In the media landscape, Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) has been subjected to a barrage of newly coined labels: lazy, spoiled, mentally sick, the most difficult to work with, corporate disruptors, snowflakes—you name it! Regrettably, these recently invented stereotypes about Gen Z are far from accurate. In fact, the information disseminated about Gen Z on mainstream media platforms is riddled with falsehoods, conveniently diverting attention from the unresolved issues plaguing our society. These misconceptions of Gen Z serve as a flimsy justification for the indisputable mistakes made by previous generations from environmental challenges to technological complexities to economic uncertainties.
Comprising a significant 26% of the global population, Gen Z represents the most diverse age group. With over 2 billion Gen Zers worldwide, this generation holds the distinction of being the largest cohort currently alive, as supported by data.
What’s even more disheartening is that Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers are often loyal adherents of pessimistic narratives and other such notions. It is crucial that before we are deeply misled into accepting a default mindset regarding Gen Z and allowing ourselves to be excessively manipulated, we resist being gullible and maintain an objective perspective as well as our open-mindedness with compassion. The truth about this generation should not be easily distorted or dismissed.
Too Woke to Work without a Passion
Roberta Katz, a senior research scholar at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), conducted research revealing that much of the negative judgment aimed at Generation Z stems from a lack of understanding about their unique upbringing in today’s world compared to that of their elders. One commonly misunderstood aspect is the perception of Gen Zers as lazy due to their apparent absence from after-school or summer jobs. However, this unfair criticism fails to acknowledge that many Gen Zers have been actively earning significant income online through various endeavors, including engaging in product placements on fashion-advice websites.
According to a LinkedIn survey, when it comes to aligning their values, Generation Z is at the forefront, with a remarkable 80% actively seeking organizations that share their beliefs. For this generation, the principles and convictions that an organization upholds are far from superficial; they serve as a significant factor in attracting young talent. It’s not just a matter of window dressing but rather a genuine selling point that holds substantial weight in their decision-making process. Furthermore, 40% of Gen Z professionals indicated their willingness to take a 5% reduction in salary in exchange for a job that provides ample opportunities for career advancement.
In another survey conducted in 2021 by Cigna International Health, encompassing nearly 12,000 employees across the globe, it was revealed that an overwhelming 91% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 experience stress, and feeling burnout, surpassing the average of
84% among all age groups. This research sheds light on a concerning trend: Gen Z is emerging as the most stress-ridden demographic in the workplace, grappling with significant challenges when it comes to managing their mental well-being. The findings underline the immense difficulties faced by this generation as they navigate the demands of the modern work environment.
Lillian Hue X. Ly, a 25-year-old expert in the realms of sustainable and luxury fashion, is an alumna of the esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology. With a track record working for renowned global fashion brands and agencies and as a sustainability advocate, Ly firmly asserts that she is unwilling to compromise on her career choices solely for the sake of a stable or high income.
Danielle Ross, a 26-year-old residing in a quaint upstate New York town, finds employment at Legoland. She embraces her artistic and creative nature and proudly identifies as L.G.B.T.Q. Her notable contributions to Legoland New York showcase her remarkable character. For Ross, when it comes to choosing a job, the idea of sacrificing her true identity or suppressing her skills is unfathomable.
According to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it reveals that in April 2023, there were over 10 million job vacancies that remained unfilled in the U.S.. Employers are turning to Gen Z workers, born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with a dual purpose in mind. Firstly, they seek to harness the abundant energy and creativity that this generation possesses. Secondly, this recruitment drive aims to address a pressing concern—the acute labor shortage. Also, employers shall acknowledge Gen Z’s self-awareness and leverage their fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, and unique skills, striving for a more productive, balanced, diverse, and inclusive workforce. The concentration on attracting and hiring Gen Z reflects a strategic approach to fulfill immediate labor needs while capitalizing on their long-term potential.
Lazy or Efficient?
In May 2023, a tweet praising Gen Z went viral with 5.8 million views. It recounted an incident where a paid intern was asked to bring 50 blank pieces of copier paper. Surprisingly, the intern brought in warm paper instead, revealing a clever workaround. Instead of counting, she simply
set the copier to print 50 blank sheets. The tweet hailed this act as genius, highlighting the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Gen Z.
Another area of misunderstanding relates to the acquisition of driver’s licenses. Older generations often criticize Gen Zers for not rushing to obtain their driver’s licenses as soon as they turn 16, as it was seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. However, this criticism overlooks the fact that Gen Zers have readily available access to ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, or public transportation, rendering the need for a personal vehicle less essential in their daily lives.
Katz’s research embodies the importance of comprehending the distinctive circumstances and technological advancements that shape the experiences of Gen Z, urging society to reevaluate its judgments and assumptions about this generation. Dr. Katz also conveys that Gen Z is a remarkably collaborative generation that exhibits a profound concern for others and approaches inherited challenges like climate change with a pragmatic mindset.
The Loneliest Generation
In an article featured in Psychology Today by Ryan Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal best-selling author and internationally-recognized keynote speaker, it was revealed that a staggering 73% of Gen Z individuals experience feelings of loneliness, either occasionally or consistently. The mental health challenges faced by Gen Z are unparalleled compared to previous generations, with only 45% of them reporting “excellent” or “very good” mental well-being, the lowest among any age group. As previously mentioned, the impact of stress is also evident, as 91% of Gen Z adults have encountered physical or emotional symptoms related to stress, including feelings of depression or sadness (58%) and a lack of interest, motivation, or energy (55%). Additionally, a significant 68% of Gen Z express significant stress regarding their future prospects.
Yet, instead of criticizing Gen Z for their negative attributes, has anyone from the older generations paused to contemplate why they might be profoundly experiencing such emotions? In light of the technological advancements, societal modernization, and ever-evolving economy, should our perception of Gen Z be altered prior to becoming a default mindset?
The three primary factors that contribute to Gen Z’s feelings of loneliness are overstimulation, social media, and dependency shift. For instance, in our daily choices, we often prioritize convenience and technology over genuine human connection, inadvertently turning our backs on humanity. Opting for impersonal emails over empathetic conversations, TikTok over tangible experiences, text messages over physical touch, or Instagram over face-to-face interactions are all examples of how we unknowingly distance ourselves from genuine human connections.
Gen Z, the first generation that has never experienced offline living, is younger than the inception of Google per se, which is a jarring realization for Millennials. Despite their immersion in the digital realm and the ongoing advancements in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain within the workplace, Gen Z still values the human touch. As reported by Rainmaker Thinking in The Voice of Generation Z, Gen Z prioritizes “supportive leadership” and “positive relationships at work” as the most significant factors to consider when choosing a job. This desire for human connection underscores the importance of fostering an environment that blends technological innovation with genuine human interaction, accommodating Gen Z’s unique expectations and needs.
To Grow is to Accept the New Reality Now
It is the accountability of the older generations to ensure the well-being of Gen Z, as we cannot overlook the potential consequences if we fail to address the fundamental need for human connection in the most technologically advanced generation ever known. Certainly, it is inherent for us as human beings to be afraid or very afraid when reflecting upon the harsh treatment that we have inflicted upon Gen Z thus far, because of our own inventions. Nonetheless, it is vital to acknowledge that Gen Z accentuates a forward-thinking mindset, making them the forthcoming generation of leaders, activists, and politicians. They have already shouldered adult responsibilities by spearheading impactful climate movements, actively participating in social justice marches, and urging companies to embrace their values.
Based on a McKinsey study, it is imperative that healthcare leaders, educators, and employers proactively prioritize the emotional and mental well-being of Gen Z. By customizing messages, products, and services to cater specifically to this generation, stakeholders have the power to make a substantial difference in Gen Z’s mental health and empower them to achieve their utmost potential. This investment can be seen as an initial commitment to our collective future, resulting in long-lasting social and economic benefits that will resonate for many years to come.