Let’s be frank – millennials don’t have the best reputation. Described through the years as entitled, difficult to manage, and bad at taking criticism, there are plenty of negative stereotypes pinned to millennials, deserved or not. And with Generation Z (born mid-1990s to 2010) being their successors, some may say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Millennials and Gen Zers share commonalities when it comes to key social issues and even what motivates them, but Gen Z differs when it comes to their workplace expectations, habits, and identity. With those differences, however, comes a fresh set of negative stereotypes that may follow Generation Z employees as they establish themselves in their careers. Just as the negative stereotypes of millennials at work were overblown and misunderstood, it’s important to examine if the negative perceptions surrounding Generation Z are really so bad after all – or if they’re actually an asset in today’s modern workplace.
1. Gen Zers have a short attention span.
According to a 2019 study, members of Gen Z have an attention span of about eight seconds – four seconds less than millennials. Gen Z is growing up in a time where there is an overload of information coming from a variety of different avenues, so they’ve gotten pretty good at tuning out the noise. And to add an extra layer, Gen Z is growing up in a social media landscape that is defined by character limits. The shorter, the better. Due to the popularity of platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, that popularized one-line captions, it’s easy to assume that it might be challenging to keep a Gen Zer’s attention.
You’re not wrong – but this gives Gen Zers the unique skill of being able to communicate effectively and concisely. They can cancel out the noise and zone in on what really matters to them. This skill can definitely come in handy as more members of Gen Z enter the workforce because it can be leveraged to help convey a message with brevity and impact – saving time and optimizing communication.
2. Gen Zers are multitaskers.
At any given moment, a Gen Zer can listen to a new album, scroll through their social feed, and maintain multiple conversations – all at the same time. According to a Sparks & Honey report, members of Gen Z multitask across five different screens daily on their smart devices.
Although having a split focus can have consequences such as burnout or increased stress levels, it can come with positives – one being that Gen Zers can thrive in a “chaotic” environment. This skill allows members of the generation to function at a high level when multiple tasks are at hand. Other positives that come along with multitasking include that it can increase productivity, save money, and time.
As Gen Z continues to come of age, they will be powerhouses in the office when it comes to flawlessly managing and prioritizing the day-to-day duties of the workplace.
3. Gen Zers are addicted to technology and can’t handle face-to-face interactions.
Gen Z is infamous for being the first generation that can’t clearly recall a time before the Internet. These digital natives are defined by their persistent use of smart devices, love of social media, and all things digital – more than 60% of their time is spent online. In fact, a Business Insider article revealed that members of Gen Z’s favorite pastime involved something that makes use of technology. This may be one of the reasons why many people believe the generation struggles with face-to-face interactions.
Despite the stereotype, Gen Zers prefer frequent and in-person meetings with their managers in the workplace. Additionally, Gen Z’s tech expertise allows them to be leaders and go-to experts in the office. According to one study, 77% of Gen Zers are willing to be technology mentors to others in the office.
Members of this generation primarily use technology as a way to communicate and stay connected – although they grew up with instant communication online, they understand the value of genuine relationships. Gen Z also embraces technology to make their tasks more efficient, leaving more time for the face-to-face communication and in-person meetings that matter.
4. Gen Zers expect too much from the brands and companies they interact with.
Similar to millennials, Gen Zers have a high level of expectations toward brands they interact with, government officials, and especially from their employers. According to my research on Gen Z and CSR, 71% of Gen Zers are even willing to boycott or refuse a company that is behaving unethically.
This shows that Gen Zers have strong beliefs and will put their voices, time, and money behind those beliefs. Organizations that want to engage with Gen Z should be willing to perform ethically and have an increased focus on social responsibility to show that they are capable of rising to the generation’s expectations. Research shows that a company’s social impact initiatives are especially important to women and people of color – companies that hope to recruit and retain a diverse Gen Z workforce should take note.
5. Gen Zers tend to job-hop and ghost employers.
According to a 2019 Yello Recruiting Study, Gen Zers plan to move from their first jobs in less than three years and do not plan on working for an employer for more than five years. Data from RippleMatch found similar results, with 41% of survey respondents saying they planned on staying in their first job for only 1-2 years. And when it comes to job hopping, a study by Randstad US revealed that about 43% of Gen Zers had accepted a position then bailed on the offer.
However, Gen Z’s job hopping tendencies and potential for ghosting may not be as bad as it seems. Interestingly, studies show that Gen X (born 1965 – 1979) job-hopped just as much as millennials early on in their careers – is this a Gen Z problem, or a behavioral habit of individuals just starting their careers? The current labor market, notably favorable toward job seekers, is also a likely culprit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.7 million job openings but only about 6.4 million available employees to fill the positions. Gen Z and other generations have a great advantage during this time of economic prosperity to find a job that best matches their career goals, and they don’t have to settle for a job they aren’t happy with.
To meet the expectations Gen Zers (and other generations) have toward their careers, employers will have to rise to the challenge to provide competitive benefits, a great company culture, and opportunities for career growth. Companies already doing this will retain their talented employees and reap the benefits in the long run.
With over 61 million Gen Zers entering the workplace, it’s important to dispel negative stereotypes that employers hold about the incoming generation and see these stereotypes for what they are – points of view and characteristics that can be valuable assets to the workplace. As Gen Z matures, their strong set of values, mastery of technology, and selective focus will allow them to be dynamic members of today’s workforce.
Sharon Uche is a public relations professional who researches the intersection of social responsibility and Generation Z and multicultural communities. Her 2018 thesis specifically focuses on the attitudes and perceptions held by Generation Z based on an organization’s corporate social responsibility communication efforts. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her master’s degree in public relations from Syracuse University.
This article was adapted from its original post, ‘3 Negative Stereotypes About Gen Z That Are Actually Good.’