How to Update Your Management Style for Gen Z Workers

BY Kathy Crosett
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They’re ambitious, highly educated and want to participate as individual contributors at work. Does this description sound familiar? Several decades ago, members of the Silent Generation cast a wary eye as baby boomers entered the workforce. Now, we’re doing the same thing as Generation Z employees start showing up for work. A new analysis in a management column on Knowledge@Wharton explains what leaders should be doing to accommodate these new workers.

Some analysts say there’s nothing new about members of Generation Z. They’re young, they have a lot to learn, and ultimately, they’ll be good contributors. That’s true. But, Gen Z workers do bring unique qualities to the table. The sooner you coach to these qualities, the better the outcome will be.


The modern U.S. workforce continues to grow more diverse. As Gen Z employees report for duty, they’ll expand the number of Hispanic, Black and Asian workers. Along with cultural differences, they'll also bring new religious and social identities into the office. 

If you want these workers to feel welcome in and become loyal to your organization, take action. Do you need to educate older workers about long-​standing attitudes that are no longer acceptable in the office? Have you taken a stand on a social issue that your Gen Z workers can identify with?

Education and Work Experience

These folks have spent a lot of time in school. Over 59% of Gen Z consumers entered college, which is an all-​time high. Their dedication to education also means they’ve had less experience working at either a full or part-​time job. Only 19% of teens under age 18 worked last year.

What does this trend mean for managers? Other generations entered the workforce with some concept of organizational hierarchy. Gen Z workers may need managers to spend extra time explaining how the organization works. You may also need to demonstrate how a boss or supervisor is different than a parent.

The Influence of Technology

We all realize that Gen Z workers are digital natives. The unique experience they’ve had has also been framed by social media. For them, an exchange on social media is as good as an exchange in real life. 

That attitude won’t always led Gen Z employees to success in the workplace. Managers will need to coach some of these workers on the importance of personal interaction. Help them learn when it’s best to stroll down the hall and talk to a co-​worker face-to-face.

It’s easy to criticize younger employees for not having loyalty to an organization. After all, Gen Z workers, according to a recent Deloitte study, say they’ll change employers even more quickly than millennials. On the other hand, these employees might just hang around if you give them good reason to do so. As a manager, you should be giving them the ground rules of your workplace, providing regular feedback on how they're doing and getting to know them as people. 

Remember: They have the same hopes and fears as you did when you first entered the workforce.