1. Home
  2. Careers
  3. news
  4. I'm a millennial who manages Gen Zs. Here are 4 things my youngest employees have taught me.

I'm a millennial who manages Gen Zs. Here are 4 things my youngest employees have taught me.

Ella Hopkins   

I'm a millennial who manages Gen Zs. Here are 4 things my youngest employees have taught me.
  • Hannah Tooker, a senior vice president at a marketing agency, has been a manager for six years.
  • She told Business Insider she found managing Gen Z employees different from her fellow millennials.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Tooker, a 32-year-old senior vice president of customer engagement at LaneTerralever, a marketing agency based in Phoenix. It's been edited for length and clarity.

There are many things I love about managing Gen Z. They're creative, and they're fearless.

I work at a full-service marketing agency. I lead a handful of teams here, mostly responsible for content, user experience, and quality assurance.

I've been a manager for six years, and I manage seven people. I like helping people grow and figure out their next steps. It's my favorite part of the job.

Working with Gen Z is different from managing millennials

I've been managing Gen Z workers for about three years. This new generation approaches work in interesting ways compared with millennials.

Some people complain that they're hard to work with, but having high expectations and wanting work-life balance and an employer who cares isn't a bad thing.

When people get stuck on the challenging aspects of working with Gen Z, they miss out on all the positives.

If I ask a Gen Z team member to do something they don't know about, they'll go away, watch a YouTube video, and work it out.

I like teaching my Gen Z team members but also learning from them. Here's what they've taught me:

1) Communication can take many forms

Before I started managing Gen Z, I mainly used traditional channels to communicate with my colleagues, such as email.

My Gen Z co-workers didn't like using those channels and preferred to message me on social media. This is partly because of the nature of our work — we use social media a lot. But also, they like to communicate on the platforms from which they find inspiration.

They'll exchange direct messages with me on TikTok and Instagram about ideas they think clients might be interested in.

It was an adjustment to get the right balance between work and socializing when communicating on social media. I figured if it worked for them, I wasn't going to shame them. It might've been a way of working I wasn't used to, but it's still work. I've got used to it now, and it works well for us.

2) It's better to ask for clarification

Gen Z isn't shy about asking for clarity. I appreciate that.

When I gave one of my Gen Z team members feedback, they said: "I appreciated the feedback you gave me. Could you show me what you meant or sit with me and walk me through it?" It lets me know they need more help understanding something.

Often, I review work by making changes to it myself. One of my team members asked me to show them what I would do differently by "marking up" the document. That way, they could refer to it moving forward.

Older workers might never ask for that. We'd just take the feedback and run with it. I like that Gen Z wants to get to the root of a problem.

3) Team members' emotional needs are important

Gen Z needs a little more reassurance than other generations.

For example, I often send notes to team members if I need to discuss something with them. A typical note might say: "Got a second to chat?" My Gen Z team members said that made them panic.

I altered the way I approached them to account for that. Now I'll say: "Got a second to chat? Good thing!" or "Got a second to chat, question about XYZ client." That works better.

I've noticed that because this is the first professional role for many Gen Z employees, they can bring their personal life into the workplace more than previous generations did. When this happens, I've learned to help them take a pause, work through what's going on, and proceed with their work. It's taxing at times, but it's worth it.

I've learned how to balance someone's emotional needs with the needs of a business.

4) Good work-life balance is more sustainable

I graduated from college and started work after the 2008 recession. I had great managers, but there was a strong hustle culture and a need to be "on constantly."

Burnout was a badge of honor for the first half of my career.

Since entering the workforce, Gen Z has said, "That's not for me." They want a better work-life balance. I hear my Gen Z colleagues talk about what they're doing after work or how they're taking a day off to do nothing. At first, I found it challenging to grasp that their life came first and work came second.

It's made me reevaluate how I balance work and life. I used to work in the evenings for several hours, but I don't do that anymore. I also take breaks during the day.

I've realized that burnout doesn't benefit anyone down the line. If someone on my team hasn't had any paid time off days in their calendar for three months, I'll ensure they take one. I want to be a good example for them.

Managing Gen Z has changed me

If you do the work as a manager to figure out how to work with Gen Z and how to help them become successful, you're going to get smart, passionate young people who want to do a good job.

There'll always be people who want to stick to the old style of management and work culture.

But as the world changes and new generations enter the workplace, we have to change too.

Popular Right Now