- The old guard of bosses and leaders think that young workers should be in the office, and that they expect too much.
- But Gen Z has crafted their approach to work in response to pandemic-era conditions.
- In a fraught environment, Gen Zers want a say over their work, and they're getting it.
There's a war simmering over work, and it's pitting boomers against Gen Z.
Older thought leaders and CEOs want Gen Z in the office, and say their expectations for work are too high. But Gen Z wants all of those things, and have been flexing their power to get them.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has said that young people "don't seem like they want to work." Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell — a self-proclaimed coffee-shop or couch writer — said on the "Diary of a CEO" podcast that working from home isn't in workers' "best interest." JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has said that remote work "does not work" for young people.
Young workers don't necessarily agree. Some want to be in the office. Others are content to stay at home. Some are in and out of the office. But the location itself doesn't matter — Gen Z workers care about doing work that matters to them and that work is happening on their own terms.
"Younger people aren't quick to work because they want meaningful work," Mackey said on a podcast from Reason magazine. "You can't expect to start with meaningful work. You're going to have to earn it over time."
But that's exactly the ethos Gen Z is trying to bring to the workplace. If companies want to keep hiring Gen Zers — who are set to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025 — they'll need to embrace their approach to work, or risk losing workers.
A Deloitte survey of 14,808 Gen Zers found that 37% said they rejected a job or assignment "based on their personal ethics." Gen Z wants to get some meaning out of one of the few things they can decide about their economic situation.
For Gen Zers, the pandemic punctuated lives already shaped by two recessions, the accelerating climate crisis, and political turmoil. And as workers began to quit en masse, and assert their power, Gen Z seized the opportunity to bring a semblance of control over what work looks like.
"As a society, specifically in America, we've gotten so used to work being your life. You work all day, you eat, and you go to bed, and then you do it all over again, five days a week," Avery Monday, a 21-year-old influencer-marketing manager, previously told Insider.
Monday said she joined the workforce with the attitude that "I'm going to be grinding forever until I die."
"Then through work, my coworkers, my bosses, I realized that is not the case, and it doesn't have to be that way," she said.
It's not a new attitude, but it is one that was put in reach by the pandemic. Millennials had quietly pushed for the same things, but were ridiculed. Now that the pandemic has transformed things like remote work and flexibility from far-off options to new norms.
Workers of all ages realized that life was too short to stay in a job they're not passionate about. And other generations are jealous of Gen Z's work ethos. And, even as a looming recession threatens to claw back power from workers, Gen Z has wholeheartedly thrown their support behind the labor movement — one thing that could help workers maintain their gains, according to experts.