I have a fear that Gen Z are the least resilient generation…

03 October 2022

‘I have a fear that Gen Z are the least resilient generation…’[1]

These are the words of Steven Bartlett, the youngest Dragon in the history of Dragon’s Den and host of The Diary Of A CEO podcast. These scathing words come from someone just outside the Gen Z age bracket and echo age-old sentiments of younger generations being ‘softer’ and ill-equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of life.

Is there any truth to Steven’s ‘fear’?

In his words, Gen Z are unable to ‘weather the storm’. But what exactly does this ‘storm’ entail? He cites a ‘high intensity culture where demands might come on a Saturday’ for starters. This comment comes at a time where calls for a four-day week are gaining more traction than ever, with 70 UK companies conducting a 6-month trial earlier this year.[2] Perhaps Steven’s view is simply out of touch, not only with Gen Z, but much of the working population.

Steven is right in saying the ‘world doesn’t stop on Saturdays or Sundays’, but has he considered that less of a work/life balance will only increase the 80% of UK employees who identify this as the largest contributor to burnout? In fact, 1/3 of the 88% of employees who have experienced at least some level of burnout over the last two years, claim to suffer physical and mental exhaustion due to pressures within the workplace.[3] Thus, Gen Z may have the right idea to avoid ‘weathering such storm[s]’ which only lead to breakdown.

It seems Steven expects individuals to sacrifice their personal lives and wellbeing in the pursuit of success. However, Gen Z is unwilling to partake in such ‘hustle culture’[4] – a good work/life balance was the most popular reason they chose to work for their current organization. Beyond Gen Z, there has also been a significant shift towards focusing on workplace wellbeing, as indicated by the rise in happiness officers, and this has not been lost on them.[5]

When this balance is compromised, employers face a retention issue. 46% of Gen Zs currently say they feel burned out due to the intensity and demands of their work environments, and this figure only drops slightly for millennials (45%); and with 1/5 of Gen Z feeling as though their employer doesn’t take burnout seriously or is taking steps to address it, this presents a real risk to companies.

Further, like any generation, Gen Z face a particular set of challenges, with the cost of living, a climate crisis and political instability to name but a few. Not to mention the presence of COVID-19 as they make their first forays into the working world and disrupting the most important years of their education. Steven’s fear that they lack resilience may be appeased by the knowledge that in an attempt to tackle financial anxiety, 43% of Gen Zs have taken on additional jobs to their primary jobs. It is not that Gen Z are unwilling to work or work hard, but that they won’t accept workplace exploitation, as previous generations may have, and are more empowered to set boundaries. Surely these characteristics make for a desirable employee?

Steven uses the TikTok of a young female employee at a Silicon Valley company to evidence his claim that Gen Z lacks resilience. The video fits the ‘corporate-core’ trend on TikTok, where users showcase their plush offices, perks, and large pay cheques. The comment sections are flooded with demands on how to get similar jobs and experiences. However, it’s important to gain perspective and consider the supermarkets, retail stores and healthcare industry which are serviced by a largely Gen Z population.

It’s safe to say most Twitter responses challenged Steven’s suggestions. After all, why should the suffering of older generations justify the same ordeal for younger ones? And why should employees shy away from sharing their negative workplace experiences if it helps better the environment for others? Are these just the fears of an employer who creates unhappy working conditions which drives employees to write these critical ‘long LinkedIn post[s]’?

Ultimately, Gen Z are resilient in their willingness to challenge the traditional and potentially unhealthy notion of acceptable workplace practice. In the face of financial insecurity, Gen Z are carving their way in companies and creating a culture which resists employers who regard their workers as just another number.








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