top of page

You won't last a week! recently asked over 1,000 managers and business leaders what it's like to work with those from the Gen Z cohort, and the answers were pretty concerning. Roughly three-quarters of them said these young people are tougher to work with than those from previous generations.

The most shocking part? Among this frustrated group, about 1 in 4 have had to fire a Gen Z worker less than a month after hiring them, and 1 in 8 had to do it within the first week. And most of them say it's more common to have to fire one of these young people than those of older generations.

It's not that unusual for young people to be less reliable, competent and mature than their more experienced coworkers. But this problem seems deeper than inexperience. Managers talked in more detail about what the challenges were, and along with several different words that described the same basic problem—Gen-Zers lacked "effort," "motivation," "productivity" and "drive"—they complained of those workers having "poor communication skills" and being "easily offended."

One of them lamented that, "While they are proficient in using digital communication tools, they may lack some of the interpersonal skills required for face-to-face interactions. GenZers could benefit from developing their communication skills to build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients.”

And while they may be quick to take offense, they don't hesitate to unleash their criticism on others.

“In our organization, the Gen Zs I have interacted with can be exhausting because they lack discipline, and they like to challenge you,” one org leader said, according to It seems to me like many of these young people can dish it out, but can't take it themselves.

A career advisor at the website talked about the impact that young people have suffered as a result of Covid-19 and remote learning, at a time when they're developing their sense of what it means to be part of a working team. And there's no doubt this will have a lasting impact on that generation. But she also recognized another influence, that of educational institutions.

The situation on college campuses is examined in the 2018 book, The Coddling of the American Mind, where Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explore how three "Great Untruths"—"What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people"—create a culture of "safetyism," and disrupt the social, emotional and intellectual development of young people.

"It makes it harder for them to become autonomous adults who are able to navigate the bumpy road of life," according to their website.

This survey is perhaps some of the most direct evidence of how that campus culture is starting to impact workplaces.

“I’ve butted heads more than once with a Gen Z employee, because since our company is online-based, they think they know everything about the digital world and that they can teach me," according to an HR head who responded to the survey. "They think they’re better than you, smarter than you, more capable than you, and they will tell you to your face.”

Gen Z workers, understandably, wish to be valued and heard. And there's nothing wrong with the idea that all people have inherent value that should not be denied. But one's value to a team must also be based on one's contributions, and building up a reputation as an important team member requires resilience, since we will all fail at times, especially early in our careers—it's how we learn.

It seems that, because of the lack of need to develop resilience in their recent academic environments, many within this younger cohort can't quite reckon with the need to "pay your dues" in order to earn that respect. They might have also missed out on the lesson of how much the value of others' experience can help you be more effective. The workers that these business leaders describe don't want to be mentored; they want to be validated.

They think they know everything about the digital world and that they can teach me. They think they’re better than you, smarter than you, more capable than you, and they will tell you to your face.

The continuing influx into the workplace of the products of these campus environments will have a huge impact on the cultures of organizations.

There are certainly plenty of people who believe the problems lie elsewhere, and that young people are simply insisting on making the workplace more welcoming for previously marginalized voices and contributors, and refusing to take no for an answer as they stand up for what's right. And plenty of organizational leaders and DEI trainers might insist that these young folks should be applauded and amplified.

But shutting down others' voices is not the right way to have your own heard, and the difficulty that these young activist workers are having getting along with colleagues is benefitting neither the organization's culture nor their influence among their teammates.

It's clear that this challenge is only going to get more extreme for workplace cultures. And the trend has the risk of crowding out ideological diversity in many organizations, especially if they succumb to the enormous pressure that these same workers brought to bear against their college administrators in order to sideline voices that don't align with their own.

Those organizations that focus on the value of ideological diversity, instead of seeing it as a threat, will have an advantage over others, even if that means tolerating some views that might seem genuinely harmful to certain groups. Stifling a viewpoint does not make it go away, but rather relegates it to the darker spaces where it has no chance of encountering the light of scrutiny.

Even organizations that tend to attract workers with similar worldviews, such as those with distinct social justice missions, benefit from ideological diversity. After all, while team members may share the same mission, like helping a certain historically marginalized group access the same opportunities available to others, it's helpful to explore a wide range of ways to get there.

And since political tribes tend to develop their own orthodoxy about which ideas are "good" or "bad"—and the risk of being left "politically homeless" when one diverges from this dogma can feel positively dangerous—true ideological diversity is the only way to ensure that actually happens.

Valuing this diversity of perspective is how a healthy and resilient culture is built, and it directly contributes to the pursuit of our shared goals. If Gen Z workers can build their appreciation for colleagues who see the world differently and for the toil of building their success over time, perhaps they'll stand a better chance of finishing out the week.


bottom of page