Nov 5, 2023 - Economy & Business

Gen Z shakes up workplace communication

Illustration of a speech bubble shaped like a Z

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Punctuation in messages to colleagues is out. Talking about mental health at work is in.

Why it matters: The labor force's youngest members are revamping the workplace with internet speak, attention to well-being and uncanny realness.

  • Older colleagues notice "just how frank, non-deferential and empowered younger generations are in speaking their mind, calling things out" at work, said Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. It's even motivated them to do the same.
  • 80% of Gen Z employees in a survey conducted by Deloitte said mental health support and policies are important to them when considering an employer. For millennials, it was 82%.

Between the lines: The shift in young employees' openness spans everything from well-being to money.

  • Unlike some older colleagues, Gen Z has embraced salary sharing, said Christine Cruzvergara, the chief education strategy officer for career platform Handshake. They use this information to hold their employers accountable.
  • Younger employees seek out salary audits and data based on gender, race or location from their employers, she said.
  • "All of those things are now just expected," she said.

Maren Hogan, a member of Gen X and CEO at Red Branch marketing and advertising agency, said Gen Z employees helped normalize frankness about mental health in her workplace.

  • "They're more open if they think it's going to impact their work, or they just want to talk about it," she said.

Of note: Elon Ciriaco, a Gen Z-Millennial cusp who has worked in real estate, fintech and hospitality, said she doesn't relate to her older colleagues' guilt about forgoing overtime.

  • Getting along with her manager and coworkers though? Key.
  • "If I'm working late, I'm working late to help a friend," she said.

Zoom out: Younger colleagues, who grew up with social media, have been more likely to talk casually and about aspects of their personal life in the workplace, Sanchez-Burks said.

  • They have greater comfort "blending the way they can communicate with their friends and their co-workers," Sanchez-Burks said.

While virtual communication comes naturally, workplace jargon can read like alphabet soup.

  • For example, being "out of pocket" in the workplace can signal someone will be unreachable for a period of time.
  • But to Gen Z, the expression's meaning, with origins in Black American English, refers to off-base or unhinged behavior.

And all those periods and ellipses? Passive aggressive.

Go deeper: How emoji can divide the workplace

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