Several of my corporate clients have been asking me how to effectively work with the Gen Zs (also known as the iGen) of which the age range is approximately 14-26 years old.
My clients are perplexed on how to manage these people but more importantly, how to motivate them to do the required tasks without feeling overwhelmed.
As a college professor as well as a corporate trainer, I can understand their frustrations on both sides.
The Gen Zs spent some of their school time remotely during Covid, so they are not as adept at socializing with others.
The managers, on the other hand, do not understand why these younger people can’t just do their job without complaining that they can’t handle the pressure.
The reality is that this is a societal issue with no easy answers.
According to various studies, Gen Zs socialize 7.6 hours a day, but they do most of it on a screen.
The problem with this is that they do not know how to COMMUNICATE any other way.
Even with me instructing them on how to give a good presentation in my classes, they still are very apprehensive to do it.
Many of them also do not have great writing skills.
Some would argue that we can blame elementary, middle, and high schools for this but that is not the case.
Parents, especially during Covid, either were doing their own work and not paying attention to their children, or they acted like “snowplow/helicopter/lawnmower parents” and practically did the work for their children.
When there was a chance that the child’s grade was going to be bad, parents complained loudly.
Administrations acquiesced and so these teachers did not hand out grades below a C or maybe a B. Ridiculous for sure!
This also affects their CRITICAL THINKING skills.
Because they are used to having information at their fingertips, when they actually have to really think through a problem or project, they can’t do it.
The Gen Zs instead come to me, their managers, and/or their parents to not guide them through it but instead want us to do it for them.
Part of this is also due to the fact that they don’t know how to be patient.
Everything they want is pretty much instantaneous from shopping, researching, etc. so they don’t know how to break a project down into manageable steps, write a report, and/or take on additional work responsibilities.
Some parents are definitely not helping their offspring.
By CODDLING them instead of getting them learn to be resilient, the Gen Zs have poor COPING skills.
When things get tough, they claim they need a mental health day, hide under the covers, and Mommy and Daddy take over for them.
This is not just in the classroom but in the workplace too.
These so-called helpful parents get job applications for their children and even call the HR department to ask about benefit plans, etc.
When their boss asks them to do something that gets them to grow and develop, they resist and/or have major anxiety attacks.
Keep in mind that the Gen Zs are supposed to be future leaders, but can they really do it?
My biggest fear for this generation is what will they do if something happens to Mommy and Daddy (I don’t wish ill will on someone, but it is a possibility).
Many are CLUELESS on basic living skills like doing laundry, applying for a job, managing a checking account, and even how to prepare a sandwich.
What will happen when they have to grow up and be an adult?
When I was younger you were considered an adult at 18 or maybe 21. Today it is more like 23, 25, or beyond before they are really mature to handle life.
I may sound cynical but if we don’t start getting these Gen Zers to accept that life is not a social media perfect moment all the time but instead recognize that life has its ups and downs.
They need to understand that they will make mistakes, so they have to be creative in how they are going to solve problems.
The lesson we should all be saying to them is “your last mistake is your best teacher”.
Learn versus getting someone to jump in every time life gets tough.
What is the answer?
I think it depends on the circumstances, but they need to be pushed a bit.
Give them a task with a few instructions and let them work it out on their own.
When they struggle, have them suggest two solutions and then discuss it with them. Don’t tell them what to do.
If they claim they are overwhelmed, ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes as a manager.
If they need to take a mental health day, let them, if possible, but also remind them that they will have even more work to do when they get back and they will also have to assist their peers who are picking up their work while they are gone.
Maybe this is called Tough Love, but it really is what needs to be done.