Black Gen-Zers, You’re Driving Your Boss Nuts

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You’re driving your supervisors crazy. I checked in with several of them from coast to coast who shared their gripes and advice. (What I discovered correlated with a real survey of more than 1300 managers this year who said Gen Zs are the most difficult to work with and they often have to fire them). They include Boomers and the generation of Millennials and Xers just ahead of you. Their identities are being protected so that you don’t come for them in the morning.

But like any good manager, they started off with a little praise – disagreeing at times, but acknowledging that “all Gen Zers are not created equally.”

“Understanding their priorities is very helpful in working with and managing them,” said an executive in Atlanta who has no pet peeves. “They are confident and have a better idea of what type of work environment they prefer. Besides pay equity, they are interested in flexibility, support for health and wellness (mental health in particular), DEI, social justice, safe spaces and training to prevent sexual assault.” This is all backed up by research such as “Pearson’s Global Learner Study: Women in the Workplace, 2021.”

“One thing I admire is that they take time out for themselves,” a creative director in Washington, D.C., said. “They get their travel on.” Another executive agreed. “Gen Z works hard, and they play harder.”

That said, here’s your performance review and how to work on your learning curve. Yes, you have one. We all do.

Stop whining.

It doesn’t become you, and people don’t take you seriously. If you aren’t seen as a go-to person, you won’t go anywhere. Neither will your paycheck. Be part of the solution; not a crybaby.

You know a lot, but not everything.

The work world hasn’t changed as much as you think it has, and it doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t be so dismissive of institutional knowledge; it can help you and others invent a much better wheel. “I’ve been your age, but you haven’t been mine,” a man in Ohio likes to say. “You can’t think you’re smarter than people who have been in the business longer than you,” an executive from South Carolina adds. “Listen and learn.”

Being late doesn’t work in the workplace.

Move to your own rhythm on your own time. Organizations can’t function properly if everyone is freestyling – coming in on CP Time and then leaving early. All those minutes add up.

Don’t be so sensitive.

What’s love got to do with it? The harsh reality is that some bosses don’t care enough to love or even like you; they just want you to do your job. They want to be able to count on you to perform your best. Always. It’s not personal; it’s business. “Gen Zs are far too soft,” one manager said. “They don’t understand that your boss is supposed to give you constructive criticism.”

Keep your attitude in check.

“I find them fairly impolite – a result of their parents treating them as equals rather than as charges,” said a veteran manager who has worked in several major cities. “I’m not sure their parents teach them manners.” Another says that “disrespecting and disregarding the good in the eras before them is a recipe for setbacks. These generations were also innovators and fighters.”

Are you really being triggered?

Mental health is serious. Don’t use the term so loosely. Don’t cry wolf and minimize what might be a real challenge for someone else.

Don’t get upset if no one pats you on the back at times. As a child, you probably got a few ribbons, medals or trophies just for participation. But traditionally, awards go to MVPs and those who come in first place. In real life, everybody doesn’t get a cookie. Sometimes your biggest reward is the satisfaction of job well done. It’s priceless.

Work on your work ethic.

“They are lazy and have ridiculous expectations fueled by social media,” a New Jersey entrepreneur says. A New York executive adds that “they find a million ways not to come to work – or not to work period.” You’re expected to put in the work you agreed to upfront. Depending on your field, you might have to work after hours or on weekends from time to time. Be more of a team player.

Give your cell phone a rest.

“The thing that annoys me is that they are glued to that phone! Their knowledge of current events is all based on their interaction with social media,” the creative director said. “It’s not based on reading credible news sources … and coming up with a critical opinion that they analyzed for themselves.” Others add that tethering yourself to a phone is also short-circuiting your people skills.

Don’t burn bridges.

“Quiet quitting is bullshit,” a New York leader manager said. It’s nothing new, she said, pointing out that people who coast or do just enough to get by have always existed. They just don’t go anywhere and are passed over for opportunities. “The truth is, the hardest worker wins.”

Exit as well as you entered.

“They quit even if they don’t have another job,” a former White House official said. Always give at least two weeks’ notice; more depending on your position. That’s also a good time to share some of your observations in an exit interview – and to keep the door open if you ever return or need a reference. It’s a tiny world. You see the same people as you climb up and down the career ladder.

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