To be a good GenZ manager we need to appreciate their vibe

Apr 4, 2024 | Development, Home Featured, Opinion

When managing Gen Z it can be helpful to understand their world, explains Katie Mahony, Global Product Director, at Development Beyond Learning.

The number of early talent leaving organisations has risen from 54% to 64% post the pandemic because of missed expectations.

For anyone starting in the workplace since January 2020 the level of disruption to their schooling, working patterns and office environments has been unprecedented.

Add a global political crisis, several of the biggest conflicts since WWII and significant digital shifts, means we are waking up to the realisation that we are all at different points along an endlessly moving change curve.

Our inherent need for dopamine (the reward feel good factor hormone) has also changed the way we interact with technology. Those currently starting work are the first generation that have been given a tool that uses the same neural circuitry as cocaine (and slot machines) – just in case we were wondering if we needed any more evidence that GenZ are likely to behave differently.

This is likely to mean that reward and recognition are viewed differently to those currently starting their careers. Is it any wonder that line managers and leaders having these conversations are left to wonder how to adapt?

Whilst this is not a review of the differences – here are some of the obvious:

Gen Z, iGen, Gen Edge Pre Gen Zers
Use Tik Tok and Insta/social media as information portals – their trusted influencers will be telling them the news before it’s even happened. At times this might mean they disappear down the rabbit hole of dis-information. Use Google, BBC and other academic sources for intel. They rely on multiple data sets, getting news more slowly. If they fall for a conspiracy you probably won’t be changing their mind as it’s now a belief from their echo chamber of sources.
Aim for a work life balance to protect their mental health. What’s a work life balance?
Know that they need to stand up and be counted. Global warming is real. More moderate, aim to do the right thing, could be guilty of having their eyes half closed in terms of global challenges.
Social anxiety is real – life through screens mean that in-person is not quite so comfortable. More face- to-face experience and more used to these interactions.









When thinking about managing GenZ and wondering how to best land a conversation, it is worth taking a moment to understand their context.

Financial concerns
GenZ is one of the most squeezed generations in financial terms. Money is therefore more likely to be a trigger and cause of stress.

Expecting elevated emotions when money is nearing the horizon (pay equality, chance for promotion, bonus conversations etc) and leading with empathy will help, ensuring an honest two-way open and supportive conversation. Some will simply not talk about their concerns as it is simply too stressful.

Ensure that progression decisions are made openly, fairly and transparently and that’s enough time is spent handling them to help those who are not progressing to see their path constructively.

Hybrid working
GenZ is also the first generation to work in a hybrid workplace, which brings with it a whole host of uncertainty.

Spending time and money going into the workplace, when maybe there are few others there, can feel frustrating.

Whilst many of the younger talent want to come into the office (if they can afford to) as they want the opportunity to learn from people around them, they have had enough of screentime for work and it will take time to recover from too many suboptimal screen experiences.

However, they also want flexibility and choice – so finding ways to work this balance is important, and not to be taken for granted as patterns are much more fluid than previously.

Working on visibility of who will be in, how to build more connections through the workplace through informal events, games, interest groups etc will help promote the office culture whilst giving freedom to choose.

Two-way communication
With this generation it is more critical to build ways to make communication two-way. If your pocket holds social connections to thousands of others (through smartphones and social media), workplace interactions need to have meaning, purpose and something more as rewards are accessible via social media.

Thinking through how to achieve engagement in 1:1s, team meetings, townhalls, screen meetings, formal communications etc. is more important and yet also harder to achieve in the time poor world we find ourselves in.

What does this tell us as managers and leaders?

If we don’t get this right, we will see our people quiet quitting or job hopping. Regardless of the cost, we have a responsibility to meet them in their world, not impose our world and beliefs on them.

We can provide guidance, feedback and experience, but we can also learn from them and they can drive our ability to think differently and evolve, even if we are closer to the end of our career than the beginning.

You may also be interested in…

4 critical skills graduates need to thrive in a hybrid work environment

3 fundamentals to attract and retain Gen Z and millennials in 2024

What’s the state of the graduate labour market right now?



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