Gen Z and Millennial Productivity Crushed by Bosses Who Don’t Understand Them

Frustrated younger worker at her desk

Gen Z and Millennial Productivity Crushed by Bosses Who Don’t Understand Them

Frustrated younger worker at her desk


This is the latest headline from Yahoo News and Fortune, with an article that shows self-reported survey data on low productivity. And it’s just these types of headlines that are fueling the intergenerational problems in the workplace.

Let’s start with the quote and where it’s from. Here’s the data from the Yahoo article link above:  

The survey of nearly 1,500 U.K. and U.S. office workers found that a quarter of employees self-reported low productivity in the workplace. More than a third of Gen Z employees reported low productivity, while 30% of millennials described themselves as unproductive.  

What was the reason these workers gave for not being productive? Was it the ages of their bosses? No. Here’s why these workers felt less productive:

Millennial and Gen Z workers thought their abilities in active listening, time management, and judgment and decision-making needed to be honed to improve their productivity. A key obstacle, though, appears to be getting that point across to their older managers

So let’s break this down: these younger employees say that they know what they need, but their managers (who the article states “are typically 12 years older”) are not providing it. The article concludes that the age gap is the issue.

I would argue it is not the issue.

First and foremost, I find it interesting that these employees seem to know what the problem is, which is a lack of skills in:

    • Active listening
    • Time Management
    • Judgement and Decision-Making

None of these are easy skills. For example, what is “active listening?” Active listening is the act of “paying full attention to what someone is saying in order to demonstrate unconditional acceptance and unbiased reflection.” Another way of saying this is listening to someone and reflecting back what they said, so they feel heard and understood.

Many people don’t have this skill, and I’m betting that many of these bosses – one level above these Gen Z and Millennial employees – have challenges with this skill, as well as the other skills listed here.

The next point in my argument is that very few managers are trained on how to manage people, once they’ve been promoted to managing a team. Managing a team needs skills that include not only active listening and time management, but many other skills that are people-focused rather than task-focused.

What I’m proposing as possible explanations for these younger workers not getting what they say they need from bosses are:

  • the managers themselves don’t have these skills, and don’t see the value in them
  • the managers don’t know how to teach these skills
  • the managers don’t know where to send their teams to learn these valuable skills

I believe any of these three explanations are more valid than blaming the issue on the fact that the managers are older, or in a different age group.

And it’s these types of conclusions, or assumptions, that are fueling the age-bashing that’s going on in the workplace.

If younger workers are being crushed by their bosses, who don’t provide the valuable resources or teach the important skills that these workers need to be successful, that’s more than a generational issue. It’s a management issue. Clearly, these bosses aren’t doing their jobs correctly (no matter what age they are).

Let’s take a pause and look at what’s causing the issues for younger workers.  We need to stop blaming/age-bashing, and start problem-solving instead, so we can make some progress solving the problems that face younger employees in the workplace.

If you’d like to ensure that you’re providing the right resources and training to your younger employees, contact me and let’s talk.



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