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Forget the “Gap” – Mind the “Crater!” Part 2 Generation Z – just another group of misunderstood yo

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

We’ve been exploring how experiences, social factors and learning has influenced the attitudes of the 5 generations currently at play in the workplace.

Just as a refresher, and in case you hadn’t read the first 2 articles, here is a quick diagram of when the different generations entered the workplace.

This is important because, as you can see below, each generation has lived through different phases in our global history which affects their view of the world and particularly their view on thing like work ethic, the organisational vs employee relationship and their attitudes towards authority and organisational loyalty.

While we hate to generalise, for the purposes of looking for common ground in the generation space in our previous article, we’d put together some overarching ideas about each generation. There will, of course, ALWAYS be the exception to the rule though.

As a quick summary:


  • The Silent Generation

  • Hard work and experience based promotion

  • Loyal Employees

  • Technologically inept.

Baby Boomers:

  • Workaholics

  • Well educated

  • Use work as an expression of self-actualisation

  • Believe in long hours of hard work for promotion

  • Extreme Technological Immigrants

Generation X:

  • Smallest generation in terms of numbers due to the baby “bust” – following the baby boom.

  • Very well educated

  • Disdain for authority and traditional working hours – work-life balance is important

  • Extremely independent, resourceful and self-sufficient.

  • Partial technology immigrants.

Millenial Generation

  • Make up the largest proportion of the young workforce at the moment.

  • High material reward expectations

  • High acceptance of diversity

  • Different understanding of authority

  • Technology native

For more detailed information on each of the above four generations read our previous articles- The The Stories That Shape The Generations and Forget the gap mind the crater part 1

Generation Z is potentially the generation that could bridge the divide between the

Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Generation X’s and the Milliennial/younger generation and here is why.

Firstly Generation Z is parented by Generation X who, having experienced their Baby Boomer parents absence have made sure that they are more present in their childrens lives.

Interestingly Generation X parenting is often refferd to as “drone” parenting which is different to helicopter parenting in that Generation X’s desire for independence empowers their children to problem solve with their parent acting as a safety net rather than an intervening and interfering force. This has resulted in Generation Z being resourceful and able to tackle challenges.

In addition Generation X parents have taught their children that their destiny and their careers are within the scope of their own control and that only hard work and dedication result in reward. This is a positive move for the workplace as the “everyone should get a trophy” philosophy is not present in Generation Z employees.

Secondly and in addition to the parental influences, Generation Z employees have lived through the Great Recession which began in 2008 and According to Ypulse, 62% of Gen Z’rs don’t remember a time before 2008 and so they are very aware of financial pressures and the need to work hard to make money.

Interestingly a large percentage of Generation Z are determined to own and run their own business at some point in their careers. Part of this desire probably stems from the massive 45% retraction in family income but another part of this desire will also be driven by a mistrust of large corporations.

Regardless of whether Generation Z remain in formal employment or start their own businesses 77% of them expect to work harder than any generation before them.

Another key social factor that is so ingrained in the Generation Z story is technology saturation. “Mobile technology and ubiquitous connectivity have empowered them to have a voice, to streamline and systemize tasks, and to simplify complex problems because to them there has always been..."an app for that."-

Add to that the hyper-connectivity of the Generation Z world and you have a group of people that are not only network aware but also personal brand aware. Spurred by technology and communication improvements, Generation Z are the group that can be coined as the “selfie” generation where image and network prowess are highly valued but in a far more natural and “real” way than the Millennial generation. Because communication and social technology is not “new” to Generation Z’ers they are less likely to abuse it and more likely to use it as a useful documentation tool.

An interesting twist in the Generation Z story is their aversion to debt and thus hesitance to invest in expensive tertiary education which comes with student loan financing. Generation Z are far more interested in experiential knowledge, whether that comes from online experience or workplace experience, and as a result, more and more Generation Z workers are entering the workplace at 18 as opposed to previous generations who only started working at between 21- 30.

The final, and perhaps most promising factor of the Generation Z employees is their complete comfort – and almost boredom – with technology. As a result we can expect to see another leap forward in innovation and invention as the hard working Generation Z turn their attention to problem-solving.

In South Africa, Generation Z were born into a South African society that had already had quite some to adjust to the political and business changes brought about post 1994.

Generation Z are faced with the deep scars Apartheid has left in South Africa in terms of economic inequality, but interestingly, many of them see their future in South Africa, and not, as has been the case with Millennials and even Generation X, in another country.

This could be due to the Great Recession and the obvious flaws in first world country politics and economics.

As a result South African Generation Zers have many problems to overcome, but seem eager to tackle these problems rather than pass the buck.

In our next article we’ll take a look at specific areas of attitude variance and cohesion as we explore sticking points to which all the generations can relate, and in doing so, find a way forward.


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