What does it take to Manage Generation Z?

- Leadership

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by Megan Howard

Generation Z — the followup to the Millennial generation — is defined as those born after 1997. Gen Z’ers born around 1997 to 2002, make up a lot of the new faces in the workforce today.

So what stands out about Generation Z that’s important to note when managing them? It’s all about perspective, and working cross generationally and in harmony with Generation Z can mean different things depending on your generation.

How to work with Gen Z, If You’re a Boomer:

Many people from the Baby Boomer generation are already retired or close to retirement. However, Boomers in the workforce still exist. If you’re one of them less by choice and more by necessity, you have more to connect with Gen Z over than you might think. Generation Z is bearing the brunt of a boring dystopia. Remember that the majority of Gen Z’s lives so far has included war, climate crisis, and an increasingly expensive cost of living.

If you’re a Boomer, these things have not been such a large part of your life. Some 50 years ago, one could afford to support a family on a single income. Younger generations today are struggling to pay rent on a small apartment, let alone have any luxuries.

If you’re working with Generation Z and managing them, it can be tempting to deem them lazy and unmotivated. You might perceive them as doing the bare minimum at work and rarely giving extra. Remember that the work your Gen Z employees are putting into their careers would have been enough to pay for an entire family not so long ago. Now, it often barely covers living expenses, let alone the astronomical student loans many are strapped with.

Add all the pressure from society to reach particular goals by a certain age or start a family when it’s financially impossible, and work can begin to feel pointless and draining. The two generations can also butt heads over matters of technology. Generation Z is generally sharp regarding the topic, while Boomers can be tech-phobic, something that can make the job harder than it needs to be.

So what does it all have to do with managing Gen Z?

Frequent complaints among Gen Z are feeling underappreciated, overworked, unheard, and easily replaced by an employer. Take those stressors out of the equation, and you’ll make it much easier for them to put forth their best efforts. Political correctness, polarized world views, and vastly different life experiences can make it difficult for Gen Z to be managed by Boomers. Mutual respect, an open mind, and a willingness to learn new things are all vital for keeping the peace.

How to work with Gen Z, If You’re Generation X:

Gen X makes up a large portion of higher-ups in the workforce. They’ve had time to work their way up the ladder, and many have job security that later generations know little about. People born between 1965 and 1979 saw their fair share of change in the world. However, their generation still saw affordable college costs, job availability with or without a degree and reasonable cost of living.

If you’re a Gen Xer, you’re probably competitive, work-driven, and goal-oriented. There’s also a high probability you’ve been in the same job for a decade or more. Gen X is sometimes known as the 401K generation. The struggles of Millennials and Generation Z might be foreign to them, but it’s not impossible for them to empathize.

How does all of this matter when managing Gen Z?

Firstly, Gen Z is more wary of the business models and practices that a Gen X member probably used throughout his or her career.

Gen Z tends to be interested in ethical, anti-waste business practices. It can make them come across as unenthusiastic and skeptical to older generations. Really, they’re concerned about the impact a company has on the environment and society. Secondly, it’s hard to get excited about something you don’t believe in. It doesn’t mean someone from Gen Z can’t do a good job. It does mean they’re more likely to put in effort for the paycheck more than anything.

For Gen Z, career goals take a backseat to other life experiences. They’re driven towards things like travel more than job successes. Many Gen Z’ers don’t see much value in overworking themselves, not even for a high wage.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for hard, serious work from your Gen Z team. Just don’t get too upset if you don’t see the same levels of enthusiasm you saw in yourself at that age. There are other strategies for getting your Gen Z team motivated, and it starts with being understanding and respecting people with different goals.

How to work with Gen Z, If You’re A Millennial:

Congratulations if you were born between 1980 and 1996, you can relate to Gen Z better than anyone else. You don’t have too many fundamental misunderstandings and can easily put yourself in your Gen Z coworker’s shoes. Both Millennials, otherwise known as Gen Y, and Gen Z have a talent for technology. Gen Y is tech-savvy, while Gen Z can be tech innate, sometimes even overwhelmed by screens and technology.

Gen Y and Z both love to travel, and for very similar reasons. Priorities for both generations have life experiences high on the list, with career advancement and starting a family taking a backseat. Millennials usually don’t face too many challenges managing Gen Z. A key difference is that Gen Y is a little more optimistic, and Gen Z is more realistic. They can seem a bit pessimistic at times to Gen Z.

Managing Gen Z as a Millennial doesn’t take any magical ingredients, just some understanding of the harsh realities they often face. You can easily relate to the importance of adequate time off, feeling appreciated, and unconventional goals.

Managing Generational Differences:

There are always some challenges present when working with a team comprised of different generations. Sometimes, it can feel like working with a total stranger. Relating to the mindset of other generations can be difficult to impossible.

Good news: You don’t have to relate, it’s not always possible. What you should be able to do in the interest of an amicable work environment, is to keep an open mind. Other generations won’t always approach work the same way you do, but they can still get the job done.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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