Almost Perfect: 7 Tips for GenZ Women To Succeed In Workplace For Real
These GenZ women only look perfect on Instagram.
If you are a GenZ female in the workplace, are on an intergenerational team in your organization, or hiring GenZ females for your workplace, you may have run up against the myth of what is called “Effortless Perfection.”
Caralena Peterson, who is researching a book on the subject, writes in Inside Higher Ed,“Young women are too often leaving college with less self-esteem than we came in with. We are questioning ourselves in academic and leadership roles due to gendered phenomena like impostor syndrome and stereotype threat.”
Peterson,a recent graduate from Duke University, writes, “Between 10 and 20 percent of us are estimated to develop eating disorders in college. We are experiencing depression at twice the rate of our male peers. And nobody is catching on because all this is hidden beneath a gilded front of effortless perfection. The act many of us are putting on is too convincing.”
This drive to seem perfect on the outside, causes a great deal of stress that can look like high motivation and success on the outside– particularly in the workplace.
“Not only is this kind of messaging a long-term mental health concern, but it is also a moral one. Today’s students are starting to believe that effort is a mark of inadequacy, something to be scorned,” Peterson writes in Garnet News.
She continues, “But when the effort is taken out of the equation, ability and skill become qualities that either we have or we do not. If a young woman who believes intelligence (and other adaptable, elastic traits) is a fixed, inborn quality—as “Effortless Perfection” would have her believe—she then assumes after failing at a task that she must just be stupid (or ugly or unathletic or boring), rather than assuming she just needs to increase her focus and work harder. If she were to see her accomplishments as the fruits of her efforts, she would continue to feel empowered, even when stumbling over roadblocks here and there.”
Beginning this summer, with new GenZ hires graduating from high school and college and entering the workforce, the issues will be more evident.
“This year marks the first big wave of Generation Z, defined by the Pew Research Center as those born between 1997 and 2012. If employers want to maximize the benefits these young people bring to the workplace, they must start by understanding the unique set of skills, priorities and characteristics of Gen Z,” writes Sarah Johnson in The Business Times.
Knowing the impact of this generation on the workplace culture and how they will interact with other workers is key for everyone to have a more productive and healthy culture. Here are tips to make the process of an intergenmerational culture go more smoothly.
Arrange for independent projects mixed with team work. “Gen Zers might prefer to work independently much of the time and won’t be as likely to embrace teamwork and collaboration as Millennials,” Johnson writes. Employers can take steps to respect the work style of Generation Z and mitigate the loneliness and isolation they report by designing a workplace that encourages interaction while still offering private areas for independent work.”
Check in regularly on their well-being and job satisfaction. “Unfortunately, a 2018 report by global health services company Cigna indicates Gen Zers feel the loneliest, which can have a distinctly negative effect on physical and mental health, job satisfaction, productivity and overall quality of life.
Be transparent about process. Make sure in meetings, email messages and face to face communications that the steps along the way are acknowledged. Ask for challenges and next steps in every check-in. How did you solve the problem? What are the learnings from a difficulty? Honor the honest revelation about problems as much as you honor the solution.
Reward specific efforts on path to outcomes. Recognize the steps in the process, not just the endgame. If the image of final success is that high achievers who multitask and succeed is without a great deal of sacrifice and effort, then effortless perfection is a mirage and problematic. Demonstrate the unglamorous difficulties of a polished end product. And if a project or campaign fails? Honor the work that went into it, without blame or shame.
Create an open forum for discussion. This could be team lunches, team breakfasts, or regular open forums to talk about what is top of mind and to share stories of failures and shortcomings t hat led to new insights. Peterson writes, “Luckily, a small but growing body of campaigns and organizations has already begun to take up this torch. #HalftheStoryencourages individuals to “share parts of their lives that exist outside of the standard social media” by posting more than just a highlight reel of their best moments — instead bringing up taboo issues like mental health and belonging. The What I Be Project creates photo campaigns, often on college campuses, that allow individuals to highlight their insecurities while also using their own words to frame those stories the way they want them to be told.”
Offer programs to help them save for the future. “A survey by Lincoln Financial Group of 400 members of generation Z aged 15 to 19 found that they are saving far earlier than than older generations: 60% of them already have savings accounts and 71% say they are focused on saving for the future. Their top three priorities are getting a job, finishing college, and safeguarding money for the years to come. They rate these goals above spending time with friends and family, working out, or traveling,” according to Fast Company,
Foster the entrepreneurial impulse. According to Deep Patel writing in Forbes, Generation Z is 55 percent more likely to want to start a business than millennials. In fact, a full 72 percent of Gen Z high school students say that they want to start a business. This can be tied back to many of their traits — especially the independence and desire for financial success. They are highly motivated and willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.”
Making sure to debunk the myth of success without effort that may have been pervasive in the college years, and be proactive that the lie does not persist in the workplace, can only benefit the GenZ women—and men—entering the workforce.
The good news is GenZ employees are good hires. The caveat is to let them know they can be transparent about how hard it is to get to the finish line on a project or a campaign.
“Gen Z is a generation of driven, passionate students, but unlike milennials, they tend to favour practicality and financial stability over personal fulfilment,” Lisa Malat, COO of Barnes & Noble College, tells Study International.
“These budding entrepreneurs can make great employees. They are likely to soak up as much knowledge as they can and take on many different challenges as they pursue their goal of starting their own company in the future,” Patel writes.
Yes, they are a pragmatic, hard-working group with set priorities. GenZ women in your workplace may just need the reassurance that the hard work does not have to appear as if it just magically happened.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com