizations? Let’s avoid them
By Kamber Parker
The workplace is a wonderful place when you think about it.
It is one of the few places where people of many different generations co-exist for hours at a time with a collective goal. Trust me, there is no sarcasm font being used right now. That is a wonder of the modern workplace, and mainly unique in everyone’s lives.
Of course, that means a lot of times, people fail to communicate, and that leads to generalizations in the workplace.
A recent article in Entrepreneur focused heavily on these workplace gaps with an especially jaundiced focus on one generation in particular: Generation Z or GenZ or if you believe the article, the scourge of the modern workplace. According to the article, which was based on a survey by ResumeBuilder, 74% of managers say GenZ is more difficult to work with than other generations, while 49% said they found GenZ employees difficult to work with all or most of the time.
One phrase jumped out at me, “They lack discipline, and they like to challenge you,” and really made me wonder what is happening. As a young professional myself, who works with companies across the country on recruiting and retaining young talent, let me unpack this a little.
When I hear a wide generalization about any generation, I pause and ask a few important questions.
Is anything being done as part of a greater solution? If management – or the people complaining about GenZ in this survey – is not willing to do anything to support the future leaders of our workforce, then the problem will not be solved. The solution? Get together with HR, and establish clear expectations from the beginning of the recruiting process that match what happens during onboarding and beyond. In Entrepreneur’s article, they reference the work that higher education needs to do in supporting these students before entering the workforce, and while I agree they have a part to play in this too, so do the companies that are complaining about them. Look up and realize that you are part of the problem.
Can managers (that find GenZ hard to work with) work with their team to create a stronger onboarding process? If they find themselves firing a GenZ employee within a week of their first day, I would pose the question: What is going on during the recruiting and onboarding processes that leads to this new hire being fired so quickly? The solution? This one takes time, so buckle up: work together with HR and Marketing to establish a consistent onboarding and communication plan from day 1. Adapt to changing times (i.e., dress code, work from home status, etc.) and set expectations early, make sure they are clear, and check in as needed. If you are firing them immediately, it can’t just be one-sided.
Why are these behaviors coming through in the workplace? What do we know about GenZ’s upbringing that has allowed these behaviors to be present in their workplace? Until all generations can understand why the five generations in the workplace act as they do based on their formative years and upbringings, workplace communication can’t move forward.
The reality is that if there was a survey of young professionals asking them which group was the worst to work with, the answers would definitely not be the same. It’s akin to a school that does not meet state standards for key educational markers. It wouldn’t make sense to blame Kindergartners and kick them out of the school to raise levels.
No, educators would work with the younger students to make sure they were able to succeed in the future. Hiring managers should do the same. After all, this group is the future of your business and the results of how you leave your legacy. Remember that the next time you complain about GenZ or whoever the “new kids on the block” are.
Kamber Parker is the founder of The YoPro Know, which promotes success in the workplace by being a bridge between ambitious young professionals and progressive businesses who want to recruit, engage and retain them. Learn more at www.yoproknow.com