Gen Z's Painful Etiquette Gap And How To Bridge It

 Data from Glassdoor suggests that Gen Z is on track to surpass Baby Boomers in the full-time workforce this year, a development that has raised concerns among some managers. A January study conducted by ResumeBuilder reported that 31% of surveyed managers avoid hiring Gen Z candidates and prefer older workers. Additionally, 30% of managers admitted to terminating Gen Z workers within their first month. The challenges seem to begin during the recruitment process, with hiring managers noting that Gen Z candidates often fail to dress appropriately, make good eye contact, communicate effectively, and display genuine interest during interviews. Once hired, Gen Z workers are perceived to exhibit entitled behaviors and are considered difficult to manage by some managers.

However, it is important to note that these observations stem from the perspective of hiring managers, who likely belong to older generations with different workplace norms. Nonetheless, there is likely some validity to these issues, especially considering that a significant portion of hiring managers actively avoid hiring Gen Z candidates based on past experiences.

Despite these concerns, there is positive news about this generation: they are eager to learn and can become valuable contributors within organizations if provided with the necessary support. The workplace challenges posed by Gen Z workers can be categorized into matters of etiquette, such as dressing appropriately and displaying good manners, and deeper character-related issues, including work ethic, integrity, and ability to get along with colleagues.

While etiquette issues can be addressed through training, character-related challenges require a deeper assessment of a candidate's core traits such as teachability, willingness to receive feedback, ambition, curiosity, and growth mindset. There is hope for Gen Z workers who struggle with these deeper issues, but it is easier to train etiquette-related behaviors.

It is crucial for hiring managers to recognize that the work ethic and attitudes of younger generations may differ from those of older generations. The COVID-19 pandemic has also shaped the experiences of many Gen Z workers, who may not have had the opportunity to benefit from the mentorship and learning experiences provided by seasoned professionals early in their careers. Additionally, the concept of success for Gen Z often revolves around personal fulfillment and freedom, rather than traditional professional achievements.

As Gen Z is set to overtake Baby Boomers in the workforce and eventually outnumber Millennials, companies must develop sustainable strategies for integrating and developing this generation. This includes creating robust mentoring programs, offering learning and development opportunities, and realizing that the starting skills baseline for younger workers is different from that of previous generations. Avoiding Gen Z candidates in favor of older workers may provide a temporary solution, but it is not a sustainable hiring approach. Instead, intentional and comprehensive training, mentoring, and growth opportunities can help Gen Z workers bridge their etiquette and performance gaps and realize their full potential.  

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