Gen Z in the Workplace

Lazy. Distracted. Self-assuming. Void of ambition. These are just a few of the labels often used to describe the younger generation. We live in a complex age—saturated by technology, social change, and ridiculous new trends (insert rant about Tide Pod challenges here). There is no denying that Generation Z is a driving force in all of these recent societal changes.

I’m a member of Gen Z. The title honestly sounds like a rare disease strain. And that’s how some of us feel we’re perceived—kids tarnishing that old-fashioned style. At this point in our lives, we’re pursuing higher education, beginning our career paths, and constantly connecting to the motherload of networks that is social media. We’re aging alongside the exponential growth of communication outlets in our world. But, ironically, we’re so misunderstood.

I’ve had those unfortunate labels placed on my back simply because I was born within the applicable age bracket, not because of my traits as an individual. Like many others, I feel the dire need to prove myself. To break out of the box that surrounds me because of my age. I strive to show my worth, especially in an office setting.

This past February, we sent out a survey targeted towards Gen Z’ers on various social media channels, in order to better understand the disconnect in the workplace. Our ultimate goal was to learn how these young professionals are wired. The results were incredibly illuminating–stories from personal experience, fresh insight, and some surprising takes on this generational tug of war. So, let’s plug in and begin.

Lost in Translation

Like any other generation, we’ve felt the sting of a good ole stereotype. And one day, we’ll judge the generation after us. It’s a reoccurrence over time that we’re all guilty of. Our survey respondents mentioned some good ones they’re currently encountering in the wild. These include, but are not limited to: government system trolls, religious online shoppers, and “beer tap and treehouse swing” fanatics.

However, 79.3% of our respondents claimed that laziness was the stereotype that least represented the reality of their life. But, sadly, this one seems to have the greatest traction and impact on the level of respect, or lack thereof, received by co-workers.

Despite the common misconception, not all Gen Z’ers are careless slugs. We not only exhibit a strong sense of work ethic, but we also couple that work ethic with an ability for openness and creativity. Our respondents claim, from personal work experience, that they’ve noticed they’re more apt to adopt new software and applications. Many of these tools are learnt through their highly accessible online network of professional piers, who are in touch with a plethora of information. They’re knowledgeable about working with tech and because of heightened exposure to social advancements, they’re more proactive in implementing change to break the status quo.

Because of all these resources we have in our back pocket, many Gen Z’ers find that they are confident in making decisions and moving up in the workplace hierarchy. Two thirds of our survey respondents saw themselves in leadership within the next five years. Low achieving? Unambitious? Nope. Some of us do have that golden, go-getter attitude.

Culture over Compensation

The mobile worker is a trend we all know (and some love). It’s becoming a norm in our society, as more companies are adopting this remote-style of working to attract new employees (and cut costs on overhead). A likely reason for this is because much of the current workforce is made up of Millennials. Which lends us to believe that this will increasingly become the standard, as Gen Z’ers continue to flood into the working public.

This doesn’t fly for some of the older generations. Several of our survey respondents claimed that many Gen X’ers and Boomers they’ve worked with are known to stick to the 9-5 workday anchor, regardless of how much work there is to be completed. Maybe this is because the older generations are traditionalists—work is work. You clock in and out, staying for enough time to earn your pay.

The modern workforce isn’t built that way. According to our survey respondents, 60.7% believe that culture is the most impactful in their decision to join a company. Only 17.9% felt compensation was the determining factor.

We’ve grown up with the softer mentality of finding a balance. Thus, many Gen Z’ers are open to remote-working and flexible schedules. We want to get the job done, while still making time for personal growth and mental stability in our own lives.

When we are physically present in the office, we enjoy feedback, along with the occasional La Croix and Cheez-It snack break. Maybe it’s because we grew up in the “helicopter parent” age or the fact that our generation is greatly affected by social media, but we like to know what people are thinking of us. We want validation via the opinion of others, and we want that feedback fast. 46.7% of respondents preferred face-to face feedback, 23.3% favored feedback through email, and 20% wanted it through a messenger, such as Slack.

Therefore, we crave a collaborative work-environment. We don’t want to be confined to our cube. We want to have a constructive relationship with our superiors and other team members. Many of us are guilty of being Type-A workers. Striving for perfection, getting feedback, aiming to improve. And the cycle repeats.

The Final Word

Clear communication is key. And from all of this, we can see that our society is lacking it. The secret recipe for success is not contained within one generation either—we all possess different skill sets that pertain to our upbringing and lifestyle. But, by taking the time to better understand each other, we can better coexist in the workplace.

As a fellow member of Gen Z, I hope from this you have collected some new perspective into the brain of a young professional. We are still figuring out who we are. We do not have all of the answers. Yet, it’s crucial for us to finally be understood and respected.

Work with us, share your advice with us, give us a seat at the table so we can learn. We’re innovative, not just ignorant. To understand us is to help unleash our potential and amass the success that will be the future of your company. You decide. And remember, those who came before you didn’t quite trust you at first either.

Kelsey Rizzuto

ICPro Collective Contributor

Kelsey Rizzuto is a rising communications pro in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rizzuto is passionate about storytelling, collaboration, and designing incredible events. Rizzuto is a third-year Marketing student at the University of Cincinnati.