Your best friend tells you how anxious she is. The natural response to this is to try and cheer her up. You tell her to calm down or get a grip on things. You tell her things could be worse. Your intentions are good. You want to be a good friend and cheer her on. […]
Gen Z (born 1995 -2007) is now entering the workplace and the way they approach things may surprise you. Forbes ran an article written by Remy Blumenfeld that is helpful in understanding the psyche of this group of new workers. In an interview he had with Jonathan Haidt, co-author of the “The Coddling of the American Mind,” he tells us these three beliefs that characterize Gen Z:
- What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
- Always trust your feelings.
- Life is a battle between good and evil people.
Unfortunately, these beliefs are not true and can lead to multiple problems in the workplace. Most organizations depend on team work and those beliefs do not lend well to a collaborative atmosphere. In order to overcome potential problems between the generations, we all need to understand each other better, something we seem to struggle with in our larger culture.
Blumenfeld goes on to discuss the influences Gen Z has experienced that have helped shape their generation. First, this is the first generation to be digital natives from birth. As a result, they have experienced things most of us have not–on-line shaming, bullying, trolling, pressure to be perfect and more. Second, they value diversity and fairness and assess businesses related to their social justice causes. Third, while they have information at their fingertips, they have a harder time dealing with ambiguity, a skill important to life success and well-being. Also, they are hypersensitive to criticism and offense, having been reinforced with safe spaces, campus coddling and protests when offended. And the self-centered focus of the generation can lead to a lack of team work and cooperating with people when conflict arises.
So what can you do to create a better workplace for a Gen Z? How do you fit them into your team? One way is to make the values of your organization very clear. When a new Gen Z worker joins your team, communicate clearly how conflict is handled, discouraging a run to HR every time their feelings are hurt. Let them know specifically what is expected in terms of the values of the organization. Help them understand that working out offenses and problems is best down interpersonally and they will not always think things are fair. But protesting at work can get you fired, not heard.
Help Gen Zs know that feelings can’t always be trusted We often operate out of areas of hurt and wounding which means are feelings are bad representations of reality. Interpersonal communication is needed. Conflict is part of growth and conflict resolution needs to be learned as a skill. And a work place is not a “Me” vs “Them” effort. At work, we are all on the same team trying to reach organizational goals.
Overall, the generations need to better understand each other and respect each others’ differences, but common ground has to be found to accomplish goals. Team work is about learning to accommodate others. It is understanding that the team is bigger than the individual. With a lot of talk and listening, we can begin to understand our generational differences, but that means actual talking and learning to live together. Texting and email won’t cut it!