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‘Problems’ With Gen Z in the Workplace (From a Gen Zer) — And How to Fix Them

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Generation Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012, has a bad reputation in the workplace. We’re often labeled “difficult” or “hard to work with.” According to Resume Builder, nearly 3 in 4 managers believe Gen Z is more difficult to work with than other generations. This attitude about Gen Z workers extends to hiring; 38% of employers avoid hiring recent college graduates in favor of older employees, according to

>>MORE: Generation Z Workplace Statistics

As a Gen Zer, I won’t deny that Gen Z is shaking up the workplace. We have different communication styles and strong opinions about work-life balance and salary. We’ve lit a fire under employers to stay true to their mission statements. Yet these differences don’t have to be problems — they can actually be an asset to the workplace if we let them. Here are some stereotypical “problems” with Gen Z in the workplace and how professionals can “fix” them for everyone’s benefit, regardless of age.

1. Gen Z Wants to Close Their Laptops at 5 p.m.

Gen Z wants to log off when the workday ends, often not a second longer.

Our views on work focus on output, not hours, and prioritize work-life balance above almost everything else. According to Deloitte, less than half (49%) of Gen Zers say work is central to their identity, compared to 62% of millennials. Instead, Gen Z admires people whose work-life balance is their top trait rather than their passion for work, job title, or seniority. 

How to ‘Fix’ It

Accepting Gen Z’s attitude toward work-life balance and work might not come quickly to people who hold traditional values about work. However, acknowledging that this desire to log off comes not from a disdain for work but rather a need for the separation of work and life can be helpful. Instead, focus on Gen Z’s results instead of their hours. Does the Gen Zer exceed expectations even if they log off at 5 p.m.? Would the team and company benefit if the Gen Zer worked longer hours?

To work with Gen Zers, have open conversations about boundaries. If regular meetings require them to work unconventional hours, be open and upfront about expectations, when they’re supposed to be online, and why. 

Boundaries can benefit everyone at work, not just Gen Zers. Work-life balance can help increase job satisfaction and prevent burnout, which can lead to lower-quality work and attrition, according to Deloitte.

“As a Gen Zer diving into the workplace, a couple of bumps in the road really grabbed my attention — one biggie is finding that sweet spot between work and life,” says Luke Lintz, Gen Z CEO of HighKey Agency. “You know how it goes — those late-night emails and constant messages can seriously blur the lines between office hours and personal time. Especially in the remote world, it seems that tasks are nonstop being delegated throughout the workday, and it can be difficult to plan ahead of time and properly allocate time to your priorities when your To-do list is constantly changing. Setting boundaries and respecting personal time could work wonders in preventing burnout.” 

2. Gen Z Struggles With Mental Health

Mental health can be one of the most taboo problems with Gen Z in the workplace, as Gen Z struggles with mental health conditions at higher rates than other generations. According to McKinsey, over half (55%) of Gen Zers report having either been diagnosed or receiving treatment for a mental health condition, compared to 31% of people aged 55 to 64, who have had decades longer to seek and get treatment. 

Like other generations, Gen Z has had its fair share of challenges as they were growing up, from mass shootings to the pandemic. Social media, which many Gen Zers have used for most of their teenage and adult life, exacerbates these issues — no other generation has had such immediate and unfiltered access to the news for most of their lives, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. According to McKinsey, Gen Zers are more likely than other generations to say social media affects their mental health; 27% of Gen Zers say social media has a negative effect. This negative effect is particularly relevant for members of Gen Z who spend more than two hours a day on social media (which is more than a third of Gen Zers). 

How to ‘Fix’ It

Mental health challenges can affect how Gen Z works; about one in four Gen Zers say their mental health impacts their ability to work effectively. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hire Gen Zers. Instead, it means we can shift workplace policies to help adjust for mental health challenges, which benefits everyone, regardless of age. 

According to Zippia, more than half of employees (56%) who participate in company wellness programs say they have fewer sick days because of them, and 60% say they’re more productive at work. These programs also positively impact the bottom line; 84% of employers reported higher employee productivity and performance and, on average, saw a six-to-one return on investment when they invested in wellness programs. 

3. Gen Z Wants to Be the CEO

Gen Z’s drive to be in the C-suite is one of the more ironic problems with Gen Z in the workplace. Employers want Gen Z to be engaged and driven at work, but they can become hesitant when Gen Zers want to grow. 

Perhaps it’s because Gen Z wants to move up in the workforce quickly. Seventy percent of Gen Zers expect to get promoted at work within 18 months, according to RippleMatch. We have big ambitions, too: Gen Z is more than twice as likely to want to be CEO compared to Gen X. 

How to ‘Fix’ It

Ambitions of moving up in the workplace are generally good: it shows Gen Zers are engaged at work and want to succeed. However, this generation differs from others on why they think they should move up at work. According to Ripplematch, Gen Z often expects a promotion after being in a role for a certain amount of time. Millennials, however, think promotions are about how much work they contribute. Gen X believes promotions are merit-based; Baby Boomers believe promotions are based on experience. 

Employers can help Gen Zers achieve their ambitions by laying out clear paths to promotion. Discuss expectations, timelines, and what success looks like within the organization. Setting guidelines ensures Gen Zers understand what’s needed to move up while allowing them to do so.

4. Gen Z Wants a Higher Salary

Yes, Gen Z cares about salary. It’s one of our generation’s top priorities; according to Handshake, 70% of Gen Zers put pay/salary as a top aspect they want in their next role. Better yet, Gen Z is hoping that salary is in the job description — 65% of Gen Zers say salary transparency in the job description is their greatest motivator when applying for a position. 

>>MORE: How to Negotiate Salary for Beginners (With Examples)

While Gen Z gets a bad rap about salary, our generation faces some of the lowest average starting salaries in history — plus higher inflation and housing prices. In 2023, U.S. college graduates’ average annual starting salary was $61,088. Adjusted for inflation, in 2011, it was $69,515; in 1980, $71,343; and in 1969, $79,868. 

How to ‘Fix’ It

While money can be a touchy subject at work, it shouldn’t be one of the top problems with Gen Z in the workplace. Gen Z isn’t asking for outrageous salaries; they’re asking employers to pay them fairly. Understanding the actual cost of living and providing wages and benefits that cover that allow for a level playing field — so Gen Zers don’t have to live with their parents or have savings to be able  to afford a role with a lower starting salary. 

Offering a competitive salary is also a good retention strategy. According to Resume Lab, seven in ten Gen Zers say a competitive salary is important or very important when deciding whether to stay with an employer.

5. Gen Z Won’t Put Up With Company BS

Gen Z has a much lower tolerance for companies that don’t follow through on missions and promises than other generations, and they’re not afraid to leave if things aren’t what they seem.

According to LinkedIn, most Gen Zers (87%) say they’re willing to leave their current role if they find another one at a company with values that more closely align with theirs. Values are a top consideration when Gen Zers think about changing roles; 60% say they prioritize values in these decisions.

What values does Gen Z care about?

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: 83% of Gen Zers say a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is important when they choose an employer.
  • Sustainability: 55% of Gen Zers research a company’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job.
  • Salary transparency: 65% of Gen Zers are more likely to apply to a company that has a salary range in the job description.
  • Flexibility: 70% of undergrads say they’re more likely to apply to a job that offers flexibility in work hours.

How to ‘Fix’ It

Walking the walk is essential for recruiting, attracting, and retaining Gen Zers. This generation is looking for more than a mission statement on a website; they are looking for employers to truly live and breathe their values. 

So, how can employers put their money where their mouth is and address one of the infamous problems with Gen Z in the workplace?

First, there are large-scale changes that can make an impact across the organization. Does the company have a sustainability policy? Do employers have numbers to report about their impact? Is there a diversity, equity, and inclusion team, and what initiatives have they started? Are there benefits that support caregivers, parents, and people with disabilities? 

There are smaller ways to signal this commitment, too. Is there inclusive language in job descriptions? Does the company’s social media feature employees of all races and ethnicities? Are there reasonable accommodations available in the interview process? 

6. Gen Z Is Disengaged

According to Gallup, only 31% of Gen Zers say they’re engaged at work; 54% say they’re not engaged, while 15% say they’re actively disengaged. 

This disengagement comes from more than Gen Z’s attitude toward work and its place in our lives. Gallup also reports that disengagement can stem from burnout and stress (which Gen Z experiences more than other generations), not feeling connected to coworkers, and lack of motivation.

>>MORE: ‘Gen Z Has No Work Ethic’ and 5 Other Gen Z Stereotypes We Need to Break

How to ‘Fix’ It

To address disengagement, one of the main problems with Gen Z in the workplace, it’s essential to understand where it comes from. Solving disengagement means getting authentic, honest feedback from employees that they feel safe giving. If Gen Z is feeling disengaged because of burnout and stress, managing workload and boundaries is a great next step. If they’re not feeling connected to coworkers, having meaningful connection points — whether collaborating on a project or promoting social activities — can get them more engaged.

7. Gen Z Doesn’t Want to Come Into the Office

Many Gen Zers are entering the workforce remotely or in hybrid structures. I logged onto my first day of full-time work in July 2020, a few months after finishing online school. I only met my coworkers over a year later. In my current remote job, I have the opportunity to go into an office — but overall, I still prefer to work from home. I’m more productive and efficient, and it’s much easier to set boundaries around my personal life when I don’t have to commute or can get chores around the house done during work breaks.

While my view is definitely shaped by how I started my career, as is true for many other Gen Zers, the work-from-home debate doesn’t have an age. Gen Z is just as likely to want to work remotely as other generations, if not less. According to JobList, 57% of Gen Zers want in-person jobs; about a quarter want a fully remote job, which is half the share of millennials who say the same.

How to ‘Fix’ It

The work location debate isn’t just a problem with Gen Z in the workplace. Effective “return to work” policies are a great way to retain all employees. 

So, what do employees want? Choice and reason. 

According to Deloitte, Gen Zers and millennials prefer having autonomy in choosing where they work instead of having their employer mandate when they need to come in. This autonomy can help each person solidify their working preferences. For example, choice allows Gen Zers who may like remote work because they’re used to the flexibility to work from home, while Gen Zers who feel like they’ve missed out on social interaction can commute more. 

Employees also want a reason to go back to the office — they don’t want to be in person just for the sake of sitting at an office desk. Instead, they’re most motivated by connection. According to Microsoft, 85% of employees would be motivated to go into the office to rebuild team bonds, and 84% would go if they could socialize with their coworkers. Working in person can more easily foster collaboration and socialization — if employers offer that, people of all generations can be motivated to return.

Problems With Gen Z in the Workplace: The Bottom Line

Gen Z is coming into the workplace with different styles, ideals, and demands. While employers and coworkers might initially see these as “problems” with Gen Z in the workplace, there’s a lot we can learn from them that can actually make the workplace better for all.

For example, “money-hungry” Gen Z can help promote salary transparency and fair wages. Our attitudes about work and work-life balance can help set better boundaries and decrease burnout. When Gen Z talks about mental health, it can encourage everyone to get the support they need.

“Problems” with Gen Z in the workplace are only “problems” if we’re stuck in the traditions of the workplace. To forge ahead and create a future-proof workplace, we must listen and adapt to the ideas of the workforce’s next-biggest generation. We might just create a better workplace for all.

Image credit: Canva

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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