How To Overcome The Challenges & Frustrations of Leading Gen Z With Empathy
What’s the deal with Generation Z? Many leaders are talking about how they’re so different from previous generations and how they present many challenges and frustrations in the workplace.
It is no secret that, as leaders, we need to be flexible and adapt our leadership style to this digital generation.
But what does that actually mean? And, more importantly, how can you effectively lead them?
The answer is empathy. Generation Z has been raised in a world of constant change and uncertainty. As a result, they crave stability and compassion. They want to know that you understand them and their challenges and that you’re there to support them.
Rather than being frustrated, I actually feel sorry for them, having grown up their entire lives connected 24/7 to the internet and social media.
Leading Generation Z with empathy doesn’t mean coddling them or giving them everything they want. It means understanding and using compassionate leadership while setting clear expectations and boundaries. It’s about creating a safe space for open communication and collaboration.
While it may be challenging and frustrating, it is possible! No cap.
If you’ve never heard sayings such as no cap, hits different, drip, bet, skrrt, understood the assignment, low key, or simp, chances are you probably don’t relate to or have much in common with Generation Z.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to lead them and achieve great results.
Then Vs. Now
Leadership methods that have worked effectively in the past to achieve great results are suddenly proving ineffective and being challenged by Gen Z.
The old school approach of leadership style to drive fear into employees, which was used from the 1950s even into the early 2000s, is no longer effective.
Generation Z, under 25 years old, has been described as the “digital-first” generation, having grown up with social media and been exposed to it since birth.
As a result, the way they process information and make decisions is very different from previous generations. For this reason, they are often misunderstood and face unique challenges when it comes to leadership.
However, many leaders fail to realise that Generation Z wants to be led. They are craving guidance, support and, most importantly, empathy.
Leading Generation Z with empathy doesn’t mean being their friend or being a pushover. Instead, it means understanding who they are and what motivates them. It also means adapting your leadership style to meet their needs.
Why Empathy In Leadership Is Important
In August 2022, According to Labour Force, Australia, the unemployment rate was at just 3.5%, which decreased by 21.4% compared to a year earlier.
After the ‘Great Resignation’ continued in the US, almost 48 million people quit their jobs in a year, an all-time high. The trend has reached Australian shores, with a ‘quit rate’ of 9.5% in February 2022, the highest in Australia in over a decade.
By June 2022, a staggering 31% of businesses could not find suitable staff in Australia, according to the ABS, with 79% reporting a lack of job applicants.
It has become apparent that now is the time for a new leadership model. One based on empathy and compassion tailored towards engaging Gen Z to rejoin the workforce.
Generation Z and The New Workforce
Having grown up with the internet 24/7, Gen Z has more ways than ever to make income without relying on traditional employment. Such as YouTube, TikTok, live streaming, freelancing, blogging, and the gig economy, with options such as Airtasker, Fiverr, Uber, and DoorDash now providing more than just a side hustle opportunity.
After coming out on the other side of extended lockdowns due to the pandemic, 58% of Gen Z employees now value work-life balance more than a well-paid job. For many in this generation, just like they grew up with the internet always available, their only work experience is remote and flexible working conditions and hours.
With so much empathy and compassion given during Covid, younger employees expect to receive the same understanding throughout their working life. If they don’t receive empathy, they know that the job market allows them to easily switch jobs, with such a strong demand to fill existing vacancies.
It also benefits your company to lead Gen Z employees with compassion and to make them happy. Doing so will increase loyalty and productivity, boosting your company’s bottom line.
Also, as more and more employees reach retirement age, Gen Z employees will be the future leaders of your company. By investing in their development now and leading with empathy, you are setting them up for success in the future while also ensuring a smooth transition as they take on more responsibility.
Why Choose Empathy Over Frustration Towards Generation Z
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. As leaders, we need empathy for our employees, no matter what generation they belong to.
But having empathy for Generation Z allows us to see things from their perspective and understand why they act and react the way they do. Only then can we begin to find ways to lead and manage them effectively.
Some of the challenges Generation Z faces are that they have a shorter attention span than previous generations due to being constantly bombarded with social media and the internet. They are also used to instant gratification, often from social media likes, comments, and followers.
It’s easy to see how these challenges can be frustrating for leaders who are used to leading employees from previous generations. However, with empathy, we can begin to understand Generation Z and find ways to lead them well that will be effective.
“What sets us humans apart from machines is our ability to act with empathy, to feel, to be intuitive, to be compassionate and to act with kindness. “
An expert from First Comes Courage – by Sonia McDonald.
An Ever-Widening Generational Division
The number of Generation Z employees in Australia is steadily on the rise. According to McCrindle Research, Gen Z is the largest generation ever, born between 1995 and 2009. It makes up 20% of Australia’s population and 26% of the Global population. It is estimated that by 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce in Australia.
This generation is the first in human history to have access to the internet 24/7, a connection to everyone in the world, and social media since they were born. As a result, they thrive on equality, sustainability, self-care, and authenticity.
These strong values make a workplace that practices compassion and empathy highly appealing. But on the other hand, Gen Z will often choose to quit a company that goes against their values.
This generation is more likely to respond to a gentler leadership style that is also progressive in their worldview.
However, while the new generation of employees may respond well to empathy and compassion, it may cause many problems and resistance from older generations of employees, including Generation X and Baby Boomers.
This is because they are used to more traditional demanding leadership styles. These generations also notoriously fear change, and even slight changes to the status quo can have them feeling disgruntled.
That is why it is essential to communicate exactly why you are making these changes and how they can benefit employees and the organisation. It is also important to be prepared for resistance and have a plan to deal with it.
Establishing clear communication and giving people the freedom to speak up can help address employee concerns and overcome the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset.
Courageous Thought: Your role as a leader is to create an environment that allows your team to achieve; an environment that is positive, inspiring, purpose-driven and empowering.
Understanding The Unique Characteristics Of Generation Z
If you can understand the characteristics of Gen Z and how they differ from other generations, you will be able to lead them more effectively.
Generation Z is the most educated generation in history, with many attending university or college. They are also the most diverse generation, with up to 49% being from a minority background. In addition, they are the first generation to be raised entirely in the era of social media.
Generation Z is a generation that is full of potential. They are creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial. They are also independent and resourceful global citizens who think beyond nationality. If you can lead them effectively, they will be a huge asset to your organisation.
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey.
11 Tips How To Lead Generation Z Greatly With Compassion And Empathy
Generation Z can be a tough nut to crack. They’re independent, resourceful, and digital savvy. But, they have shorter attention spans and are used to getting instant gratification. But, if you want to lead Generation Z effectively, you must show compassion and empathy.
Here are 11 tips on how to do just that:
1. Acknowledge their unique perspective
Generation Z has grown up in a world vastly different from the one older generations grew up in. They have been exposed to social media and technology very young. As a result, they have a unique perspective. As a leader, you must acknowledge this and try to see things from their point of view.
2. Be patient
As a leader, you must be patient with Gen Z and explain things so they can understand when learning new tasks or concepts. After all, they are used to finding information instantly with a simple Google search.
In addition, breaking instructions into smaller chunks and providing regular breaks will help them retain information better. For example, even LinkedIn Learning online courses are broken down into bite-sized videos between 2-5 minutes long.
3. Encourage open communication
Generation Z is used to communicating through social media and text messages. As a result, they may not be comfortable communicating face-to-face. As a leader, you must encourage open communication and create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you.
4. Use short, concise messages
Gen Z is used to communicating with short one-line messages or even a single emoji. Having them read a long email may be like asking them to read a novel chapter. They likely won’t read it all or will lose focus and skip over the key points.
5. Encourage collaboration
Gen Z are used to working collaboratively with others, whether it’s in person or online. So, when possible, create opportunities for them to work together on projects. This could be in team-building exercises or simply assigning tasks that require more than one person to complete.
6. Keep them engaged
Keeping Gen Z engaged can be a challenge, but it’s essential to try to avoid having them become disengaged with their work. This can lead to a lack of productivity and motivation. Instead, keep them engaged by providing regular feedback, setting small goals, and offering rewards for a well-done job.
7. Be flexible
Being used to a constantly changing world, Generation Z is generally more flexible than older generations. This means they are more likely to be open to new ideas and change. So, when possible, be open to their suggestions and be willing to try new things.
8. Be authentic
Gen Z can see through fake people and fake brands, so it’s essential to be authentic with them. This means being honest, transparent, and genuine. Don’t try to sell them something that you wouldn’t buy yourself.
9. Provide regular feedback
Gen Z thrives on feedback, both positive and negative. They want to know how they are doing and what they can improve on. So provide them with regular feedback, encouraging their creativity in person and in writing. This will help them to stay on track and continue to improve.
10. Set achievable goals and provide support
Setting achievable goals is important because Generation Z needs to know that their efforts lead to something. This could be in the form of a project, a task, or even simply learning a new skill. Whatever the goal is, make sure that it’s achievable and provide support along the way via mentorship, coaching, or simply offering encouragement.
11. Get to the point quickly
Since Gen Z have a shorter attention span, it’s important to get to the point quickly. This means avoiding long-winded explanations and getting straight to the point. It also means being clear and concise in your communication. For example, avoid using jargon or acronyms they may not be familiar with.
The bottom line is that Gen Z is a different generation, and they require a different approach. By understanding their needs and wants, you can lead them effectively and help them to reach their full potential.
Don’ts Of Leading Gen Z
Now that we’ve taken a look at the best ways to lead Gen Z – here are some things that you should always avoid:
● Trying to control them or micromanage their work.
● Being condescending or negative.
● Expecting them to conform to traditional rules and guidelines.
● Ignoring their input or feedback.
● Writing them off as being lazy or entitled.
● Don’t be inflexible.
● Don’t take yourself too seriously.
● Don’t be afraid of change.
Empathy is critical in leadership, no matter what generation you lead. If you can put yourself in your employee’s shoes and see things from their perspective, you will be more successful in your leadership role.
Generation Z can be a difficult group to lead, but if you approach them with empathy and understanding. Be clear and direct in your expectations, set achievable goals and provide support along the way. Use social media and technology to your advantage, and encourage Generation Z to have a voice and be heard.
With patience and understanding, you may find that leading Generation Z is not as difficult as it initially seemed.
Do you want to learn how to develop empathy for Gen Z and lead them greatly? Then, check out our LeadershipHQ’s bespoke and Award Winning development programs, one-on-one group coaching, and targeted workshops to take your leaders to the next level.
When Sonia speaks, everyone in the room feels like she is having a conversation with them as her audience will feel as if they are the only one in the room. She speaks from the heart. She is brave. She wants everyone to be brave. She is an impactful and motivational leadership expert and speaker that creates a life-changing experience. People call Sonia sassy, inspirational, real and a speaker who leaves a lasting impression. Her high-energy, authenticity and humour combined with actionable and practical advice, empowers her audience and provides them with great drive and confidence to take courageous action sand inspire great leadership in all aspects of their lives.
She is also a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.
Through her leadership advisory and coaching work at LeadershipHQ, and founding the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Sonia is internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and culture, organisational development, neuroscience, kindness, and courage.
She is also a full-time single parent and has a passion for women in business and teenage mental health. Sonia travels and speaks across Australia and Globe, and she is on a mission to building a world of great leaders and leadership.