Millennial Boss Moaning Gen Z Staff Are 'a Massive Headache' Sparks Debate

A post about the challenges of managing workers from Generation Z has gone viral on Mumsnet, the U.K.-based online forum, where it received over 600 comments.

In a post shared on Mumsnet's Am I Being Unreasonable (AIBU) subforum, user Managinggenzoclock said: "I'm a millennial and I manage a team of people. Some of them are gen z. It may be individual personalities but these are the things winding me up...Is it just me? I manage people from late teens to early 60s. The younger group are by far the hardest work."

Those born between 1981 and 1996 are considered millennials, while anyone born from 1996 to 2012 is part of Gen Z.

Young office workers laughing during meeting.
A stock image of young office workers laughing during a team meeting. Sally Anne Carroll, a life and career coach, told Newsweek, "There are major shifts in the culture at large and in the world of work that Gen Z workers do tend to reflect." iStock/Getty Images Plus

The Mumsnet user went on to outline the points below about Gen Z in the latest post:

  • "Very interested in career progression and pay (not a bad thing but see [the next bullet point] below)
  • "At the same time not being willing to ever (I'm not talking often) work more hours or support a colleague
  • "Not willing to recognize that anyone knows more than them, even those with decades more experience
  • "Resisting hierarchical management structures
  • "Making lots of mistakes (including repeated over and over) but not have the humility of inexperience/youth which would make this much less annoying
  • "Trying to patronizingly 'educate' people on contentious issues in inappropriate ways."

Sally Anne Carroll, a life and career coach, told Newsweek: "I hesitate to draw generalities about an entire generation and don't often find that those stereotypes are all that useful. That said, there are major shifts in the culture at large and in the world of work that Gen Z workers do tend to reflect.

"Generational culture clashes in the workplace are a recurring reality. Younger workers often do come into the workplace with ambitious professional goals, lofty ideals and naïveté about (or even disregard for) 'the way things have been done," she said.

Carroll added it's partially "an age thing," which we've also seen with Gen X and millennials. "The younger generation coming into the workplace often believes that they have better ideas and solutions—and sometimes they absolutely do. And workplaces evolve as a result."

She also pointed out that members of Gen Z are "a bit different" in that they're entering the workforce at a time when the workplace itself is changing, with remote and hybrid work on the rise, and several public conversations taking place around "values, well-being, authenticity and flexibility at work."

Gen Z-ers "are very much a part of and influenced by those conversations and trends," she said.

A study published in November 2018 by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, identified "four core Gen Z behaviors," as noted below in the study:

  • Members of Gen Z value individual expression and avoid labels.
  • They mobilize themselves for a variety of causes.
  • They believe profoundly in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts and improve the world.
  • They make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way.

These four behaviors are "all anchored in one element: this generation's search for truth," the study found.

Is Generation Z Just Misunderstood?

Angela Karanja, an adolescent psychologist specialist in Gen Z employee relationships and retention, told Newsweek: "As a specialist adolescent psychologist I can say there's a lot of misconceptions about Gen Z employees, and this is causing companies to lose cash and calm due to conflicts, retention issues and turnover.

"If employers actually knew the truth (research shows), there are riches in Gen Z. The problem is there is a shift that most employers (even elite directors don't know [about])," she explained.

The psychologist said that "contrary to what many think, Gen Z are not lazy at all."

She said: "We have to understand what ticks for them [Gen Z]" and "companies would bag themselves the most hardworking generation we've seen in over two decades."

An October 2022 study by research firm Workplace Intelligence, conducted in partnership with Amazon, found that 74 percent of Gen Z and millennial workers are likely to quit within the next year due to a lack of skills development opportunities.

According to the study, "the vast majority of employees are highly motivated to improve their skill set and grow their careers."

The Strengths and Struggles of Generation Z

Carroll said Gen Z-ers are "less afraid to set their own standards and boundaries around their work life." This means they're "less willing to put in the grind without a clear understanding of the purpose and meaning behind the work," and are willing to look elsewhere for the next opportunity when any given workplace is not working out.

The life and career coach said Gen Z workers are conscious of their work-life balance and whether their workload is reasonable and manageable.

"These are general workplace trends that we will continue to see—and as a coach who has worked with many individuals lacking balance and suffering burnout, I think they are long overdue," Carroll noted.

Alex Budak, a faculty member at UC Berkeley Haas who teaches leadership to Gen Z students and is the author of Becoming a Changemaker, told Newsweek: "The Gen Z students that I teach give me so much hope for the future. I appreciate how clear they are on their personal values, and how they actively look for organizations that match these values."

Gen Z members are also "comfortable questioning the status quo," said Budak, "especially around work norms."

Instead of "blindly following systems which don't always make sense or reflect inclusive norms, they have a penchant for finding new ways of working," he added.

Referring to the findings of a January 2022 study by McKinsey & Company, Carroll said: "Gen Z workers report feeling more stress and less emotional/social well-being than their older counterparts. Stress and well-being are issues that influence all parts of our lives, including how we show up at and manage our work."

The January 2022 study found that Gen Z reported "the least positive life outlook, including lower levels of emotional and social well-being than older generations."

Carroll also noted that Gen Z is the "most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the workplace, and that is a strength that will drive more inclusive organizations (and potentially uncomfortable conversations as we work towards that)."

Worth Taking Leaf Out of Generation Z's Book

The latest viral post sparked debate among Mumsnet users, including some that agreed with the original poster, while others sided with Gen Z.

MsPinkMarshmallow said: "I hear you, they're a nightmare. OTOH [on the other hand] my generation are the ones that brought up these entitled little s**** so it's probably our fault, dammit! I think we didn't do enough of telling them the world doesn't revolve around them..."

Speedweed said: "Definitely true. They're all about having boundaries, but don't understand that their 'boundary' might actually be inconveniencing/hurting someone else...It's all one way with them - there is zero give and take. We've raised monsters."

User DazzleRazzles disagreed, noting: "YABU [you are being unreasonable] for making this a generation thing. you don't sound like the makings of a great manager either. grow up"

Slig said: "I'm a Gen X and must say I prefer Gen Z's over Millennials. I find Millennials very entitled. Probably a generational thing. That's why kids get on better with their grandparents..."

DarkKarmaIlama noted: "I think we can definitely take the odd leaf out of their books. For a start I applaud them for only ever wanting to work for the hours they get paid. Totally correct that their work boundaries are tight. They also move around a lot more and don't stay in positions for years and years. Again, this is good.

"I guess some do need to learn to be a bit more humble and allow themselves to learn from mistakes but it's quite hard when they're quite fresh out of a very toxic educational system which encourages ultra competitiveness and some slight delusion on how brilliant they all are," DarkKarmaIlama added.

Newsweek was not able to verify the details of this case.

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