Are Gen Z ‘Really Annoying’ to Work With?

In 60 seconds…

  • Gen Zers are facing criticism in the workplace thanks to avant-garde attitudes and determination to break the status quo
  • Younger generations want work to serve them bring them enjoyment – they don’t want to face the toxic work cultures experienced by previous generations
  • Flexible working hours, generous annual leave, and hybrid working will be popular amongst future employees

Actor Jodie Foster recently hit the headlines following her damning comments about Gen Z, labeling them as ‘really annoying’ to work with, and understandably, this has divided the internet.

On one hand, hoards of employers are taking to social media to criticize Gen Z’s attitude, whilst on the other, young people are defending their refusal to accept the status quo. But who’s in the right? And can we tarnish the whole generation with one brush? (Spoiler: No, we can’t).

In this blog post, we’ll be dissecting Foster’s comments, exploring Gen Z’s approach to the workplace, diving into the future of work, and asking how ‘annoying’ they really are…

Why can Gen Z be ‘really annoying’ at work?

Ever had a colleague turn up late to the office for no reason? Or use text slang in an external email? Jodie Foster has. The actor told The Guardian: “They’re really annoying, especially in the workplace. They’re like, ‘Nah, I’m not feeling it today, I’m gonna come in at 10.30am.’ Or, like, 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?'”.

For good or for bad, Gen Zers aren’t doing things conventionally, and their employers and peers are struggling to navigate these unchartered waters. But the question is: Is this unprofessionalism, or just a new way of working?

Some took to X to voice their agreement with Foster, criticizing the generation’s ‘I need it now’ approach to work and life. Thanks to the internet, Gen Zers have grown up with the world at their fingertips; from Deliveroo and Uber to Google and TikTok, everything is instant and constant. The danger is, as alluded to by Foster, that this is encroaching on the workplace: the boundaries between work and life that so many of us have adhered to for so long are becoming blurred.

‘Another day another slay’ 

The language of Gen Z can be a mystery to Millennials and Gen Xers. From a casual ‘girliepops’ to the everyday ‘slay’, informality is key for Gen Z. And the workplace is no different. In fact, a recent study by Barclays LifeSkills revealed that 71% of workers in the UK believe the younger generation is changing the formality of language in the workplace.

One X user took to the platform to write: ‘she’s [Foster] kinda right like we can be very annoying some of us treat the real world like Twitterverse & TikTok slang‘. A great example comes from a longrunning TikTok trend, which sees employers/employees sharing email sign-offs from Gen Z employees. Gone are the ‘Kind regards’ and ‘Best wishes’ of the past. Instead, it’s ‘Slay, serve, survive’, ‘Hehe bye‘, and ‘Stay hydrated queens‘. Catchy, to be fair.

But, this raises the question: Have we been unconsciously monitoring our language in the workplace for years? Have we been stifling our creativity and authentic selves in order to maintain a level of professionalism? This certainly isn’t something that Gen Zers could be accused of: In the interview, Foster praised the generation for their authenticity and determination to be true to themselves, claiming that it [opens] ‘the possibility of real freedom.’

Gen Zers want their work to be enjoyable and fulfilling, and for many, relaxed language is a part of that. But is this new lingo really that bad? After all, as upcoming business leaders and CEOs, the future really is in their hands…

Young people’s work ethic

Are you prone to answering emails from your boss at 10pm? What about picking up your laptop on a Sunday? Couldn’t be Gen Z.

As a generation who have grown up watching their parents work within toxic professional cultures, Gen Z is determined not to be a part of that cycle. As a Gen X manager in 2024, it may be annoying that your 21-year-old employee isn’t answering emails late into the night, but ultimately, can you blame them?!

This is a cohort of young people who understand and protect their mental health, and as a result, refuse to work to the point of meltdown. They’re living through climate change, pandemics, and wars, and perhaps have realized that life is just too short to worry about work. Gen Zers know their rights and what they deserve, whether that’s finishing on time or taking breaks, and that seems like something we could all learn from.

Just because you suffered doesn’t mean Gen Z has to.

What does the future of work look like for Gen Z?

But, we can’t tarnish Gen Z with one brush. This is a generation built of proud and determined individuals who work hard, yet amongst that, as with any generation, there will be people who are ‘really annoying’ to work with. And so is life. But, dear Jodie Foster, that’s not all of Gen Z.

So, we couldn’t let you leave today without making some predictions about the future of work according to Gen Z – brace yourselves, it’s a really nice-sounding list…

  • Flexible working hours 
  • Generous annual leave 
  • Freebies and discounts 
  • Generous pensions 
  • Sports + wellness/healthcare perks 
  • 48% want a hybrid approach to work

Whilst this may seem a bit over the top to Gen Xers who climbed the slippery corporate pole, creating a welcoming and friendly working environment will allow employees to do their best work. Gen Z wants to know that they’re cared for and supported, and in return they’ll offer you creative, fresh perspectives.

Just because they’re doing things differently doesn’t mean they’re being lazy or taking advantage – they’re challenging the status quo, speaking up, and demanding fairness. And for that, we commend them.

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