More Carrots Please!

gen-z leadership weekly workout Apr 15, 2022

"If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more." US Army General E.K. Shinseki (Ret.)

I recently attended a business luncheon that included a speaker discussing generational differences as they applied specifically to the workforce.

The topic was interesting and one that I myself have researched and even written about in the past.

The speaker did a great job of conveying the characteristics of each generation and to my delight spent extra time discussing Gen Z or Zoomers.

What was most interesting to me however were the statements being made by the audience. As I listened to people specifically discussing Gen Z some of the comments I heard included:

  • They just don’t get it
  • They just don’t want to work hard
  • They don’t know what it takes, etc.

I couldn’t help but think… it is not “they” who don’t get it.

It seems that Gen Z is a generation requiring significant shifts in the workplace. This generation seems to be leading the charge in forcing workplace evolution and transformation.

A recent Forbes article stated that "Gen Z has had enough. A recent Adobe survey, of 5,500 workers found that 56% of those ages 18-24 say they are planning to switch jobs in the next year. Research from Microsoft and Bankrate backs this up, reporting that 54% and 77% of Gen Zs, respectively, are thinking about quitting."

There are a number of reasons why Zoomers are participating in the "great resignation" and many articles to help you understand those reasons.

What I want to focus on is this question..." had there ever been a generation in or out of the workplace that has embraced the incoming generation with open minds and open arms?"

Could we just as easily apply the audience comments related to Gen Z to every generation faced with the task of welcoming the next generation into the workplace?

I assert that we could!

So where does this leave us?

One of the comments made by the speaker during the luncheon created such a stillness in the room you could not even hear breathing. To paraphrase he said… If you are a Boomer and soon to apply to Gen X you are “out.”

To further expand on this, the existing Boomer and Gen X ideas, concepts, and rules about what “should” be happening in the workplace are becoming less and less relevant.

I am not referring to sound business and leadership principles gained as a result of experience. Generations who have been part of the workforce for some time have insight that could potentially benefit those just now entering that same workforce.

At the same time, it is important that leaders be willing to identify what is and is not important in terms of the current rules, policies, and perhaps even structure of the organization.

I was thinking about the theory of the carrot and the stick. The Carrot and stick concept is meant to be a motivational approach that involves offering a “carrot” (a reward—for good behavior) and a “stick” (a negative consequence for poor behavior).

I believe that the primary “stick” that has been a significant part of the employer/employee relationship for many, many years has been the threat of job loss and the associated fear related to that possibility.

As they say in old western movies…” there’s a new sheriff in town!”  What the great resignation has shown us is that losing or leaving a job is no longer a threat and certainly not a motivator.

As leaders, it is important and imperative that you move away from condemning the new generation and instead use that same energy to creatively determine how to understand and embrace what is happening in the workplace today.

When you find yourself resisting new ideas, or concepts that do not fit the current structure ask yourself “what is my resistance?” Am I simply resisting change? How do I know this change won’t result in increased employee satisfaction, higher productivity, and higher employee retention?

Without the historic “stick” leaders who don’t want to be “out” will need to determine how to create an environment where carrots are plentiful and relevant!


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