The Future of the Workforce: Are Gen Z Easy Quitters?
Contributors: Vanessa Bravo & Erin Bohling
15 March 2022
For the past decade, there has been heated debate surrounding the fairly recent trend of participation awards in adolescent sports and whether or not this trend will have an impact on this generation long-term. Some say that giving an award to everyone, win or lose, allows children to feel included, accomplished for their efforts, and have more fun in their extracurricular activities. Others say that if children never experience loss or failure, they will have difficulty persevering through difficulties and failures and be less resilient when they begin to enter adulthood.
Additionally, research shows that ever-advancing technology and access to this technology from a young age has a significant impact on young people’s attention spans. This is evident when looking at the popularity of the short form media, specifically the TikTok app, among this group. This type of media satiates the need for instant gratification that a group with such short attention spans crave. In fact, a Microsoft study conducted in 2015 found that the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to just 8 seconds since 2000 (Torossian, Tongwaranan). If any form of media fails to grasp the attention of an audience within those few seconds, it will be ignored. Many wonder how this effect will impact society as a whole.
The consequences of an entire generation receiving too much praise and technology not only affects their personal lives, but it will continue to impact their professional lives as well. Now, as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, these issues are coming to fruition. With this group quickly emerging into adulthood, we are beginning to see the effects of the circumstances they grew up in. In a time where people, especially younger folks, seem to be quitting their jobs with more ease and frequency than ever, the question arises: Why are Gen Z easy quitters? Is too much coddling and technology to blame? The truth is that there isn’t really one clear answer. It is likely that these are just a couple of many contributing factors to this phenomenon, with COVID-19 and the rising cost of living leading the list. A recent study conducted by Adobe showed that out of 5,500 employees, 56% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 were planning on switching jobs within the next year (Wingard). And it’s not just about a lack of resilience or short attention span, the pandemic has changed the way people think about work. People in this group value meaning and purpose in their work more than ever and the labor shortage caused by COVID-19 means that there is often more benefit in leaving a job than staying.
The positive to this is that Gen Z are showing where their values lay and demanding better working conditions. They are a group that have shown that they can find their passions easily and are highly motivated by them in the workplace. There is something very powerful about this generation standing up for themselves and their values and not tolerating mistreatment with the same threshold as generations before them. It shows positive movement towards healthy work life balances and values of mental health. It is admirable that young people are collectively working to change societal standards to be healthier and more understanding.
The downfall to this is that Gen Z are not building the same discipline and resilience. There is a lot to learn in persevering through challenges in the long term, so the fear is that this generation is missing out on those lessons. Hard work and difficult experiences are what build character and make a person grow to become better. With Gen Z on track to be the largest generation consumers worldwide, this concern is valid (Tongwaranan). Business is all about patience. Having long-term goals and working towards them is a crucial part of being professionally successful. How is society going to continue to be productive long term if the working class of the future no longer thinks this way? While it may be difficult to think about, this mentality is neither better, nor worse than that of older generations. It is just different. It is new. The unfamiliar is often uncomfortable. The pattern of older generations disapproving of a younger generation’s mentality is not new, however. Parallels of these criticisms can be seen throughout history time and time again (Ruggeri). This change is a product of its time. In a world filled with so much uncertainty, people are less inclined to keep commitments that do not align with their values.
The way that younger generations are approaching work is certainly different than many generations before them. The environment that a group of people is raised in has a ripple effect on the way that they behave, the things that they value, and how they will think and act as adults. We have seen it with generations before and we will see it in the generations to come. It can be scary to think that the future of the workforce are easy quitters. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this pattern, however, and it is clear that it is reflective of the times that this group was raised in. For a group that was raised with an “everyone wins” mentality, an overload of technology, and a global pandemic, quitting is an easy option. Whether or not this is a positive change, only time will tell.
Ruggeri, Amanda. “People Have Always Whinged about Young Adults. Here's Proof.” BBC Worklife, BBC, 2 Oct. 2017, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20171003-proof-that-people-have-always-complained-about-young-adults.
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Tongwaranan, Tanyatorn. “The Power of 8 Seconds.” Https://Www.bangkokpost.com, 12 Aug. 2019, https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1728799/the-power-of-8-seconds.
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