Most Gen Z lack this workplace skill — and it could cost them a job: poll

Most Gen Z lack this workplace skill — and it could cost them a job: poll

When it comes to office water cooler talk, Gen Z is running dry.

A majority of Gen Z said they have no idea what to talk about with their coworkers, according to a Harris Poll compiled for Fortune. 

The poll of 1,000 workers of all ages discovered 65% of Gen Z were speechless around their coworkers, while only a quarter of their older coworkers reported the same social anxiety.

One reason for the discourse disparity could be that Gen Z and their boomer coworkers lack commonalities, such as having pets and children, or owning a car and home. Not completely conversation-averse, 75% of Gen Zers said they may be more inclined to chat with senior staffers if they initiate the conversation first.

Unfortunately, their lack of social skills might be costing tongue-tied zoomers a job, promotion or a raise — as the poll also found that most people believe those who make an effort to connect with older employees and upper management are more likely to get ahead.

Experts have previously suggested that pandemic isolation may have hindered young adults’ social development and their confidence in doing basic tasks, such as speaking up in meetings.

A December 2023 study from New Jersey-based group Intelligent found that 39% of hiring managers favored older candidates due to Gen Z’s trouble picking up professional cues.

David Meads, the UK and Ireland CEO of the company Cisco, can attest. Meads recently told Fortune he’s requiring younger employees to come to the office three days a week, though he isn’t demanding the same from older colleagues.

“That’s not something we’re having to beat people up to do. In the vast majority of cases, people are wanting to do that anyway because they recognize the professional experience, learning, and social aspect of that,” Meads claimed.

Then there are those older employees who’d rather limit their face time with the younger generation. Actress Jodie Foster recently called Gen Z “really annoying” in an interview with The Guardian.

Said Foster, “They’re like: ‘Nah, I’m not feeling it today, I’m gonna come in at 10:30 am.’ Or in emails, I’ll tell them: ‘This is all grammatically incorrect, did you not check your spelling?’ And they’re like: ‘Why would I do that, isn’t that kind of limiting?’”

Not to be overlooked, there is one thing Gen Z is good at: getting attention.

Several Gen Z workers on social media have talked about being a “personality hire,” someone known for lighting up the office with their charm instead of their work ethic.

TikToker and corporate America employee Bella Rose Mortel, a 22-year-old self-proclaimed “chief vibes officer,” said her employers love her because of her “energy” — allegedly owed to her quirky manner of speaking.

“Whenever you do it enough, they’ll start saying it back to you — and that’s how you know you’ve won,” she declared, “and you’ve brought the vibes to the workplace.”