Hiring & Staffing Trends
min read

GenZ Are Treating Employers Badly, It Would Appear They Have Their Reasons

Every generation, as they come of age and take their place in corporate culture, finds they are suddenly labeled in one way or another. It’s unavoidable.
Aron Kressner
Aron Kressner

Aut repudiandae earum fuga dolorum dolorum nisi non. Velit ex accusamus suscipit qui harum iste repudiandae quibusdam.

Gen X was too skeptical and anti-establishment, Millennials were too self-serving in a way that was perceived as disrespectful and entitled. It’s time now for Gen Z to take their lumps. Earlier this week, a report published by jobs site Indeed was featured in a much discussed Fortune article titled, “Gen Z are treating employers like bad dates: 93% ghost interviews and 87% have not even shown up for their first day of work.” 

These figures are staggering, but are they really so outrageous? 

Of course, many of these generational stereotypes were grounded in some broader cultural commons, and were ultimately born out over time, whether these characteristics proved to be predictive or prophetic (of the self-fulfilling variety):

  • Gen X, which started working in the early 1990s as skeptical, was left completely disillusioned by the end of the decade when the tech bubble burst and they found themselves in financial limbo.
  • Millennials, in keeping with their broader generational attributes – the most diverse generation, valuing inclusivity – immediately rejected hierarchical office dynamics in favor of collaborative team settings and transparency. And, as the first digitally native generation, they did often find themselves well beyond more senior colleagues in adopting new digital platforms, tools, communication, and learning methods.

While the story remains unwritten for Gen Z, they came of age in the years following the real estate and financial collapse in 2008; it should not surprise anyone that they steered into purpose, equality and justice as a result. Bearing witness to the Great Recession ​​and student debt burdens, what might ultimately be their defining characteristic is financial caution.

Gen Z prioritizes financial security, competitive salaries, and clearly defined career paths. This is the frame they bring to the workplace, along with a healthy distrust in the enterprise as an institution. And, much like the Millennials who came before them, Gen Z views entrepreneurship as a viable and legitimate alternative to a career in traditional corporate settings. 

The Sociology of Gen Z & Careerism 

Perhaps, more than the psychology of it all, Gen Z is reacting to the environment. Wages are stagnant, inflation has kept a shocking percentage of Gen Z living at home, and a global pandemic sent millions more back to mom and dad’s. Among 18-29 year olds living with family, estimates range from 45% (Harris Poll) to 52% (Pew Research).

Social exchange theory examines how individuals calculate costs and benefits of group membership and interaction. Core principles state:

Individuals weigh costs and benefits, so Gen Z evaluates the rewards and sacrifices they make when engaging with organizations, such as work. They consider factors like salary, benefits, work-life balance, learning opportunities, and alignment with their values.

Insofar, favorable exchanges lead to commitment. If Gen Z feels they receive fair rewards and benefits for their efforts, they are more likely to be committed to the organization. This could translate to higher job satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.

Unfavorable exchanges lead to withdrawal. If Gen Z perceives the organization as not providing fair value, they may withdraw their engagement. This could manifest as decreased effort, job dissatisfaction, or even leaving the organization. Prior to this new data, there was a lot of attention paid to quiet quitting, arguably a more dishonest phenomenon.

The Fortune article also points out that, “Gen Zers are being forced to turn down the roles because they can't foot the bill for the expenses associated with starting a new job, like buying work-appropriate attire and a monthly train ticket.” If an entry-level job offer doesn’t cover these costs adequately, doesn’t the employer own a bigger share of the blame? And given the roller coaster of landing a job offer only to discover that the offer is not actually viable, it’s tough to blame a dejected twenty-five year old with aspirations of making an honest living, no? Especially when you consider this disappointment likely came after a wildly impersonal skills test, a handful of remote interviews, and an unpaid project that may or may not have included a presentation. 

At Worky, we don’t see a lot of this behavior. In part because we vet all talent ahead of time, and in part because we so often provide greater transparency throughout the process. Much of our talent is brought on in more modern contractor terms that provide the type of alternative, asynchronous, and work-from-anywhere arrangements that offers a work-life balance that Millennials and Gen Z value. 

It’s easy to blame young people, and it doesn’t fill the job opening any faster. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Gen Z