New generational warfare is brewing at workplaces, and this time it’s between Gen Z employees and their millennial bosses, according to a new New York Times piece titled “The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them.”
In a series of increasingly funny anecdotes, 30- and 40-something founders of companies that sell things like herbal supplements and vibrators rebranded as “sexual wellness” tools confessed that they’re intimidated and bewildered by recent college grads who reportedly call out sick for period cramps or mental health (and why shouldn’t they?), question a standard eight-hour workday (I’m with them), delegate tasks to their CEOs (good, executives could do with some honest labor for once), request shows of political solidarity (okay sure whatever), and no longer use the crying-laughing emoji except ironically (😂😂😂).
If this painting of young people as strange, self-absorbed creatures sounds familiar, that’s because, as the Times story notes, each generation always eventually starts complaining about the one below them — an effect known as “kids these days.” For example, until zoomers became the new kids in the workforce, millennials were still being stereotyped as entitled, lazy job hoppers who would rather “work to live” than “live to work,” per a 2016 Guardian piece.
I’m no Gen Z expert — some might call me a “cusper,” others might just call me “in my late 20s” — but at least half of what’s being regarded as the audacious demands of the youth by the bosses in this piece just sounds like asking for better working conditions. Yeah, we probably should get more days off in this country, and yeah, employers probably shouldn’t require “spending late nights in the office obsessing over customer feedback and sharing Chinese takeout,” like one company founder quoted in this piece expects. Maybe he should normalize getting a life instead.
And so what if some 22-year-olds are lazy? Do we really need more direct-to-consumer crowdfunded CBD tampons created by millennial business school grads and funded by the same Gen X-ers who brought us the first dot-com bubble? I don’t think so. I say let the kids rest.
So what do zoomers have to say about all this? No idea, because it doesn’t appear that the Times talked to anyone below the age of 30, except for one 22-year-old founder of a Gen Z marketing consultancy who acts as a stand-in for his entire generation and whose only insight was that companies should promote Gen Z interns to vice president.
But, as my own (Gen Y) boss pointed out to me, it’s possible that zoomers know better than to talk to the Times for a story like this — which is more than I can say about their millennial ancestors, who seemingly spent the entire last decade giving on-the-record comments about their avocado consumption. We will await Gen Z’s responses on TikTok.