Just like parents, bosses have their (not so) secret favorites. And when it comes to being managers’ pet, the most junior employees in the office are not often selected. Nearly three-fourths of managers find Gen Z to be the most difficult to work with, according to a Resume Builder survey of 1,300-plus managers and business leaders.
Many bosses are getting frustrated on a regular basis, with 49% reporting that working with Gen Z was difficult most or all of the time. Only 4% of respondents said it was never difficult to manage Gen Z.
As a Gen Zer myself, I can’t help but roll my eyes to the back of my head in a quasi-possesed manner. Like every generation before us, my generation has become the poster child for nearly every new workplace trend, especially anti-work movements.
Some might tell you that being a Gen Z whisperer is about saying “slay” or using a stale meme, but young employees aren’t some extraterrestrial creatures dropped from Mars. We want what all workers want: the same flexibility, fair wages, and good company culture—we just might be more proactive about it. But because only the oldest of us are in the workplace, managers are still trying to figure out how to work with us—something that happens every time a new generation falls into the limelight.
Of course, we too have been learning how to navigate the workplace in unprecedented times. “As a result of COVID-19 and remote education, it’s possible that Gen Zers lack the foundation to be more successful than older generations in entry-level positions,” said Resume Builder’s chief career advisor Stacie Haller, adding that communication skills don’t develop as well when we learn and work remotely.
But, she said, managers need to be aware of this when hiring. Plus, bosses are often missing the whole picture when it comes to some of their gripes about Gen Z workers, particularly around their tech skills and work ethic.
Gen Z is misunderstood
One of managers’ biggest grievances with Gen Z (at 39%) is that their tech skills aren’t up to par. But young workers are well aware of this skills gap, with many feeling that America failed to prepare them with the proper digital skills required to advance their careers.
“There’s a glaring gap in accessibility and application of tech education resources between lower-income and affluent students—a gap that was widened by the pandemic,” Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer at Verizon, wrote for Fortune. “And we know this gap is more than an academic or social justice issue.”
This lack of tech skills might be annoying for managers, but it’s just as challenging for us Gen Zers, who are often asked to explain the latest digital tools to our coworkers. Because of this pressure and the expectation that we’re skilled at tech because we’re digital natives, we tend to feel more shame than our older coworkers when encountering a tech problem.
Managers also reported problems with a perceived lack of effort, motivation, and productivity among Gen Z. The reputation we’ve gained for quiet quitting, in which workers don’t put in more work than required of the job description, may be to blame for that. But, if anything, Gen Z is a generation full of workaholics—many are juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet. We’re also most likely to go into the office, with the goal of being more productive and furthering our career with mentorship opportunities.
Bosses would rather work with millennials
Regardless, it’s all enough for the majority of managers (65%) to put Gen Z at the top of their firing list before any other generation. Over half of respondents said they’ve sacked a Gen Zer, and 12% said they fired one less than one week after a start date (which doesn’t seem quite long enough to even know if someone is Gen Z).
Surprisingly, the favored employee among bosses is the once much-maligned millennial who was blamed for everything and became a stereotype for laziness and selfishness—not unlike Gen Z today. Of the respondents who don’t enjoy working with Gen Z, 34% prefer to work with millennials for their productiveness and technological skills. They would next rather hire Gen X for their productivity and honesty.
Perhaps the shoe is now on the other foot because more millennials are now managers, who are navigating working with a new generation for the first time. The newest kids on the block always tend to get the most flak; even Gen X was pushing for the same level of seemingly unprecedented work-life balance at the same life stage.
Perhaps one day soon, Gen Alpha will take over as the least-liked by us Gen Z bosses. Or maybe we’ll finally be like the parents who say, “I like you all equally” and mean it.
By Chloe Berger / Fortune