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Because Generation Z Brings New Thinking to the Workplace

12/22/2021
gen z

What is the plural of mongoose? Rod Stewart opined in his famous eighties' song Infatuation, “Oh no, not again, it hurts so good, I don’t understand” about a new love in his life.  Love may not be the emotion leaders experience as we adjust to another generation entering the workforce.  Tragically, many organizations (and supervisors) have not adapted to millennials and are about to become two generations behind.  What does this mean for the modern workplace?

In the late eighties, I worked part-time construction while in college.  I remember my first day on the job in Dallas, Texas.  It was seven a.m., and the superintendent was giving our weekly safety meeting that talked about everything other than safety until the end when he said, “be safe.”  As the meeting ended and everyone started moving toward the door in the little trailer that served as the office, I looked to the superintendent to find out what I would do next.  He looked at me and said he had something he wanted me to work on now.  “Come with me,” he said as I grabbed my brand-new yellow hard hat and followed him.  I was eager to see what this construction job would be like for the rest of the summer.

We walked across the yard to a large tractor-trailer (minus the tractor) with wooden steps built to access the rear doors.  He grabbed his keys and opened the doors spilling light into the dark space.  Inside were hundreds of cardboard boxes.  I had no clue what was in all these boxes.  Some had fallen, and the entire collection was in considerable disarray.  The superintendent informed me that the boxes contained screw pipe fittings of all shapes and sizes.  My job was to carry these to the new boiler room and organize them logically into several shelving units.  He then said, “Have fun and let me know if you have any problems.”  That’s it, no other explanation, and walked off.  I stood there looking at the boxes while thinking, “I don’t know where the boiler room is at.”

With some assistance, I located the boiler room and started carrying boxes two to three at a time depending on how heavy the boxes happened to be into a large room with a series of box type, metal shelving units arranged along a wall.  I received no instructions on organizing the fittings by type, size, or shape.  My pride made me refuse to ask.

I lifted, carried, and walked about a hundred yards from the trailer to the shelves all day long. After about an hour, I realized this would take much longer than I had imagined.  I repeated the process, organizing and then reorganizing upon determining the quantities of all the different fittings.  The superintendent asked me if I had finished when our shift ended.  I told him no.  He told me to finish up the work tomorrow.  I left the job site thinking, “This job sucks, and I’m not sure this will last all summer.”   However, I was making more money per hour than I ever had before and was not about to quit yet.

I spent two more days carrying, reading the boxes, studying the shelves, organizing the fittings, and sweating in the Texas summer heat. When I finally finished, unsure if I had managed the fittings properly, I informed the superintendent that I had completed the task.  He asked me, “What do you think of construction?”  I told him the truth, “Quite frankly, it is hard, boring work!”  He looked at me and asked, “If someone asked you to find a certain fitting of a particular type, could you find it?”  Thinking this was a dumb question because I had sorted through them all, I said, “yes, of course.”  He smiled at me and said, “Well, it looks like you might make us a decent helper this summer,” and walked away.  I stood there dumbfounded.  This man just went Mr. Miyagi on me.  If you are too young to remember the original Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi taught his martial art student (Daniel) how to move his body with mundane, labor-intensive work, like wax-on wax off and paint the fence.  Oh heavens, watch the movie!

Will this passive leadership style work if you think about today’s workforce?  We must understand that generations change, and the tolerance for ambiguity is different among our new workers.  Will a millennial tolerate this style of training?  Will a Generation Zer endure this method of work?  Of course, it depends on the individual; however, my experience predicts that it is not likely.  Millennials want to know why there are doing things.  They are the information generation and have had the internet most of their lives.  Generation Z, also known as iGen, will never remember the world before the iPhone.  The workforce is constantly changing, and we must prepare our managers and supervisors to lead ahead of the change.  While working with CEOs, I get frequently asked, “What is the priority for attraction and retention in today’s workplace?”  My answer is always to prepare supervisors and managers to lead a different type of worker.

Generation Z (Gen Z  was born in the 2000s) is now entering the workplace, and they are different from the Millennials.  It is time to prepare your leadership team for the next round of generational change.  Following are a few ways these generations differ:

  • Millennials desire diversity. Diversity is common for Generation Z.
  • 92% of Gen Z has a digital presence and a tribe they must remain connected with at all times.
  • Millennials can remember the emergence of technology. Gen Z expects technology to be present and utilized on the job effectively.
  • Gen Z is more likely to use technology for a “Gig job” instead of working for a company full time.
  • Gen Z is more likely to skip college and go straight to work.
  • Money is less important to Gen Z than Millennials. Transactional management (pay for work) will attract and retain even fewer Gen Zers.
  • The attention span for Gen Z is shorter than Millennials. This reality means they will likely change jobs more often than Millennials, who change jobs about every eighteen months on average.
  • Gen Z has a common reluctance to work in an office environment that remains similar each day.
  • Gen Z admits to being more addicted to devices, meaning a device-free workplace will not be attractive.

Organizations must adapt to a different paradigm in the workplace.  Orthodoxy is the enemy amidst a changing workforce.  By the year 2025, nearly 75% will be Millennial.  Thinking like a Baby Boomer or a Xer will be so far outside the ordinary that we will become irrelevant if we do not adapt.  Without proper training, Millennials will attempt to replicate supervision methods learned from Xers and Boomers.  This approach will not work with the workers entering the workplace in the future.  The plural of mongoose is both mongooses and mongeese, according to Merriam-Webster.  Who knew?

Gen Z thinking
This is exactly what we're seeing in our workforce. Our workforce covers many different generations. As we learn to work with each generation differently, we've learned that we have to remain mindful how our attention to some people might be perceived by others. That in itself can cause unexpected negative results. It can be a bit overwhelming at times trying to work with so many different generational mindsets.
(January 10, 2022 ~ 6:37 AM)
By Anonymous