Is Gen-Z difficult to work with?

Research finds that company culture is just as important as fair salary to the UAE’s Gen-Z

By Sam Jabri-Pickett

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Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 7:41 PM

Every generation has a cross to bear. Gen-Z is no different. Recently, I read an article in a publication on how Gen-Z workers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have a reputation of being difficult to work with, that they communicate poorly with older generations and don’t understand traditional corporate jargon. This was based on a LinkedIn poll and the findings actually broke down how “difficult” and “entitled” we are, according to our elders. It’s a different matter that 76 per cent of the respondents also expressed eagerness to learn from the older co-workers. “They always seem to know more,” one respondent said.

There is considerable truth in that claim. I've always found that we lead with curiosity, preferring to learn about a stranger before we make a judgement, and with honest confusion, if we need serious guidance. My first job was in a comic book store, and one of my co-workers was 50 years my senior with grandkids older than me. Yet, we were able to strike a rapport entirely due to our work ethic, which was similar. It helped that he was the first Baby Boomer I'd met who didn't need an explanation on how to convert a word doc to a pdf.

It starts with who we are. Coming after millennials but before Gen-Alpha, Gen-Z is a generation that grew up using social media, not just the Internet, like millennials. We are what social scientists call digital natives.

A financial crash for the parents of many Gen-Z in 2007 and a global pandemic just as the first of us finished university and entered the professional workforce impacted our preparations for this online future. Work moved online or into a screen, where our social lives and recreation already were, and yet, we are the ones deemed ‘difficult’?

According to a research by University of London’s Nisreen Ameen, Gen-Z residing, or who spent their formative years, in the UAE are “more risk-averse, emotionally mature, and involved in political debate”. Qualities that do make a good worker.

Today, even the youngest Gen-Zs find themselves moving back to office after spending their whole lives online. They have missed out on mastering the subtle jargon and social cues of typical office life. They miss the nuances that their older counterparts are adept at understanding. According to LinkedIn's findings, 72 per cent of all professionals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia agree that young people who started careers or jobs during the pandemic need additional support when it comes to developing their soft skills, chiefly a workplace social radar.

Ameen’s research found that company culture is just as important as fair salary to the UAE’s Gen-Z. That is because a Gen-Z worker in a professional setting truly values his or her time. The research states, “Employers in the [UAE] should prove they are worth Gen-Z’s time by providing a tangible vision [of the company’s future] they can implement and evaluate.”

The nature of work has changed and it really is up to managers to ensure a workplace is as generationally diverse as it is racially and culturally diverse. Millennials and boomers have made known their ire for each other, but Gen-Z, and Gen-X, the soon-to-be office elders, have a chance to course correct.

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