Generation Z represents those born between 1997–2012. As of 2022, this includes individuals between the ages of 10–25, many of which are graduating college and entering the professional workforce-- including me.
I was born in 2001, and I am about to start the final year of my collegiate studies here in Indianapolis. As I turn my gears and begin looking for full-time employment, I have been noticing a difference in treatment due to my age or the reputation of my generation. Why? This has sparked my interest and curiosity.
Generation Z in the workplace
Throughout my high school and college years, I have worked in many different roles, each with its own unique experience that I believe highlights what it means to work within my generation.
One of my first jobs was as a host in a local restaurant. When I began, very little was expected of me. I was 16 years old, entering the workforce for the first time and the only thing I was told was to stay off my phone. At the time I did not understand why this needed to be stated. I was at work and to me, that meant my time was to be spent helping the business, not for personal use. It was not until I saw those employees above (and older than) me constantly on their phones that I began to understand why this needed to be said.
I became particularly good at my job and, because I was good at multitasking, more responsibility began to be placed on me rather than on the more seasoned staff. It came to the point where I was greeting guests, getting drinks, answering phone calls, taking orders and bussing tables. While I was capable of handling it, it was simply too much.
My next role was not too different. When I moved to college, I started a new job within a call center. Again, I was told not to be on my phone, to show up on time and to do as I was instructed. During my daily phone calls, I presented myself in a professional manner but was often told directly, “I want to speak to someone older than you.” This was and is difficult to hear but something I believe is commonly said to my Generation Z counterparts.
In a way, the sum of these two experiences is what it is like for Gen Z in the workplace.
Every generation is different from the last. As a result of this difference, stereotypes tend to arise that are not always true and that at times can get in the way. Many of the stereotypes my peers and I have experienced can be summed up into four short statements:
What are Generation Z workplace stereotypes
Gen Z employees job hop and don’t stay in one role for long.
Gen Z workers have a short attention span and are always on their phones.
Gen Z constantly multitasks to a fault.
Gen Z simply cannot professionally interact face to face.
While these thoughts might be true for some people, they are not and should not be the default assumption about an entire generation. Generation Z members need to combat these stereotypes, and our managers or co-workers can support us in this.
How to combat stereotypes associated with Generation Z
If you are a member of Generation Z, the best way to combat stereotypes is to prove them wrong. As individuals, we can set the precedence for our own reputation. Take pride in your job and role within an organization and use your skillset to make a difference within your company.
At the same time, understand that you will be working with different generations who might already have judgments about you. Be prepared to assert yourself in a respectable way and showcase your talents.
Lastly, simply treat people with kindness, and kindness will often come back to you. While we're combating the stereotypes of Gen Z, it's also a great time for us to also consider whether we, ourselves, are guilty of stereotyping other generations, too. These tips apply to each of us as we are all unique people regardless of the generation, we're labeled a part of.
Tips for managing or working with a Generation Z coworker
If you are a manager or coworker of a different generation, try not to make prejudgments about others. Each person is an individual and should not be judged as a group. Take the time to get to know those who are different than you. Often you will learn something new which benefits everyone.
Lastly, make sure everyone on your team has a chance to speak and to be heard. As unique people, we all want to belong and fit in. Choose supportive and encouraging behavior.
Our differences do not have to divide us. As an individual, team member and company, let’s use our differences to grow, making something better and bigger than ourselves.