What Gen-Zers Want Their Managers To Know

What Gen-Zers Want Their Managers To Know

Generation-Z is asking for what the workplace has been promising but underdelivering for many years.


As a manager, you’ve worked very hard to get to where you are today. You’ve also had managers when you were younger who didn’t listen to you or made you feel like your contribution to the organization wasn’t important. You know that’s not the kind of relationship you want to have with your direct reports, but despite all of your knowledge and experience, you’re finding it hard to manage your Gen-Z workers and you’re not alone.

The key to managing Gen-Z workers starts with having a better understanding of where they’re coming from and what their goals are in the workplace (and maybe how those goals are different from yours). Having a better understanding of what someone has gone through as well as what motivates them is how you make people feel valued, which builds trust.

Luckily there are similarities between people in different generations, which will help you understand where they’re coming from a little bit better. Unfortunately sometimes those similarities are distorted into judgments. For instance, there has been article after article criticizing Generation-Z for not wanting to work, being too demanding and lacking the soft skills necessary to navigate the workplace. You’ve seen these headlines before because they’re reminiscent of the headlines from 15 years when you were entering the workforce: article after article telling you how Millennials are entitled, lazy and too demanding.

The older generations have been criticizing youth for hundreds and hundreds of years. As each new generation enters the workforce, they bring with them their unique vision of the world and their past experiences. If you step back and look at this generation, what they want and what they are asking for aligns with their experience of the world so far.

The truth about Generation-Z is this is a generation that struggles with mental health and are willing to talk about their struggles. They watched previous generations amass a tremendous amount of student debt with no guarantee of a successful future. Gen-Zers want to find meaningful mission-driven work but aren’t willing to sacrifice their mental and emotional health to #hustle so someone else gets rich while they’re barely able to make rent.

What Generation-Z is asking for isn’t outrageous; it’s a direct response to what they’ve been living through and how they want to live their lives.

Here’s What Generation-Z Wants Their Managers To Know:

1. The Pandemic Was Hard On Them

Managers of Generation-Zers need to be aware of how this generation has been impacted by the pandemic. While everyone experienced challenges during and after the pandemic, Generation-Z was affected the most because many young people missed out on a number of important developmental milestones. At a time when Generation-Zers should have been making memories, building relationships and formulating their identities, they were isolated from friends and family, which impacted their mental health.

A 2022 report conducted by The National Library of Medicine found “the coronavirus pandemic is a major event impacting individuals of all generations, but the impact on Gen Z will persist over their lives, according to the generation effect, since Gen Zers are at the life stage when their long-lasting values are still being shaped.”

Managers need to be cognizant of the mindset that many of their young employees are bringing with them as they join the workforce. Many Gen-Zers started their careers in their childhood bedrooms, unable to meet their coworkers in person and losing out on mentorship opportunities from their managers.

Managers of this generation would benefit from taking some time to ask their new employees about their personal experiences during the pandemic. Understanding what someone has been through makes it easier to determine what will inspire and motivate them at work.

2. They Want You To Be Empathetic And Care About How They’re Doing

A 2023 Deloitte study compared what Gen-Z actually wants at work versus what their managers think they want. One of the biggest differences was regarding empathy. Gen-Zers ranked empathy as the second most important trait in a boss and saw empathy as a “prerequisite to engagement at work.” In order for Gen-Zers to feel engaged at work they need to feel like their managers care about them.

Generation-Z is looking to their managers for guidance and support on how to manage their workload. Young workers want to feel like their managers care about them as a person, just as much as they do about their ability to be productive and deliver results. Gen-Zers want meaningful and purposeful conversations with their managers about balancing work responsibilities with their mental health.

3. They Care About Their Careers, They Just Don’t Want It To Be Their Entire Identity

The Deloitte study also discovered, “Gen Z workers and their bosses place different values upon work as part of their identities.” The report found that 61% of Gen-Zers feel work is a significant part of their identity. While 86% of bosses report work is a significant part of their identity.

Generation-Z wants to make an impact on the world and they value work, but they are also aware of how toxic work environments and burnout can greatly affect their mental health. At the end of the day their mental health is more important to them. Generation-Z has seen the impact of overworking both with their Millennial coworkers and managers as well as on their Generation-X parents.

Generation-Z is asking for what the workplace has been promising but underdelivering for many years. One of the biggest impacts the pandemic has had on our world is the importance of prioritizing your mental health. Organization after organization has promoted the importance of mental health, but many haven’t done much to follow through with this promise.

While Generation-Z may ruffle some feathers by asking to be paid for extra training, being unwilling to work more than ten hours a day and setting boundaries with their time, their wants align with what is recommended to have a better work-life balance.

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