Millennials vs. Generation Z in the Workplace

Just when the workplace was getting accustomed to millennial employees, along comes a new generation of workers: Generation Z. Those who are not part of either generation may lump them together, seeing them as tech savvy but low on interpersonal skills.

Students using tablets with social media interface icons in a modern school hallway.

But, is this a correct view of either group? There are distinct differences between these two groups. Let’s start out by looking at the characteristics that define each generation.


Millennials, who account for about a quarter of the world’s population, have gotten the lion’s share of publicity over the past 15 years as they entered the workforce and created changes to the workplace. Although there are different parameters for the generation, most agree it encompasses those born between 1982 and 1995.

One of the characteristics that distinguishes them is an attachment to their parents, who may have been guilty of helicopter behavior as their kids grew up. Millennials also champion work-life balance and flexibility in a job; teamwork and diversity; and using social media to communicate.

In the workplace, common traits millennial workers possess are:

  1. Technological expertise, including social media.
  2. Need for consistent praise and feedback.
  3. Dislike of authority figures and authoritarian work environments.
  4. Strong problem-solving skills through technology.
  5. Independent thinkers who also enjoy working collaboratively.
  6. Inclined to prefer immediate results to long-term outcomes.

Millennials are now taking over management positions as 83 percent of workers have seen millennials managing over older generations. But, how will their work style mesh with Generation Z?

Generation Z

Generation Z is loosely defined as those born in 1995 or later. They are on pace to pass millennials as the largest generation next year. Unlike their millennial counterparts, Generation Z did not grow up being coached by optimistic Baby Boomer parents, but by Generation X parents who weathered a recession and a downturn in their net worth.

Because of Generation Z’s high exposure to technology, including app usage, they may exhibit lower attention spans than millennials. That said, they may also be better at being able to quickly shift between tasks than millennials.

Generation Z likes to get started early in the workforce, opting to forego the college route taken by many millennials. Deep Patel, Gen Z marketing strategist, says this generation is more entrepreneurial, and 72 percent of these teens say they want to start a business someday. This entrepreneurial spirit will be an added bonus for future organizations.

Traits Millennials and Generation Z Share

There are differences between millennials and Gen Z workers, but there are also areas of similarity.  Both generations don’t expect to stay in a job for more than three years. They want to build their own personal brand they can take with them into other jobs or entrepreneurial endeavors. They are skeptical of big business after living through the recession of the early 2000s and watching their parents lose jobs after years of company loyalty.

Millennial and Generation Z commonalities  include: 

  1. Realistic about their future, expecting to work harder than previous generations.
  2. Independent and competitive, wanting to work on their own in their own workspace.
  3. Place a high premium on being connected through Wi-Fi and possess a high comfort level with technology of all types, especially apps and mobile technology.
  4. Less inclined to reveal private information on social media.
  5. Prefer face-to-face interactions at work and role-hopping vs. job-hopping.
  6. Place less value on college education and more on in-demand education.
  7. Feel more connected with global peers than with adults in their own countries.

What both millennials and Gen Z workers want from a job is to advance, receive mentoring, and to have a job that has a positive impact on the world. With both generations working together, the future will be an interesting evolution of how we do business in the world.

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