Videos of Gen Zers and Millennials complaining about the traditional 9-5 job have spread across social media platforms like wildfire and sparked debates about the younger generations’ work ethic, or lack thereof.
Some employers are even avoiding hiring from Gen Z, according to one recent survey, with 58% believing these workers are unprepared for the workforce.
Some experts argue Gen Zers aren’t lazy for griping about the corporate job structure, it just means they have radically different priorities than the generations before them.
“Gen Z is not a lazy generation, but it is an entitled generation because they have the freedom to make a more broad set of decisions than older generations that have financial obligations. They’re different,” labor force expert John Frehse told Fox News Digital.
Frehse, the senior managing director and head of global labor strategy for the consulting firm Ankura, explained how data shows younger adults aren’t getting married and having kids at the rates previous generations did.
Over half of younger adults are living at home with their parents while less than half say they’re a member of an organized religion, he said.
Because many Gen Zers don’t have a mortgage or family to support, they have more financial freedom to make different life choices, he argued.
Gen Z also wants their job to accommodate their lifestyle, rather than the other way around.
This leads to the younger generation being more likely to work in the gig economy or change jobs frequently, rather than stay in a work environment that they don’t like.
“This is very troubling to employers,” Frehse remarked.
His research shows Gen Zers are less likely to seek promotions because they don’t want to work overtime and have extra responsibilities that could impinge on their lifestyle.
These different motivations are fundamentally misunderstood by some older employers, he said.
Author and culture expert Jessica Kriegel believes the older and younger generations are more alike than they think.
But she says social media has added to misconceptions and generational conflict.
“I believe that we’re a lot more similar than we are different. However, what you are seeing, for example, is more activity on social media from young people, which then leads to more perceptions that Baby Boomers have, that Gen Z are a certain way because of what they’re seeing on social media, that they’re not seeing from Baby Boomers. And so, then that leads to conflicts between generations. And it’s sort of an ‘us versus them’ mentality that people dig into. And that becomes a source of a lot of these misconceptions,” she explained to Fox News Digital.
The job-hopping trend isn’t a new phenomenon with Gen Z, she argued.
While data shows that workers in their 20s and 30s on average stay at a company for just three years, versus ten years for those in their 50s to 60s, there was this same loyalty gap between the two generations, 60 years ago, she said, citing numbers from the Employee Benefits Research Institute.
“So, it’s really more of a life stage issue than a generational issue,” she remarked.
“I think what’s really going on is young people try out a career, don’t really love it, try a different career. Whereas older people have gone through that journey, and they’ve figured out where they want to be and stay, and they’re also closer to retirement, so they have more financial incentive to stay put,” Kriegel said.
The author also said that “new norms of behavior and social interaction” have made things “uncomfortable” for older employers dealing with Gen Z workers.
“There’s this bias that those people are bad. Therefore, we don’t want to work with those people, which I think is a shame,” Kriegel said.
If employers go into interviews with these biases, they are bound to find something “unprofessional” to fixate on with the younger generation, she argued.
A December 2023 survey of 800 employers and hiring managers in the U.S. from Intelligent.com found over half of employers thought Gen Zers were unprepared for the workforce and displayed unprofessional behavior during job interviews.
The top criticism from employers about Gen Z behavior during interviews was that they failed to maintain eye contact.
Half of those polled also said they asked for unreasonable compensation, while 47% said they dressed inappropriately.
One in five employers even said they had candidates show up with a parent during a job interview.
Kriegel believes workplaces can benefit from abandoning generational stereotypes, a topic she discusses in her book “Unfairly Labeled.”
The author urges employers to work on overcoming any biases they have towards Gen Z, to overcome the “us versus them mentality.”
Younger Millennials and Gen Zers can help themselves by “showing up the way that corporate America wants you to show up,” if they want to succeed in a traditional job, she suggested.
“Now, does that mean you get to be your truest and authentic self? No, it doesn’t. Which can be challenging in and of itself. A lot of people are so frustrated with that they’re opting out, and they’re working in the gig economy as an alternative to having a 9 to 5 job. But if you want to play the game in corporate America, in a 9 to 5 job, you have to play that game. And so, it does require adjusting how you show up in order to make the best impression,” she advised.