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What Does Gen Z Think of Management? We Asked 100 People to Find Out

04 April
by Josh Hrala
7 minute read

Right now, you can't browse the internet for more than two seconds without seeing something about the Millennial generation. And, while this makes a lot of sense because Millennials are starting to take over the labor market more and more every day, they all pretty much say the same thing: Millennials are changing industry.

But what about Gen Z, the generation following Millennials? These individuals are starting to make waves already even though many of them are still in college or even high school (generations can be a hard thing to nail down date wise).

It stands to reason that Gen Z will shake things up just as much as Millennials have. However, Millennials have typically shook up Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Gen Z will compete directly with Millennials, especially when it comes to early management positions.

For example, a Gen Z member entering the workforce this week will likely be managed by a mid-level manager, a position that is likely held by a Millennial. Despite this clear fact, little research has been done on how Gen Z wants to be managed. If we've learned anything from Millennials, we - as business leaders - need to meet employees where they want to be met in order to have a great working relationship.

So, to get to the bottom of this strange issue, we asked 100 Gen Zers how they felt about their managers and what they would change about them if they could.

Let's take a look at what we found.

Do You Have a Good Manager?

To get the ball rolling, we asked our survey participants if they felt that they have (or had) a good manager. Surprisingly, most respondents said that they do. In fact, 80 percent answered that they have a good manager and 86 percent said that they receive enough support at their job. (Remember that last stat because it's going to get a little confusing in a bit.)

Here are the results:

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And here is how Gen Zers feel they are supported:

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So, to a member of Gen Z, what makes a good manager in the first place? What should we take away from this data? Sure, they all - for the most part - feel like their managers are doing okay, but what does that mean?

To find out, we asked them to think about their best manager ever and then pick their top three characteristics. Here's what they said:

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There are a lot of competing characteristics here. For example, honest, organized, and understanding were all chosen by 42 percent of respondents. However, the far and away best trait is how easy it is to work with the manager.

This makes a lot of sense because all of the three runner-up characteristics feed directly into how easy it is to work with a manager.

These responses also show an interesting outcome: Gen Z doesn't care about age at all. Respondents don't seem to mind working with people their own age or with those that are a lot older. This insight is kind of jarring because it's so easy to find articles online about how younger generations (previously Millennials but now Gen Zers) fail to work well with older workers. As a Millennial, I've never found this to be true, and I'm glad that Gen Z feels the same way. Maybe it's the older generations who perceive this, which is understandable. After all, when you enter the workforce for the first time, you should expect to work with more tenured managers - that's just how it works.

After all of this, we have a pretty good understanding of what Gen Z wants in a manager. They want someone who makes the job easy. Someone who is understanding, honest, and organized. In short, it seems like Gen Z wants their management to simply be good people who care and help each other.

We've also learned that 80 percent of our respondents like their managers and think they are good at their job. So, why do so many of them want to leave?

56 Percent of Gen Z Workers Are Interested in a New Role

Despite all of the good things our respondents have said in our survey, 56 percent of them are interested in finding a new job.

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Why?

Well, there are likely many reasons. One being that the respondents of our study are young (18-29, though it must be noted that most of them are on the lower side of that range). This idea is backed up by the fact that 31 percent of them report earning under $10,000, suggesting that they do mostly part-time work or are full-time students.

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All of this points to a single fact: most Gen Zers are just entering the workforce or haven't fully entered at all yet. The jobs they work are likely part-time at a mall or on campus where they earn very little. With that said, it makes complete sense that most of them want to find a new job even if they tend to like their managers.

If you are an entry level worker, you will most definitely want to move up into a different role as soon as possible. This is likely what we are finding inside our survey.

So, even if Gen Zers are wanting to leave their jobs for other reasons, what would they change about their managers if they could?

Tips Straight From Gen Z

To find out, we asked participants to tell us in a few sentences what they would like to change about their managers to improve their employee experience.

And the results were not surprising based on their previous answers. Here are a few select responses:

  • "Be more understanding and less focused on the fact there the manager."
  • "They could be open about expectations and be real. Show us that they mess up too and that it's okay."
  • "I wish my managers would be more understanding. I also wish they would keep things organized."
  • "I want a manager who cares about my well-being and understands that things happen so is easy to work with."
  • "To be more understandable and flexible hours with the workers."
  • "Managers must be able to become strict when it is necessary and must be well organized and understand their job. However, they must also be able to build relationships with those working under them."

By far, the most asked for change was that managers are more understanding, especially when it came to scheduling and things of that nature. Again, this is likely because most of the jobs worked by our respondents are ones that require strict time management (clocking in and out regularly).

This rigid type of environment where you are docked pay because your bus was a little late is stressful for everyone who goes through it. Gen Z just so happens to be in that stage of their careers right now.

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In other words, I don't think that wanting your supervisor to be more understanding and organized is something that only Gen Z wants. It's what all of us want. We don't want to be treated like children.

Moving on to the next most asked for change, Gen Z respondents really would like managers to answer text messages more. Now, finally, we have something that could hint at a generational issue.

There was a mix of respondents asking for clearer communication, easier ways to alert their manager that they might be late, and things of that nature. Then, there were a ton of responses saying that they want their manager to answer texts, too. I believe these go hand-in-hand.

Gen Z, very much like Millennials, are on their phones a lot. They grew up with phones. They're very capable of using their phones. A text message, to them, is not some informal way of communicating.

This means that if they want to communicate through texts, managers should be open to that. This also extends to after hours, too. For example, if someone cannot make their shift the next day, a text in the evening should suffice. It's not like they pulled a 'no call, no show.'

Out of all of the responses, I think this is the biggest and easiest takeaway for managers: communicate the way your employees want communicated with.

What's strange, though, is that this has already shifted in the modern workforce outside of retail or hourly employment. For example, most teams that work in offices use Slack to message each other at all times of the day (and even night if there's a need). Slack isn't viewed as some lesser form of communication and, in reality, is a text message platform.

So, following that logic, Gen Z will likely adapt really well to a more corporate environment (especially a startup venture) where communication is handled in a more nuanced way the extends to texts, emails, and Slack.

Gen Z and Management: A Summary

Through our survey, we were able to understand a bit more about Gen Z, though most of the data suggests that a lot of the things Gen Z doesn't like about managers is that they aren't adapting to how they want to communicate.

This issue is then exacerbated because managers that do not adapt make their employees feel like they are not understood, giving the workplace an overly serious and stressful vibe that doesn't mesh well with any generation.

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We also learned that most Gen Zers are generally happy with their managers despite these shortcomings. They also want to find new jobs at the same time, which is likely because they are working entry level roles, hourly jobs, or ones on their campus. In fact, some haven't entered the workforce at all yet. Many of the responses reflect this because, as anyone who has worked retail before can tell you, these jobs pay little and are generally super rule-driven (strict clocking out policies, strict call off policies, and things like that).

As Gen Z moves up in the workforce, they will adapt as long as managers adapt, too. Just a few years ago, email ruled the world and phone calls were all the rage. Those days are over for most forward-thinking organizations who use Slack and other internet-based tools to communicate. Gen Z, by all accounts, should thrive in this landscape.

At the end of the day, though, Gen Zers want a very simple thing: for their manager to be a good human being who is understanding, flexible, honest, and organized. These are not tall orders - nor are they out of the norm. We all want our managers to be this way, and that should make managers who are a bit hesitant about the oncoming wave of Gen Z workers feel a lot better.

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