A client was recently lamenting that her GenZ (24 years old and younger) employees just didn’t seem to “get it”.

The employees didn’t know how to take initiative.

They waited to be told what to do, rather than taking action.

The 20 year old who had been identified as a leader – for her work ethic and personality – suddenly was crying in my client’s office once she was given the task of managing others. It seemed that all of the positive qualities that the employee demonstrated had just evaporated.

Sounds familiar?

While this is one specific story, I often hear similar examples.

Here’s the thing: GenZers are AMAZING to work with. They’ve grown up working regularly with teams and know how to do it well. Technology is simply an extension of their capabilities because it’s always been a part of their lives.

However, they’ve also been taught to follow — often long and complicated — instructions perfectly if they want to get the best grades.

This is great for teachers, who clearly want to describe learning objectives and assess that students are learning said objectives.

It’s NOT an ideal learning environment for an employee who is going to show up at work and be told, “please answer the phone and schedule appointments for me. I’ve got to get back to work.”

What to do? The first step is assessing what the problem might be.

Here are 3 SIGNS you need to set expectations for your GenZ [but maybe all!] employees:

Sign #1: You are constantly disappointed by results.

As you assess your workplace environment or your ongoing projects, you are unimpressed by the results.

You have to ask for work to be repeated.

You have to remind employees to do certain tasks.

You look at the ‘finished’ product of an individual or team, and think, “REALLY?”.

Sign #2: An employee who started out super-motivated is now uninterested. In anything.

It’s possible that your employee was so eager to please you and the team in the beginning, and worked and worked and worked to make you happy.

However, whether correctly or incorrectly, the employee has gotten the impression that nothing they do, 1) will be perfect; 2) will please you; or 3) be what you or the team was looking for.

Let’s be clear: rarely does an employee get this way magically on their own, especially if they were an “eager beaver” employee at the start of their time with you.

Also, know that this relationship is salvageable – and you should work immediately to try to repair it, especially if you see the value the employee could bring to your organization.

Sign #3: You can’t get an employee to engage. In anything.

Here’s the thing: GenZ, while good at many things, is also lacking some confidence.

The resurgence of what I affectionately think of as the “My So Called Life” attitude is not about you.

It’s about the employee. And their total and complete and sometimes-incapacitating FEAR of failing.

They don’t want to mess up. They are afraid that this one job is their ONE shot of making it.

And they are so afraid of messing up, they don’t want to engage. Because, you know, if you don’t engage and don’t care, you can’t get hurt or mess up your one chance at being successful.


If you’re seeing some of these things happen in your organization or on your team, you aren’t alone.

The good news is that we’ve got resources – and more content coming – to help you work through these challenges.

But the BEST news is that your team will start to improve as soon as you realize the cause of some of your challenges. Once you name them and start talking about it as a group, and setting concrete and specific expectations, you’ll start seeing results.

Change is hard, my friends. Times are weird. But, YOU’VE GOT THIS!


P.S. Check out tips for setting expectations here or learn more about managing GenZ employees.

Have a question that you want some perspective on? Email your situation to
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