OPINION: Gen Z needs to better adapt to workplace environments

Gen Z is facing challenges in the workplace that require motivation and compromise. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

USF students should have no problem finding jobs following graduation, but keeping them may be another issue.

“Businesses are expecting to hire almost 4 percent more graduates from the class of 2023 than they did from the previous class,” reported the New York Times on July 19.

As businesses keep hiring, just one problem faces employers – Gen Z. 

Just as quickly as Gen Z entered the workplace, they left. They struggled to adapt to the office due to COVID-19, lacking the necessary soft skills and “hostile” work environments according to a CNBC report. Gen Z employees are discontent and ready to leave the workplace, and their managers aren’t stopping them. 

Initiative and adaptivity must be shown by Gen Z, including USF students in the workplace. This will result in an improved workplace and satisfied employees from all generations.

Gen Z is the generation born from 1997 to 2012, according to a 2023 definition by Britannica. This makes the generation currently aged between 11 and 26. 

As desperate businesses hire these young employees, Gen Z has garnered a reputation as lazy and unproductive.

​​“They think they’re better than you, smarter than you, more capable than you and they will tell you to your face,” said Akpan Ukeme, head of human resources for SGK Global Shipping Services in a June interview with The Hill.

Only 4% of employers viewed Gen Z employees as “never difficult to work with,” and one in three employers even stated they preferred hiring millennials over Gen Z, according to a ResumeBuilder survey of managers and business leaders in April. In addition, the survey results gathered the top five reasons that employers found Gen Z difficult. 

Gen Z lacks technological skills, are unmotivated, are often distracted, easily offended and occasionally dishonest, according to ResumeBuilder’s results.

These are qualities few hiring managers want in an employee.

There are factors, however, that have more directly led to Gen Z’s reputation in the workforce.

Employees of this generation, including over 14,000 USF students, graduated and entered the workforce during the unsettling and unpredictable age of COVID-19. This means that 14,401 USF graduates along with millions of others began their careers in the comfort of their own homes via Zoom and have little to no experience in a real office space.

This lack of experience is likely contributing to deep discontentment for Gen Z workers. About 78% of Gen Z workers are likely to look for a new job within the next year, according to a March survey conducted by Bankrate. This is likely due to Gen Z stress levels and burnout, according to a Nov. 11 Gallup report.

Many employees feel a healthy level of stress in the workplace, but Cigna’s 2022 Global Well-Being Survey discovered that 91% of Gen Z is reporting stressful work environments, stress that may be caused by miscommunication and misunderstandings with managers. This is causing many to leave or consider leaving their jobs.

Whether fired or quitting, Gen Z is now disillusioned with the American workplace. However, change in the workplace is possible and happening already through the help and acceptance of older colleagues. Working environments will improve as Gen Z accepts the “9 to 5” and communicates concerns with their employers. 

“Gen Z is one of the main drivers of change in today’s workplace,” Deloitte Digital reported. 

Deloitte found that Gen Z wants three main things in the workplace. They want empathy and understanding from managers, recognition of and support for mental health disorders. Even more, they hope for a sense of identity and work-life balance. 

These are not unreasonable asks, as they can easily be incorporated into modern workplaces. On Jan. 18, Harvard Business Review released a list to help Gen Z adapt to the workplace such as allowing autonomy and revealing methods for career progression. Businesses should follow some of these guidelines to help their Gen-Z employees succeed.

As USF students enter the workplace, they must be aware of these challenges and prepared to find solutions. Gen Z doesn’t need to be labeled as a lazy generation if they can prioritize work and collaborating with employers to improve the conditions of the workplace.