Gen Z workers vs. millennial bosses: ‘Having high expectations and wanting work-life balance and an employer who cares isn’t a bad thing’

    Millennial bosses face the challenge of weighing their corporate conditioning against more progressive ideals.

    Courtesy of Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

    Business Insider spoke to Gen Z workers and millennial managers about how they approach work.The Gen Z workers challenged the 9-to-5 work hours, hustle culture, and strict dress codes.Two millennial managers are learning from Gen Z’s focus on work-life balance and self-expression.

    Gen Z, a generation born between 1997 and 2012, continues to challenge the workplace status quo and rewrite the narrative of professionalism.

    “Hustle culture” is being replaced with work-life balance, emotions are edging their way into corporate conversations, and business casual is a distant memory. But sometimes, the transition is not without strife from older generations who intend to reinforce the standard.

    For example, some millennials who manage Gen Zers face the unique challenge of weighing their corporate conditioning against more progressive ideals. As a result, they’re modifying their leadership strategies and their relationship to work.

    Business Insider spoke with three disruptive Gen Zers in the workforce and two millennial managers who are navigating how to lead them.

    The Gen Zers shared that they prioritize rest, mental health, and self-expression. The millennial managers shared that they struggle to manage their Gen Z employees’ emotions and sensitivity, but they’ve learned from the younger generation’s work-life balance.

    Piper Hansen said her 9-5 job was depressing

    Hansen found her job fulfilling but didn’t like the 9-to-5 schedule.

    Courtesy of Piper Hansen

    A few months into her first full-time job, at 23, Piper Hansen was shocked at the all-consuming nature of her 9-5 schedule. She told BI that her job working at a YMCA office was personally fulfilling but left her with only enough time and energy to prepare for the next day of work. The lack of flexibility left her with questions.

    “How can I make sure I’m eating well and seeing my friends and taking time for my hobbies? How am I supposed to fit my whole life into a 9-to-5 work schedule?” Hansen said.

    Other Gen Zers who’ve shared similar complaints online have received a largely unsympathetic response from older folks who view Gen Z’s sensitivity as a symptom of laziness.

    But, Hansen told BI that she believes a rich life outside work is possible. Although she doesn’t know what her career trajectory looks like, Hansen said she’s proud to be a part of a generation that believes in the possibility of something greater.

    Kim Schewitz said Gen Z just wants rest and relaxation

    The author learning how to knit.

    Kim Schewitz

    After the pandemic forced people to stay indoors, Gen Zer, Kim Schewitz expressed, in an article for BI, that she was delighted to see her Gen Z peers adopt her affinity for “wholesome” activities like knitting, naps, and nights in.

    Her generation’s emphasis on self-care and rest outlived the pandemic and transferred into the workplace. Schewitz wrote that she was relieved to see Gen Z replacing hustle culture and ‘toxic’ productivity with ‘quiet quitting’ and work-life balance — especially considering Gen Z is one of the first generations projected to make less money than their parents.

    “What’s the point of ‘living to work’ if you’ll never get to reap the rewards?” Schewitz said. “Gen Z appears to be less focused on the future and more on living enjoyable lives now.”

    Prioritizing a slower, cozier life may pose benefits for anyone, but Schewitz said it’s especially important for a generation that’s struggling with mental health more than ever.

    Maya Penn says her bold outfits and natural Afro are professional

    Penn uses her personal style to rebel from the corporate standard.

    Courtesy of Maya Penn

    Some people say that Gen Z’s eclectic style is unprofessional, but 24-year-old Maya Penn said Gen Z is simply embracing authenticity.

    “It’s always been important for me to stand out, and I’ve always had my own style,” Penn told BI. “I’ve never felt the need to adhere to specific trends.”

    As an environmental activist, entrepreneur, and CEO of a fashion company, Penn said her goal is to promote inclusivity, sustainability, and self-expression. She’s part of a generation that’s swapping fast fashion and size-exclusive brands for thrift clothes, hand-me-downs, and upholstery.

    Penn uses her eclectic finds to rebel from the corporate standard and embody her personal style — namely through bold colors and jewelry from the African and Indigenous diaspora. She even wears her natural Afro, a choice that she said has garnered negative comments since childhood.

    “When asked about it, I respond that ‘yes,’ it’s my natural hair, and I wear it this way because it’s beautiful, elegant, and professional.”

    Penn uses her position as CEO to show her employees that professionalism is proven through action, not through adherence to aged ideals.

    This millennial manager says Gen Z’s emotions are inappropriate for the workplace

    Collage of businesswoman with a laptop.

    We Are/Getty Images

    Many Gen Zers started their careers in a remote environment during the pandemic and missed the opportunity to observe the unwritten rules of workplace etiquette. A millennial manager, who chose to be anonymous to protect her career, told BI she noticed her Gen Z employees crossing professional boundaries — like dumping all of their feelings about work onto her.

    “They’re unsure of how to cope with everyday challenges — competing deadlines, interpersonal issues, and receiving feedback — and they want to express that,” the millennial manager said.

    She also mentioned that she’s learned some valuable tools to help deal with Gen Z workers, such as discerning when to provide solutions and when to just listen. One anxious employee spun with indecision until the millennial manager provided a solution, while another just needed a space to vent.

    Another tool she’s implemented is adopting a softer approach to giving feedback after she noticed her Gen Z employees were interpreting her initial approach as criticism.

    Despite the challenges of leading Gen Z, this manager said the younger generation has taught her to prioritize her personal life.

    Hannah Tooker says her Gen Z employees helped her grow

    Hannah Tooker with her Gen Z colleagues

    Courtesy of Mitchell Sauve

    Hannah Tooker started managing Gen Z employees three years ago and said that although they have a different approach to work than millennials, they’re fearless and creative.

    As the senior vice president at a marketing agency, Tooker told BI she enjoys teaching her Gen Z employees just as much as learning from them.

    They’ve taught her to prioritize the emotional needs of her team, communicate with more clarity, and use social media as a tool. She said they even helped her confront her “hustle-culture” mentality and reevaluate her work-life balance.

    “Burnout was a badge of honor for the first half of my career,” Tooker said. “Since entering the workforce, Gen Z has said, ‘That’s not for me.'”

    However, not everyone is as receptive to Gen Z’s approach to work.

    “Some people complain that they’re hard to work with, but having high expectations and wanting work-life balance and an employer who cares isn’t a bad thing,” Tooker told BI.

    Are you a Gen Zer or millennial with a unique story about your experience in the workforce? Email Tess Martinelli at [email protected]

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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