Gen Z really are the hardest to work with—even managers of their own generation say they’re difficult

05/29/2024 04:39
Gen Z really are the hardest to work with—even managers of their own generation say they’re difficult

Instead bosses plan to hire more of their millennial counterparts

It’s no secret that Gen Z often gets flak for, in the words of the Sister Act star Whoopi Goldberg, not “busting their behinds” at work quite like previous generations did.

Earlier this year, the Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster complained that Gen Zers don’t show up to work until 10:30 a.m., and an MIT interviewer blasted the generation for always “being late.” Just last month, one CEO vented his gripe with Gen Z when a young job candidate refused to do a 90-minute task because it “looked like a lot of work.”

But it’s not just Gen Xers and baby boomers who have taken stock of how different (or rather, difficult) the youngest generation of workers are. Now even Gen Z hiring managers are complaining about their own generation’s work style.

Resume Genius asked 625 U.S. hiring managers which generation is the most challenging to work with, and 45% pointed to Gen Z. What’s more, 50% of Gen Z hiring managers admitted that their own generation is the most difficult to manage.

Perhaps surpringly, baby boomers—who have been caught in their fair share of criticism too for not being in touch with today’s workers after buying McMansions in the suburbs on one wage and then refusing to retire—were voted as the easiest to manage.

However, being easy to work with isn’t making the oldest generation of workers any more hirable: In fact, baby boomers are the last people employers expect to hire right now.

While just 4% of the hiring managers surveyed expect to hire baby boomers in the year ahead, a third admitted they will probably end up hiring Gen Zers.

Despite being the most difficult generation to work with, Gen Z are the second most likely-to-be-hired job candidate of choice. The most popular? Their slightly more seasoned millennial peers (45%). 

In comparison, only 14% of the hiring managers surveyed expect to hire Gen X workers in the year ahead.

Workers get easier to manage with age

The survey didn’t delve into why Gen Z workers are more challenging to work with than their peers, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that latest cohort of workers came of age during the pandemic. 

Not only did Gen Z miss out on major milestone college experiences, from frat parties to literally tossing their graduation caps in the air, but they also didn’t get to taste the world of work through summer internships before diving into the job market. 

It’s why employers are now giving graduates extra training to get them up to speed. Take the world’s Big Four consulting firms: Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and EY are all offering incoming junior hires soft-skills training, including lessons on how to speak up in meetings. 

“It’s wholly understandable that students who missed out on face-to-face activities during COVID may now be stronger in certain fields, such as working independently, and less confident in others, such as presentations to groups,” Ian Elliott, the chief people officer at PwC UK, said in sympathy with young workers. 

Plus, COVID-19 isn’t entirely to blame for management’s struggle with Gen Z: As Resume Genius’s survey suggests, workers get easier to manage with age. 

While 45% of those surveyed described Gen Z as the most challenging to work with, this dropped to 26% for millennials, 13% for Gen Z, and 9% for baby boomers.

In the end, being “difficult” is probably just another rite of passage. After all, millennials will remember being labeled work-shy snowflakes before climbing the corporate ranks into management and putting the heat on Gen Z.

But instead of trying to wrestle with making the youngest generation of workers easier to manage, the research’s author suggests businesses bend to Gen Z.

“Gen Z has already shaken things up, but they’re not here to break things: They bring a unique blend of talent and bold ideas that can rejuvenate any workforce,” wrote Geoffrey Scott, senior hiring manager at Resume Genius. 

For example, according to the research, Gen Z managers are most likely to make hiring decisions based on what candidates put down as their “hobbies and interests” on their CV, over professional experience.

“Gen Zers might have a bad rep, but they have the power to transform workplaces for the better,” Scott concludes.

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