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Gen Z Enters the Workforce - What Are Their Expectations

July 11, 2018

Today’s youth is too often misunderstood. While there are differences in generations, we tend to assume a great deal about others and stereotype them. Lazy, entitled, self-interested are all terms I have heard used to describe the younger generation. I have listened to discussions about how the younger generation has been coddled and have a strong sense of self-entitlement. However, I find them passionate, searching for meaning in their work, wanting to better themselves and desiring more than work in their lives.

I began to wonder. With all of the misunderstanding between genera­tions and the judgment of our young workforce, what is it like for a young adult entering the workforce? What are their concerns? What do they look forward to? How do they adapt?

So I thought it would be good to dive into the mind of a younger worker. Someone who had started their first real office job and ask them some questions. Luckily for me, I did not have to go far. I interviewed my son, Aris, on what it was like for him when he started working. I wanted to know what worked, what concerns he brought with them. But most importantly I wanted to know how he got past his insecurities and how companies can help new employees along the way. The following is the outcome of our conversation.

INTERVIEW

What was it like to start your first job?

It was a daunting combination of excitement and nerves. You’re excited to be working, contributing, and making your way. However, there is a pressure to keep from screwing up on the first day, ha-ha. You’re thrown into a new space, with new people, and while it’s awesome joining a team, it can also be a bit overwhelming.

Were you open and upfront about feeling overwhelmed or just put your best face forward?

I put my best face forward. It felt like the smarter thing to do at the time. I was worried about appearing less competent than I knew I was. Of course, this approach was completely detrimental and fear-based.

What were you excited about?

I was excited to meet my coworkers and start contributing. I’m a people person, so getting acquainted with the other people in the office sounded great to me. I was looking forward to contributing to the company and the team.

An office can have a lot of different personalities. Did you have

any trouble adjusting to that or the office work environment? Not really. I’m a somewhat social person, and I like getting to know different types of people. Adjusting to different kinds of people wasn’t a huge hurdle for me personally, but I can imagine how it could come across as daunting to other new employees.

What were your concerns?

My nerves didn’t manifest themselves in a single ‘concern.’ It was more of a daunting mass of ‘what ifs’ on the horizon that made me nervous going in. Uncertainty makes me uncomfortable, and there are a lot of unknown factors in any new experience. I also had a strong desire to do well, which in turn opened the door to the fear of disappointing someone on the job.

So you cared about doing well? Tell me more about that. Of course, I cared about doing well. Being new, you feel like you have something to prove. You feel an obligation to pull your weight. Not just so you can ‘keep your job’ but for the approval of everyone else in the office.

How did the anxiety impact you?

I found that I asked fewer questions, even when I genuinely needed clarification on something. I didn’t want to disappoint or appear uninformed, although the questions I needed to ask were reasonable inquiries.

How did not asking questions for clarification impact your ability to get work completed?

I’d take longer than I had to on specific tasks. Instead of asking for clarification on things, I’d figure them out my way through trial and error. It wasn’t efficient.

How did you overcome it?

I had to take a second and realize that I was my own worst enemy. By not asking questions to appear more informed, I was keeping myself from becoming informed. Once I realized how stupid I was being and how my anxiety was becoming a detriment to me, I worked to change my behaviors.

What made you realize you were your own barrier to success?

I can’t say I had a wakeup call moment. Eventually, I just took a breath,

told myself I was being stupid and confronted my anxiety.

What tips would you give someone entering the workforce for

getting past the nervousness or anxiety of the unknown? Communicate. If you don’t communicate, you can’t solve problems or work through your anxieties. Be upfront about questions. You have to remember that nobody there wants you to fail. That wouldn’t be in the best interest of the company.

What can a manager or company do to help people who are entering the workforce?

I’m not sure how to answer this one. I’d say communication is a must. Without it, it’s impossible to identify problems like anxiety in a workplace. Not everybody is going to speak up when they’re nervous. I feel like a comfortable environment where open communication is encouraged would be of great benefit to new employees.

INTERVIEW SUMMARY

This interview got me thinking – odds are your office has people who are anxiety ridden. You will have new folks coming in who will suffer lower productivity, cause unnecessarily high employee turnover and a negative workplace attitude. The scariest part is, you’re likely not even aware of it. That’s because these are the symptoms of an often misrepresented and underappreciated workplace issue. We tend to judge people as we do different generations rather than understand and deal with the cause.

HANDLING WORKPLACE ANXIETY

Anxiety in the workplace is a somewhat familiar office detriment that is consistently undersold. But why? And how do you reduce anxiety in your workplace?

If your employees are suffering from work-related anxiety, stress, or depression, you probably don’t know about it. According to a poll taken by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), less than half of the employees suffering from anxiety will come forward and discuss it with their employer. This silence can stem from a number of reasons. Some employees are worried that their concerns won’t be taken seriously. Others are nervous that it might go in their file or that it could affect the possibility of a future promotion. Regardless of the reason, they are all symptomatic of a self-perpetuating cycle of work-related anxiousness which can only be broken through communication.

So the first step to resolving an anxiety problem is recognizing that there is one, which requires communication between you and your employees. Commu­nication comes more naturally when you are approachable and have a degree of trust between yourself and your employees. Try to make the dialogue a ‘two-way’ event. Make it clear that you can be approached and are willing to accept ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Establishing this trust and conversation will not only reduce anxiety in the workplace but will encourage employees to be more open with you.

The environment also plays an integral role in work-related anxiety. There are several aspects of an employee’s work habits that might contribute to their stress. The modern employee feels an immense pressure to ‘keep up’ by always working harder and faster. This mentality can impose substantial burdens on an employee, which is why it is essential that they take steps to combat environmental stresses. Here are some ideas:

  1. Take a walk.

Preferably outside. This is beneficial for two reasons. The average person spends a majority of their workday sitting at a desk. Our bodies are active by nature and need to be moved from time to time to keep up our mental health. Studies show that as little as ten minutes of exercise can significantly reduce the stress of a workday. Heading outside is even better. Going outside forces an employee to take a deep breath, step away from work, and decompress.

  1. Change it up.

Routines can be great things. Structure helps people stay organized and efficient. However, the monotony of getting stuck in a daily routine or rut can eventually help contribute to workplace stress, which will lower productivity. It can be very beneficial for an individual to change things up once in a while. Whether this comes in the form of redecorating or trying a new place for lunch, it is clear that breaking monotony is good for morale.

  1. Remember to rest.

Working late may seem like a good and efficient idea in the moment, but it can have some serious long-term effects. The less an individual sleeps, the more likely they are to experience stress and anxiety the next day. This can turn into a self-perpetuating cycle, as this anxiety can then affect an individual’s sleep the next night and so on. It is essential that employees don’t overwork themselves. One of the most basic and crucial founda­tions for mental health in the workplace is getting good sleep.

Anxiety can have some grave, adverse effects in an office environment. New employees, especially young individuals right out of college need to know that they can trust their managers. To reduce anxiety from the get-go, it is important as a manager or supervisor to be approachable and to establish an open line of communication. Secondarily, environment plays a critical role in employee mental health. Be sure to encourage a healthy work environment to keep up morale and productivity. Little changes here and there can greatly improve the vibes in your office and can help make going to work a much better experience for yourself and your employees.