I'm Not Talking To You

Apparently one in five Gen Z employees hasn't spoken to a single person over the age of 50 at work over the last twelve months.

Cue the shock and 'hot takes' that multigenerational workforces are A. Good. Thing.

Dive a little deeper into the, ahem, 'research' and you'll find that only 17% of people surveyed - from all generations - know how to talk to other generations.

And while Generation Z reportedly said that they KNOW that talking to people will boost their career prospects, they just don't do it. In fact, they're kind of waiting for everyone else to make the move.

What's more, they suggest that because older people have pets and kids, they can't relate to them or find common ground.

Generational Entrenchment

Now, I'm a late Gen Xer, which means the closest I got to technology as a child was a Nimbus 2000 personal computer that had a button that doubled its speed from 6Mhz to 12Mhz. You should have seen it fly.

So I'm going to have PERSPECTIVES.

When I entered the workforce, all the old boomer bosses said that we were lazy slackers. And now here we all are, known as the ones who 'do all the work'. Oh how things come around.

Generational entrenchment is nothing new. I'll be honest, when I had older colleagues in my first few jobs, I couldn't relate to their worlds at all. Kids, pets, mortgages - pah! I live in a flat and drink all weekend.

I'm pretty sure that if they'd carried out this survey 25 years ago, they'd have found pretty much the same results.

Generational Understanding

Now imagine growing up with all of this technology at your fingertips, a world that was turned upside down by a pandemic as you entered the workforce, an economy that has mostly been at a low ebb since 2008, and what on earth do we expect of Generation Z?

That they would enter the workforce all suited and booted and ready to go?

A little understanding of the precarity of work compared to 25 or more years ago would go a long way.

Simon Sinek talked about how this generation has grown up seeing their parents working long hours, being made redundant, going through financial crisis after financial crisis - and looking at work and thinking - why should I do that?

The pandemic crystallised this when many of them were forced to go freelance as full-time work dried up. And those who have freelanced or worked at home will know that flexibility is part of the "new normal".

It's very hard for older generations to appreciate just how different their perspective is on work.

Maybe it is incumbent on us...

Knowing what we know, knowing how difficult it is growing up these days, how hard it is to enter the workforce regardless, maybe it is incumbent on us, ahem, more 'experienced' people to make that first move, as they're requesting.

We can't bend them to our will, and we can't make the be like us, but perhaps in that regard, they have a point. Work has changed, and in time, they'll be the leaders while we're all retired, wondering what the fuss was about. 

So instead of complaining about Gen Z, let's go talk to them. 

And having Gen Alpha children, I can only confirm it's going to be even more difficult later on.

Published on Mar 25, 2024 by Gareth Cartman