Gen Zers walk into the workplace with one foot out the door—slandering them won’t solve the future-of-work conundrum

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Gen Z’s reputation precedes them, as new criticisms of being “lazy” and “difficult to work with” seemingly occur almost daily. Whether analyzed in research or referenced in pop culture moments, there is no doubt the perceived notion that Gen Z “lacks work ethic” is impacting how everyone perceives the youngest members of the workforce.  

The pessimistic opinions surrounding Gen Z’s defining characteristics prove that employers can’t fully shake their antiquated ideas of what work should look like. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that normal no longer exists—or at least in the way it did five years ago. As the most diverse generation in history asserts its influence, many business leaders’ gut reactions are to panic against pressures to once again alter how we work.

The most misunderstood of all generations

Reports of rigid return-to-office mandates continue to dominate headlines, even though this directly contradicts the flexibility that many younger workers crave. However, hanging on to outdated ways of thinking is not in a company’s best interest. Despite their young age, Gen Z already makes up about 20% of the overall workforce and is soon expected to outnumber baby boomers in the U.S. for the first time, which will only increase their influence on the workplace.  

Unfortunately, a handful of leaders do not see Gen Z, or work, this way. While many try to fit their organizations into a mold that is no longer relevant, Gen Zers are taking a stand and using public platforms to share why their ideologies around work shouldn’t construe them as lazy.

To avoid negative reviews around their companies and as a result, hurting hiring and retention, a reframing of what work looks like is needed to usher in the newest generation of workers successfully.

According to Jabra’s Mind the Gap Report, it is not a lack of connection or perceived effort that is tying Gen Z to terms like “quiet quitting” and “lazy girl jobs.” 48% of Gen Z respondents surveyed in Jabra’s research expect to change jobs in the next year. Why would they remain with a company that refuses to meet them halfway, or labels them as lazy, even after multiple rounds of interviews to secure the position?

A struggle to be respected in corporate settings

As a society, we’re still trying to figure out what exactly the future of work looks like. As battles for hybrid flexibility carry on, new career options have also emerged—including streamers, influencers, and serial entrepreneurs—giving Gen Zers new opportunities beyond traditional corporate roles. How can we blame one generation for the flaws of the entire workforce, when leaders’ inability to adapt coincides with the rise of more appealing and flexible job options?

Gen Zers walk into the workplace with one foot out the door because they are being set up to fail. After graduating college and beginning careers at the height of the pandemic, Gen Zers’ ambitions to pave their own way have become perceived as entitlement. This is an unfair perception—and one we must reverse by keeping the defining circumstances of the last few years in mind. 

For example, there’s vocal frustration when Gen Zers push back on work bandwidth, fight for flexibility, or position themselves for a promotion after going just above their job description.

Instead of reflecting on their own procedures and training, company leaders lean into this generational friction and double down on top-down, hierarchical rules. By refusing to acknowledge the unique beginnings of Gen Zers’ careers (remote schooling, work, and a mindset tied to quarantine) expect company growth to stall, and even decline. 

In a society where job possibilities are endless, it shouldn’t come as a shock that there is an appeal in betting on yourself if your values are being ignored. Gen Z is doing everything they’ve been instructed to do their entire lives—get good grades, graduate university, begin a career—and still, they struggle to be respected.

The future of work is Gen Z. Their impact will be profound and far-reaching. Organizations that recognize the misunderstandings around this generation’s reputation will be well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly dynamic landscape, no matter what challenge inspires change next.

Holger Reisinger is Senior Vice President at Jabra’s Enterprise Video Business Unit.

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The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.



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