Get Ahead Newsletter On LinkedIn – How to Mentor Gen Z Co-Workers

Get AheadA newsletter focused on helping you grow in your career through stories and conversations about the new world of work.Andrew SeamanSenior Managing Editor for Jobs & Career Development at LinkedIn NewsSee what others are saying about this topic: Open on Linkedin
How to Mentor Gen Z Co-WorkersView mediaEach generation’s rite of passage into the workforce is enduring complaints from their older co-workers. Gen X had to weather the scrutiny of their predecessors. Then, the criticism focused on Millennials. Now, all eyes are on Gen Zers as they head to work.Gen Z faces a constellation of unique challenges not seen for at least a century, though. Many in this age group spent a year or more at home during the pandemic. They were kept from classrooms and even internships. Now, many managers and older co-workers are saying Gen Zers are falling short when it comes to professionalism.

More than two thirds of respondents to a LinkedIn poll said that Gen Zers are lacking in office etiquette more than previous generations. Another 18% disagreed and 14% said they weren’t sure.Similarly, a survey of more than 1,200 business leaders in July found that about 40% believe recent college graduates are unprepared for the workforce — mainly due to work ethic and communication skills. The vast majority of leaders holding those feelings say they sometimes avoid hiring recent grads.

What is Gen Z Saying About These Reports?While Gen Zers admit they may have missed out on traditional mentoring since the pandemic, they also argue that they’re being held to outdated standards and may not want to inherit the working world in its current form.”Our generation entered the workforce during a time of upheaval,” writes my LinkedIn News colleague Gianna Prudente in her Gen Z-focused newsletter Keeping the Balance. “There was no guidebook on how to do things ‘the right way’ because there was no longer just one way of doing things. All rules were being rewritten, and Gen Z capitalized on the moment to create long-awaited change.

“What Should Older Co-Workers Do to Support Gen Zers?While we can’t say for certain if Gen Zers are really less prepared for office life or the world of work, there are a number of ways people on both sides of the debate can work to close any divide that may exist.Older co-workers of Gen Zers can help mentor and coach them through these important and formative years. Proper mentoring and coaching helps guide people while allowing them the freedom to make their own decisions and harness their unique backgrounds to find solutions.

“For mentors and trainers, I suggest having a transparent and genuine conversation with those you are mentoring,” writes Chelsea Jay, a career and leadership coach. “Ask them what skills they feel they excel in and what skills they want to improve. Learn about both their immediate and long-term goals so that you can develop a mentoring/training technique and plan that will suit both of you.”

To learn other tips for mentoring and coaching younger co-workers, I asked people on LinkedIn for their advice. While I can’t highlight all of the responses, you can read them by clicking here.Teach Gen Zers How to Be a Mentee

A lot of young people don’t know what a mentor/mentee relationship looks like in the professional world.”When you mentor someone who’s never had a mentor they won’t know what to do,” writes Tejal Wagadia, a tech recruiter. “Setting up expectations with them about coming to the 1-1 with topics they want to know more about or questions they might have had is the biggest difference.”Being a good mentor is creating a good mentee,” she adds. “If you’re going to take on someone as a mentee, make sure you can teach them things that you didn’t know when you first started.”Don’t Stifle Gen Z’s Unique Voice and Perspective.

Mentoring and coaching younger workers doesn’t mean they should fit into the same mold as you did years ago. Instead, it’s about giving Gen Zers guidance while allowing them to harness their unique voices and perspectives to push organizations forward.”Managing teams of unique individuals that are striving to maintain their identity while [merging] into professional corporate norms can be challenging; however, it can also be an opportunity to embrace the shift in what ‘Professional Corporate Norms/Expectations’ look like today,” writes Keena Wells, a people consultant.

“I feel that embracing authenticity and welcoming everyone to bring their uniqueness and lived experiences to work has been refreshing and a true learning experience,” she adds. “It allows room for more innovative conversations and team [camaraderie] versus the distraction of trying to fit in.”Learn From Younger Co-WorkersCoaching and mentoring Gen Zers doesn’t mean the knowledge sharing flows one way. In fact, successful coaches and mentors often learn just as much from their mentees. Listening to their viewpoints and ideas can help you change outdated practices to propel your organization forward.

“I don’t find that all of the traditions and etiquette in the workplace are necessary,” writes Morven Moeller, a business systems analyst. “I work with new workers to find where their values and their expectations are misaligned with our company’s culture, and work with them to change what we can and honor what we can’t. Too much of workplace etiquette is centered on outdated and exclusionary values, so it’s time for a change.”As Gen Z enters the workforce, the burden is on both them and their more-experienced counterparts to bridge the knowledge gap. Gen Zers might have different attitudes toward professional norms due to their unique life experiences, including the challenges of a pandemic. They also bring fresh perspectives that can transform the workplace. Older workers have a mutually beneficial opportunity to mentor these young professionals — not to force them into outdated practices but to guide them in creating the future of work.🎒Interested in learning more about coaching, mentoring and managing younger employees? Check out a collection of LinkedIn Learning courses on those subjects by clicking here. You’ll find lessons from  Michael Bungay StanierLindsey PollakSara Canaday and others!
Patricia Dent

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