Does Generation Z Work?

problems with gen z in the workplace

Those born between 1996 and the early to mid-2000s are collectively referred to as Generation Z (also known as Gen Z or Zoomers). This generation never knew a world without smart phones, the internet, or social media. They grew up at a time when climate change, racial equity, and the Great Recession dominated news headlines.

One quarter of the United States’ population count themselves as Gen Z and they are poised to become the most populous generation on the planet. That means Generation Z is going to have a major influence on the economy, politics, and the workplace for decades to come.

The Gen Z Stereotype 

Much has been made in the media of Gen Z’s supposed laziness, arrogance, and lack of work ethic. They are often labeled as spoiled, disrespectful, and entitled by the older generations.

You might hear someone from the Baby Boomer generation say something like: “The younger generation doesn’t want to work hard; they just want to be YouTube stars.” Or “They just want everything handed to them on a silver platter.”

Of course, the reality behind that stereotype is more nuanced.

Gen Z Experiences “Layoff Anxiety”

problems with gen z in the workplace

Consider the fact that Gen Z has lived through two recessions, one due to the housing market crash in 2008, and the other due to the more recent Covid-19 pandemic.

They’ve also watched employers choose to reduce staff and rely more on temporary gig workers as a cost-cutting tactic in recent years. In fact, according to a recent Harris poll, employees under the age of 35 feel more “layoff anxiety” than Millennials, Gen Xers, or Boomers.

Furthermore, those employees who remain after a reduction in staff may be asked to take on more responsibilities without additional compensation. That often leads to employee burnout and resentment among Millennials toward their employers.

Gen Z Puts Themselves First 

According to data published by Business Insider, Gen Z workers are more likely to change jobs more than the Generations that came before them.

Some switch jobs for higher salaries, which is common among all generations. However, they may sometimes choose to work for an employer that offers lower pay but allows them to work remotely either full or part time. They’ll also prioritize more interesting or impactful work over higher salaries.

The Gen Z population will work hard for their employer during business hours, but are less likely to work overtime, answer emails after hours, or go the extra mile for career advancement. They are not willing to sacrifice their mental health or become stressed out because of a job.

Their prioritization of themselves over their employers may come off as entitled or arrogant, but it’s because it’s not something we’ve often seen in the workplace. Older generations, especially Boomers and Gen Xers, would often put the company before themselves despite impacts to physical and mental health.

Gen Z is the Most Vocal

problems with gen z in the workplace

Another reason Gen Z may have the reputation of not wanting to work, is because they can amplify their thoughts and opinions about work and labor on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok.

The youngest workers in America are speaking their minds about work being stressful, exploitative, and physically draining. These opinions may be shared by older generations, but they don’t necessarily use social media to express their frustrations.

Gen Z also regularly expresses their anxieties around paying back school loans, the rising costs of housing, and wage stagnation. They fear that they’ll be making student loan payments for decades and never be able to buy a house. That’s given rise to the popularity of the “side-hustle,” another way to say part-time job.

According to Business Insider, more than 70% of Gen Z have “side-hustles” to help supplement their income from a full-time job. That statistic flies in the face of anyone who says Gen Z doesn’t work hard.

Employers Need to Change to Attract Gen Z Workers 

As stated earlier, Gen Z is entering the workforce in droves. This Generation has different priorities and workstyles than previous generations.

If employers want to attract and retain top talent from Gen Z, they’ll need to adjust how they hire, onboard, train, and promote employees.

For example, employers may want to consider implementing some of these practices:

  • Leverage the experience and expertise of workers from older generations to help Gen Z workers become strong leaders.
  • Focus on developing a diverse workforce that includes people of color and women in key leadership positions.
  • Give employees a say in which projects get assigned to them.
  • Create multiple paths for career growth.
  • Develop a fair remote-work policy that encourages flexibility.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to societal challenges that Gen Z cares most about such as climate change, racial justice, and gender equality.


Generation Z is Here to Work

problems with gen z in the workplace

Is Gen Z as lazy and whiny as the older generations say they are? Absolutely not. They are hard-working, industrious, and talented generation ready to take the workforce by storm.

Employers should welcome them, and their diverse skills, with open arms.

And remember, the old “the younger generation is lazy” stereotype is nothing we haven’t heard before.

Back in the 1990s Boomers were complaining that Gen Xers were lazy, ignorant, and self-involved. Not too long ago, Gen X viewed Millennials as arrogant and entitled. Now, everyone is piling on Gen Z.

But it began even earlier than that. Consider this quote:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders … Children are now tyrants … they no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents.”

Who said it? Socrates. Indeed, disparaging younger generations goes back to the ancient Greeks.

The lesson here is for employers not to jump to conclusions about younger generations. Instead, they should open a dialogue and understand what’s important to them and what motivates them to work. 

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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