• Millennials and Gen Z want the same things at work: flexibility and well-being.
  • While millennials have advocated for these things, the Great Recession made them more risk averse, prioritizing job security.
  • The pandemic and remote working have led Generation Z to demand more change with more daring.

Gen Z workers have their millennial bosses shaking in their boots.

This is what Emma Goldberg of the New York Times said in an article that grabbed the internet’s attention last week, which examined the latest in generational workplace culture: Millennials are afraid of Generation Z, which confidently and confidently demands a better work-life balance.

The TikTok generation delegates to their bosses, isn’t shy about asking for sanity days, works less after their daily chores are done, and sets their own schedules, Goldberg wrote. It’s a shock to work-obsessed millennials, whose careers have always seen crowded and structured days.

But here’s the problem: although millennials and Gen Z can job differently, they want the same things in the workplace. Both generations experience more anxiety and stress than older generations, and both prioritize mental health benefits and work-life balance.

A 2013 PwC survey found that millennials wanted to structure their jobs around their daily schedules, the exact same kind of flexibility Gen Z said they wanted in a 2019 study from the recruitment platform Yello. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize well-being employers, according to a 2020 Gallup poll; all this before The Great Resignation.

The difference is in how generations approach these priorities at work, which has a lot to do with the economic crises faced by each generation after graduation. Millennials, who entered a dismal workforce shattered by the Great


, were keen on change but risk averse.

Gen Z, on the other hand, saw more swings in both directions, which included both an even steeper drop into recession and the fastest job recovery on record. It’s so dramatic that job vacancies and labor shortages are reaching historic highs and they have their choice of work in the most flexible economy in memory.

Millennials just wanted job security when they were Gen Z

The 2008 financial crisis stumbled older millennials into a degraded labor market, jumping from job to job as they searched for a foothold in their careers, while wearing record highs of employment. student debt. As the economy bounced them around the workforce, Millennials gained a reputation as unfair employment hoppers.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and author of “You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams,” said Insider millennials have been mislabeled.

“This was a generation whose jobs were cut,” she said. “They were the first to get laid off. They were the first to have to go from full-time to part-time or they had no benefit.”

Research has shown that entering the workforce during a recession can hurt wage growth, with people who do so earn less for 15 years than those who graduated in good times. Instead of giving millennials a stepping stone to greater responsibility and higher earning potential, leading roles have launched many of them on trajectories of low pay and career uncertainty.

millennial geriatric remote work

The Great Recession shaped the experience of millennials in the workforce.

Justin Paget / Getty Images

Their experience has been affected “by different economic conditions and realities” of baby boomers or Gen Xers, Ernie Tedeschi, chief executive and political economist of Evercore ISI, previously told Insider. “This has consequences for individual career prospects and affects their sense of dynamism.”

All of this explains a lot about how the generation has become risk-wary, fearful of losing their jobs, and under pressure to catch up financially. This led to the creation of a work-obsessed “culture of the bustle” and a widespread sense of burnout.

This means that millennials didn’t want their professional lives to go like this. Work is not an exclusive priority for most of them, according to the PwC survey, with 71% of respondents saying it interferes with their personal lives, and a Deloitte study found that they value work. work-life balance above all other work characteristics.

In fact, millennials have been talking about work-life balance, Rikleen said, echoing what recruiters told the Washington Post in 2015 about seeing more and more job seekers asking for flexibility. . These requests have fallen on deaf ears due to a combination of the cautious mindset of post-recession millennials and what one recruiter called an empathy gap between them and supervisors. baby boomers.

The pandemic and remote working have given Gen Z leverage

It would take a pandemic and an even younger crowd to achieve what millennials have always wanted in the workplace.

The 2020 class entered a crippled economy marked by an unemployment rate of 14.7%. Young workers have been hit the hardest during the coronavirus recession, and 2021 graduates struggled the most to find jobs last summer, squeezed by the cheaper labor of teens a share and millennials with experience to cash in, especially the so-called geriatric millennials who emerged with the most power during the labor shortage.

But the era of remote work has given Gen Z the edge by amplifying demands for autonomy in the workplace, Rikleen said. She added that their life had been turned upside down for an impressionable time.

“They’ve been taken away from them so much in terms of access, you can go on and on with what has been lost,” she said. “It reframes your way of thinking… you start to think about what’s important to you and how to express yourself.” [that]. “

generation z worker

The pandemic has prompted Generation Z to advocate for a flexible work situation at all times.

Maskot / Getty Images

And so, as Goldberg of The Times wrote, they began to question pre-pandemic work standards like eight-hour shifts or the lack of progressive values, much to the chagrin of millennial managers who used to doing things their own way (like every generation).

“These younger generations crack the code and say to themselves, ‘Hey guys, it turns out we don’t have to do it like these old people tell us we have to do it,'” Colin Guinn, co-founder of the company of Robotics Hangar Technology, Goldberg said. “‘We can really do whatever we want and be so successful.’ And we, the elderly, we ask ourselves: “What is going on?” “

It’s part of what Erika Rodriguez called a “slowdown” in a recent opinion piece for the Guardian, as she argued for an intentional slowdown in productivity in an attempt to further segregation of work. This could mean taking unofficial breaks or responding to emails only on certain days of the week. If that doesn’t work in a workplace, Gen Z has so far had no qualms about quitting their crappy jobs in favor of a better one, paving the way for LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky , called a “big reshuffle”.

A generational evolution

Millennials have paved the way for a shift towards greater flexibility and well-being at work, but Gen Z is turning it from a workplace advantage to a workplace standard. . This is the way it is with generations – whenever the youngest cohort appears in the workforce and the world, it always seems more progressive than the last.

“The quest for a workplace that respects boundaries and needs is rooted from generation to generation,” said Rikleen. “It won’t change. With each new generation, it will get stronger.”

As Rikleen points out, Boomer or Generation X employers also used to express shock at the outspokenness of Generation Y. It makes sense that as millennials themselves become employers, they too are bewildered by the audacity of the generation that follows them. “It’s kind of a natural evolution,” said Rikleen.

Certainly Millennials and Gen Z are vast generations. The youngest of Gen Y are 25 this year, an age closer to Gen Z than their older generation who is 40, and he’s unlikely to hold a leadership role. And with the older generation Zer at 24, most of the generation has yet to enter the workforce. This means, explains Rikleen, that we need to view data on Gen Z workers as emerging data that represents patterns and trends.

But examining workplace transitions as millennials age in more powerful career roles and Gen Z continues to enter the workforce is important for understanding how to build an economy of happy and productive workers. especially in a post-pandemic world.

Millennials may be the biggest generation right now, but with Gen Z on their way to becoming the most populous generation, they will one day dominate a workforce that will be vastly different – until Generation C is coming and scaring them too. It’s just the way generations – and the economy – operate.