Five ways that Gen Z differs from millennials in the workplace
October 15, 2021

By: Hannah Yang

Millennials, 25 to 40 years old, and Gen Z, 6 to 24 years old, are a large presence in the workforce. How are they different in the workplace? 

Gen Z is more independent

While millennials are known to favor teamwork, the Gen Zers I know would grumble at the prospect of team projects. It’s not that we can’t work together well—we can!—but we can work just as (or more) efficiently on our own. Additionally, perhaps because we grew up with self-made internet stars and the technology to learn everything on our own, Gen Z is highly entrepreneurial and ambitious. 

Values

Both groups are socially conscious, but there’s a nuanced difference between the two. Gen Z is more cynical, thanks to our upbringing (Gen-X parents, 2008 recession). Millennials are more trusting of vague brand statements, which undoubtedly contributed to the rise of “ethical” brands. Gen Z assumes that profitable companies are all exploitative in some way, so workplaces will want to avoid superficial statements. Gen Z is quick to call out questionable workplaces publicly, as the viral Dunkin Donuts food waste video shows. And as the most diverse generation, Gen Z doesn’t want to work in homogenous workplaces. 

Technology 

Millenials are good with technology, but nobody can beat a Gen Zer who’s grown up on an iPad. Gen Z expects technology to be used in the workplace, along with smarter ways of doing things in general. We excel at improvising with technology. I’ll often work from my laptop and phone at any place and time, figuring out how to do tasks with a Google search in less than five minutes (a skill most Gen Zers can boast).  

Professionalism

Gen Z has looser ideas of professionalism than millenials. Tattoos, piercings, and multi-colored hair are almost the norm. Individualism is celebrated amongst Gen Z, and this has to carry over to the workplace. 

Attitudes toward working 

Gen Zers express a reluctance to work. Social media is filled with teens bemoaning low wages, rough hours, and even rougher customers. “Marrying rich” is starting to sound incredibly appealing. 

Millennials ushered in hustle culture, obliterating the 9-to-5. Gen Z’s philosophy on working is a backlash to that toxic culture. They’ve adopted a mentality that they should only work as hard as they are paid. 

After watching millennials struggle with toxic work culture, I myself prioritize a healthy work-life balance. I’m especially wary of how workplaces will try to take advantage of work-from-home technology (like Zoom) that could further blur the line between work and home. 

Companies will have to shift their workplace environments to attract Gen Z, who have a lot to offer.