5 Gen Z Workplace Traits Business Leaders Say They Can’t Live Without

Gen Z gets a bad rap for being hard to work with. But lots of businesses deeply appreciate their presence in the workplace.

As age demographics go, Gen Z doesn’t have the most stellar reputation for hard work. Often described as “entitled” in the press and “difficult” to have in the office, it’s no wonder they feel the benefits of remote working more than any other generation.

The stats suggest that many now see the generation as “lazy”, and believe managers hire them at their own peril. However, few would argue that a balance of youth and experience is bad for business – in fact, many would say it’s necessary to compete in 2024.

So, are Gen Z bringing any positive traits to the workplace? Well, they tend to come with quite a few, actually – according to the more than 70 business leaders that spoke to Tech.co over the last week about their experience managing and employing the demographic.

Gen Z: A “Difficult” Generation?

A survey conducted by Resumebuilder in 2023 revealed that 74% of bosses said that Gen Z were difficult to work with, with 49% saying they were tough to work with “all or most of the time”. Allegedly, the demographic lacks motivation and drive.

One Reddit user on the r/GenX subreddit even went as far as to say they were “afraid” of working with Gen Z, with the post gaining hundreds of likes and lots of comments.

But there are two sides to every story – and writing off a whole demographic as easily offended and unwilling to put in the effort is short-sighted.

In fact, many key decision-makers have a very clear idea of the uniquely positive things that Gen Z employees bring to their workplaces.

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Gen Z Workplace Traits That Managers Love

To see the other side of that story, we asked a group of business leaders about the Gen Z workplace traits that the demographic brings to the table. Here some of the key themes that stood out to us from our time speaking to businesses.

1. Gen Z workers always come with fresh ideas

Several key decision makers managing mentioned how vital it was to have young staff members tuned into the latest trends and stories – something Gen Z in their free time yet has automatic, tangible value to millions of businesses.

“By Monday, our Gen Z employees are already well-versed in events that occurred on Sunday,” says Harry Johns White, Marketing Manager at NBABlast. “This trait is incredibly valuable in our fast-paced industry.”

“Their use of social media as a tool for information gathering is noteworthy,” White continued. “They often scoop important news from these platforms, staying ahead of traditional media outlets. There have been numerous occasions where I've wanted to share a news piece from a newspaper, only to find they are already familiar with the story.”

“Having grown up in a digital world, they are able to approach challenges in creative, innovative ways. At Lottery ‘n Go, our Gen Z writers develop ideas for engaging lottery content on emerging platforms that we would never think of” – Liam Wilson, Editor-In-Chief, Lottery n' Go

Being alert to social and technological change in this way leads to more useful, imaginative suggestions on how to do things differently. Kateryna Popova, HR consultant at PRM, told Tech.co. that Gen Z “are not afraid to challenge the status quo and bring innovative ideas to the table”.

Popova went on to say that her Gen Z employees’ refreshing desire to make an impact and find value in their jobs has so far “led to more community-focused initiatives at PRM, such as community-driven events.

“The amount of fresh ideas and perspectives they have is simply mind-blowing to me,” Mateusz Calik, CEO of Delante SEO Agency, agrees. “They are literally [the] driving force behind our company's ability to stay ahead of trends and continuously evolve our strategies.”

2. Gen Z employees approach workplace relationships differently

Other business leaders who spoke to Tech.co said that Gen Z employees they’d worked with contributed to creating a more positive atmosphere in the office.

“Their approach to workplace relationships is notably different,” observes Michał Kierul, CEO of INTechHouse. “We had instances where employees, despite sharing the same office space, interacted minimally, primarily on a need basis. However, within just two months of a Gen Z employee's probation period, there was a noticeable change.”

“They made an effort to know everyone in the office well” he continued. “When asked about this approach, they emphasized the importance of good communication for effective teamwork. They believe that understanding colleagues personally leads to better professional interactions and a more cohesive work environment.”

Jay York, Owner of Grove Brands, also credits Gen Z employees with making the office a more pleasant place to work. “Gen Z are great at making the workplace fun, contributing a lot in the way of humor” he told Tech.co via email. “They are also very community-oriented, always interested in bringing the team together, through outside game nights.”

“I think they are fiercely protective of maintaining a positive space and are not afraid to voice their concerns or frustrations” he added.

3. Gen Z want to improve how things work

We are creatures of habit, and some work processes can quickly become stale and obsolete if their utility is not continuously questioned and assessed. Gen Z, however, are willing to stick their head above the parapet and drive change in the workplace.

“Something I'd like to highlight about Gen Z employees is their straightforward and transparent communication style,” says Kamil Rejent, CEO at Survicate, who has worked extensively with Gen Z employees. “They prefer directness and clarity, which has reduced many misunderstandings for me already”.

“Despite their reputation for impatience, I’ve found that this trait often manifests as a drive for efficiency and a dislike for unnecessary bureaucracy,” Rejent continued. “They are results-oriented people and prefer streamlined processes, which pushes our company to eliminate redundancies and focus on what truly matters.”

“What positively sets Gen Z apart from employees from other generations is a willingness to embrace change and differences, agrees Mathias Ahlgren, CEO & Founder at Website Rating, who also reported that his Gen Z colleagues had a unique “willingness to see things from more than one viewpoint”.

And who knows – that Gen Z drive to improve things might just save you some money. “I had a Gen Z employee approach me about free online platforms that could help with some of our internal processes, and they were right!” recalls Bobby Lawson, technology editor at EarthWeb, who also praised their digital fluency and willingness to troubleshoot technical issues.

4. Gen Z workers are adaptable problem solvers

While Gen Z is often depicted as a generation that gives up when the going gets tough, several business leaders we spoke to reported that in their experience, members of Gen Z have always been eager, resilient problem solvers.

“Gen Z excels in their attitude to problem-solving. They approach problems with an uncommon fusion of imagination and practicality,” Hemponix CEO Sam Romain explains.

“[Gen Z's] innovative thinking and openness to trying new things have revolutionized the way we handle both our internal operations and our product offers” – Sam Romain, Hemponix.

Ryan Carrigan, CEO of MoveBuddha, also appreciates Gen Z’s willingness to think out of the box. Gen Z employees help him to “round out a fuller perspective of our team's capabilities and strategies.”

“There's a unique adaptability and resourcefulness that they bring to the table,” he explained to Tech.co via email, citing the drastic economic and social shifts those in the demographic have lived through already. “I value the way that Gen Z tends to approach collaboration.”

5. Gen Z workers set healthy boundaries for themselves

While Gen Zers' emphasis on not overworking themselves is often portrayed as a weakness – an unwillingness to go “the extra mile” that often leads to longer hours – others see this as one of the demographic’s key strengths.

“[Gen Z’s] ability to prioritize their well-being without compromising on the quality of their work is a lesson in balance that benefits the entire workplace,” says Roksolana Ponomarenko, sustainable development ambassador at PRM.

“It fosters a healthier, more sustainable work environment and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset” she added.

Will Hatton, founder and CEO of the Broke Backpacker, said that he’s most impressed by Gen Z’s ability to “stick up for themselves” and “draw boundaries” where they see fit.

“They aren’t afraid of honesty and will call situations as they see it,” Hatton continued, adding that Gen Z's “confidence, courage, and ability to draw boundaries are three of the best characteristics they bring to [their] workplace.”

Gen Z: Time for a Rethink?

It seems that Gen Z’s workplace reputation might be down to perspectives and management styles, in at least some cases.

It’s plausible that key traits – such as a desire to drive change in the here and now – may come off as impatience to someone who’s been in the same job for 20 years. A Gen Z-age employee's deep-seated motivation to make their workplaces more inclusive, on the other hand – which entails speaking up when they are not – may come across to older colleagues as “easily offended”. These misunderstandings, importantly, are not Gen Z's to apologize for.

In fact, those willing to understand Gen Z’s motivations, appreciate their positives, and recognize that the demographic brings a whole range of great traits to the office, seem to have no problem harnessing them to maximize value for their business.

While the anecdotal evidence presented in this article of course does not void the Resumebuilder survey referenced earlier on in this article, the businesses we spoke to don't seem to be struggling with Gen Z’s level of effort and motivation. Maybe that's just a coincidence – or maybe (not-so-coincidentally) it's because Gen Zers feel they’re valued in those workplaces, and that their output is appreciated.

Of course, lazy and difficult employees have always existed in every industry, and they’ll continue to cause problems for managers and workplace leaders in the future. Gen Z – true digital natives and hungry information consumers who live hectic lives sped up by the internet – are populating the workforce while remaining criminally misunderstood by those who’ve been in the rat race for much, much longer. 

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Written by:
Aaron Drapkin is a Lead Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol five years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs, cybersecurity, and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, Cybernews, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, ProPrivacy, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.
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