- Gen Z has entered the labor force, reshaping norms and expectations along the way.
- Through a “slow-up” they’re slowing down productivity and demanding better work-life balance.
- They’re also powering a “Great Reshuffle,” refusing to settle for jobs they don’t like and job-hopping until they’re happy.
“I’m so tired that I might/Quit my job, start a new life.”
So says Gen Z crooner and pop star extraordinaire Olivia Rodrigo in her hit “Brutal.” The song, presciently released in May, foreshadowed the millions of Americans who quit their jobs in record numbers for months on end.
Rodrigo’s demographic – and core audience – has been at the forefront of that trend: Many Gen Zers are ready to work, but it has to be on their terms.
As such, they’re asserting new norms in the workplace, and eschewing the ones implemented by millennials before them. In a New York Times article that went viral last week, researcher Emma Goldberg explored how millennials are “afraid” of Gen Z workers who are eliciting a new, bold confidence in workplace demands for a better work-life-balance.
Young 20-somethings are delegating to their boss, asking for mental health days, working less once they’ve accomplished their tasks for the day, and setting their own hours, Goldberg wrote. It’s a sharp contrast from the overworked, structured days that work-obsessed millennials are accustomed to.
It’s part of what Erika Rodriguez called a “slow-up” in a recent opinion piece for the Guardian, referring to a permanent shift in slowing down productivity with the aim of having more separation from work. This could be taking unofficial breaks or responding to emails only on select weekdays, and it sounds a lot like those Gen Zers who scare their millennial bosses so much.
Gen Z has been through a lot at a young age
Because younger generations aren’t typically tied down, they have always the flexibility to quit their crappy jobs if their needs aren’t met, but Gen Z is taking this to an extreme after the pandemic.
In August, a study by Personal Capital and The Harris Poll found that two-thirds of Americans surveyed were keen to switch jobs. A whopping 91% of Gen Zers felt that way, more than any other generation.
This likely has a lot to do with the events of the last year-and-a-half. Experiencing an unprecedented moment like a pandemic, where you come into contact with death and illness, makes you ask existential questions, according to organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz, who coined the term “Great Resignation.” He previously told Insider that these moments can lead to life pivots.
“Especially in the United States, who we are as an employee and as a worker is very central to who we are as people,” Klotz said. The pandemic necessitating a removal from the office let people try out “other elements of life.”
For Gen Z – many of whom have now graduated into a pandemic-world – those “other elements of life” have been their status quo in the workforce. They jumped from more traditional paths to a world thrown into virtual schooling, a crumbling economy, and an unsure future.
LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said in a recent interview with Time that younger workers are leading the way in a “Great Reshuffle,” rather than the so-called Great Resignation. He said his team tracked the percentage of LinkedIn members who changed the jobs listed in their profile and found that job transitions have increased by 54% year-over-year. Gen Z’s job transitions have increased by 80% during that time frame, he said.
“You have employees globally who are rethinking, not just how they work, but why they work and what they most want to do with their careers and lives,” he said. “And while this reshuffle of talent will most likely play out for another year or two, I believe it will ultimately settle back down.”
There are merits to job-hopping for Gen Z in that it motivates them to look for more opportunities and teaches about what they want in a job, Hannes Schwandt, the assistant professor at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy and author of the Stanford research, previously told Insider. “In the end, a more flexible work-life gives you a broader horizon,” he said.
Gen Z also isn’t shy about spreading the news that they quit, lauding departures from toxic roles in the same way that a new job used to be celebrated. For HuffPost, Monica Torres documented the trend of TikTok quitters: The people who are posting themselves quitting.
“If more people did it, more corporations would pay attention to everything that goes on behind closed doors that they don’t normally pay attention to,” Shana Blackwell, a then-19-year-old who posted a video of her quitting her job at Walmart, told HuffPost. Even in their departures, Gen Z is reshaping the workplace.
It seems, then, that Gen Z, in its determination to slow up and reshuffle, has the upper hand. And they know it.