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Engage with Empathy: 3 Ways Managers Can Connect with Gen Z - From a Gen Zer

Today's post is from Amy Lupica, an intern at Kronos. In this post, Amy reflects on our recent Gen Z research and discusses why managers need to engage with empathy to help young employees thrive at work.

Each day, workers experience complex and often frustrating challenges that simply cannot be avoided. No one is spared: From retail to manufacturing to the corporate world, employees face stubborn stakeholders, customers, and bosses, deal with nonoptimal working conditions, and struggle with work-life imbalance. It can be easy to shrug these experiences off as “part of the job” or things to just “put up with,” but these aspects of work can take a mental and emotional toll that might not be obvious at first glance.

As a member of Gen Z - the latest generation to enter the workforce - it's clear that workplace dynamics are changing. With the rise of technology, the always-on nature of social media, and the heightened conversation around mental wellness, Gen Z is facing a lot of new hurdles upon entering the workforce. While we can't control every stressor, we can make sure we're building strong partnerships between employees and managers to help navigate these uniquely Gen Z needs. In my experience, Gen Zers are most successful when they work hand in hand with their manager to receive the support they need both mentally and emotionally.

How can we actually make this happen? Here are some tips for managers - from a Gen Zer:

Show Empathy

Empathy in management begins by learning not just what your workers do, but how it makes them feel. Work isn't always physical, and it takes mental and emotional effort to cope with workplace challenges. More and more, young workers want to know that their managers care about them personally - as evidenced in our recent “Meet Gen Z survey” the top three attributes they value in a manager are: “they trust me” (47%), “they support me” (40%), and “they care about me” (35%).

I recommend that managers actively seek out information about employees' experience instead of waiting for them to come to you. Show genuine interest in their personal lives, ask questions, and listen to how they feel. This active interest will help gain insight into workplace culture and help you become an employer of choice, especially for Gen Z.

Foster a safe space

To further improve your workplace culture and employee experience, focus on curating an environment where workers feel comfortable expressing frustration appropriately, even when the issue is  “just a part of the job”. If you spot demoralization among your employees, it's important to remember that cynicism is a symptom of burnout, not a cause. A supportive, open environment enhances your ability to spot and tackle burnout early and increase retention by effectively responding to your workers' feelings. Be the kind of boss that workers know won't penalize them for failing to be entirely optimistic in the face of difficult or draining work, and know when to offer sympathy rather than advice; a worker might need a pep talk more than a performance review.

Show Appreciation

Finally, take the time to recognize and reward your employees for the effort they put into their jobs each day, especially when it comes to outside stressors. Gen Zers especially appreciate one-on-one recognition for a job well done. Take the time to congratulate employees not only for productivity but for how they persevere during challenges. Let them know that you appreciate how stressful their job can be. Don't be afraid to recognize the ugly aspects of a job; even dream jobs aren't a dream every day.

Ultimately, workers just want to be heard - my generation wants to be heard. Gen Z workers are eager and anxious to build strong connections and be a part of a team. I believe that if you empower your employees to overcome challenges by bringing a personal element to work, showing them that you are on their side, and strengthening the power of your team, great things can happen!

Interested in hearing more? Stay tuned for our next post where we dive more deeply into the “Meet Gen Z survey” by surveying the Kronos intern group about the responses.

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