Do Gen Z workers deserve to be called entitled?

Do Gen-Zers workers deserve to be called entitled?
Apr 26, 2022

A social media firestorm erupted after a manager of Dollar Tree store in Indiana last week posted a sign disparaging Gen-Z’s work ethic and proclaiming a “Baby Boomers ONLY” hiring plea.

The handwritten sign on the store’s door read:

“I apologize for us closing AGAIN. My 2 new cashiers quit because I said their boyfriends couldn’t stand here for their entire shift. Don’t hire Gen Z’s. They don’t know what work actually means. NOW HIRING! *Baby Boomers ONLY, thanks!”

Proud of Gen Z from antiwork

The sign has been removed. Dollar Tree said the manager had no permission to post the sign and no longer works at the store.

Social posts on the incident elicited thousands of comments leading to widespread media coverage. While age discrimination and cautions around stereotyping generations were widely noted, enough commentators agreed with the sentiment that Gen Z is entitled and unmotivated to make the incident trend viral.

One commentator in response to a Newsweek article stated, “Dear Gen Z and those who love to pander to them: If you spent as much time doing your job as you do complaining, you’d be top paid pros by now. The world owes you nothing.”

With many Gen-Zers just reaching employment age, research into their working habits generally align closely with those of Millennials.

Randstad’s latest Workmonitor study found 40 percent of Gen Z respondents (18-24) and 38 percent of Millennials (25-34) would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job, compared to a quarter of Boomers (55-67). Younger generations were found much more likely than Boomers to not accept a job that didn’t align with their values on social and environmental issues.

LinkedIn’s most recent “Workplace Confidence Survey” found 36 percent of Gen-Z employees (24 or younger) and 42 percent of Millennials (25 to 40) willing to take a pay cut of up to five percent of their current salary for better work/life balance versus 25 percent for Boomers (57 and above). The younger generations also prioritized more enjoyable work and flexibility to work onsite or remotely.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s your take on the work habits of Gen-Z versus previous generations when they were at the same stage in their lives? What’s your advice to the frustrated store manager veteran clashing with Gen-Z staffers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Companies need to take a hard look at hiring practices, compensation, and value systems rather than play the blame game."
"This is just one of the things that retailers have to dance with and I don’t think it is unique to Gen Z. It’s just a stage every generation goes through."
"Give Gen Z a chance. They’ll grow up into grouchy older folks complaining about those damn kids soon enough."

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Do Gen Z workers deserve to be called entitled?"

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Shep Hyken

I’m a Boomer. When I was younger I remember my friends being “profiled” in the same way Gen Z is being profiled. I remember people saying we were (collectively) lazy. This isn’t unusual. All generations have been stereotyped and criticized for something. So, comments like this are not just for Gen Z. I’ve hired amazing Gen Z and Millennial employees. I know many younger workers that take pride and work hard. And just like any employee, they want to be recognized and appreciated for their work.

As for the example in this article, the manager’s behavior may indicate the problem goes beyond the employees that quit. (What manager posts a sign like that in the window?!) Hire the right people. Set realistic expectations. Be fair, pay competitively, be a coach, praise when appropriate — This is what any employee wants. When you hire the right people and treat them right, they turn around and treat you (and your company) right.

Carol Spieckerman

Generation shaming is such a waste of time. People are individuals and should be treated as such. If you have a problem with an employee, it is your responsibility as a leader to address it rather than generalizing and scapegoating. I find most younger retail workers to be refreshingly easy-going yet attentive and responsive. Employees that prioritize work/life balance and have multiple interests are better for business.

Melissa Minkow

Gen Z’s overall sentiment towards work is another case of a younger generation no longer tolerating what an older generation was socialized to grin and bear. The pandemic has caused many to realize how short life is and how invaluable time and fulfillment are. Boomers were celebrated for missing their kids’ little league games if it meant prioritizing their employer. That isn’t aspirational for younger generations, and future-forward corporate cultures will have to recognize and adjust to that.

Brian Delp
29 days 6 hours ago

“Kids these days!” -Adam and Eve.

Blaming the youth, what a new idea! I’m just glad Millennials are out of the spotlight this time. The labor shortage overall is not generation specific. Companies need to take a hard look at hiring practices, compensation, and value systems rather than play the blame game. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s me.

Andrew Blatherwick
The world is a different place for Gen Zers. They do have a much more balanced view of life and work is not the only thing that matters. Earlier in my career, getting on and moving up in the company was the most important thing, often to the detriment of family life. The pandemic has shown not only Gen Z and Millennials but older people too that working from home, at least part of the week, can be a more enjoyable working environment. Gen Zers do not see that owning a house, car and all the trimming is the most important thing in life, because housing prices often make ownership an unrealistic dream. The inflation rate is also making fuel and many other purchases out of reach so there is less incentive to work hard. It is easy for our golden generation to criticize, but we must be more creative in finding ways to excite younger generations and give them a real incentive to work. Management has to change as the old style is not… Read more »
Rich Kizer

Oh my gosh. I wonder where that manager is today.

Rich Kizer

I wonder, does that fall under no plan to train new hires? That is really an injustice to that generation. I wonder where that manager is working this morning.

Ryan Mathews

Ah yes — those hard working Boomers … running around naked, out of their minds on LSD, making love in public parks, constantly stoned, unwashed, overly-indulged, not willing to do their duty and go war, lazy, aimless — oh wait, wait, we were talking about Gen Z weren’t we. The simple truth is that every Gen Zer isn’t entitled and/or doesn’t live up (or down) to generational stereotypes any more than any member of any generational cohort. The more complex truth is that the young are not like the old and, apparently for the entire history of humanity, neither group understands or appreciates the other – at least as much as the “other” thinks they should. Give Gen Z a chance. They’ll grow up into grouchy older folks complaining about those damn kids soon enough.

Kevin Graff

Every generation blames the one coming up behind them. I have books on my shelves about how to “solve” Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and now Gen Z. Every one is a product of their political, social and economic upbringing/background. Traditionalists respected authority (think about the times they lived in). Boomers worked ridiculous hours — how else were you going to survive and get ahead amidst the glut of talent? Gen Z ain’t perfect — then again, no generation ever was. As we say, if your customer changes, you need to change. Accordingly, if your staff change, you need to change how you lead and manage them.

Brian Cluster

Many Gen Zers work incredibly hard, we can not stereotype. As leaders, we need to move beyond generations, ethnicities, race and other general groupings and be curious about the individual, their interests, and then also have a professional discussion about the business needs. Each generation is different because of what they lived through and their own work experiences. The current and future perspective on work is much different than 10 years ago and as leaders in business, we need to understand those perspectives and find a way to make it work.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

What circumstances are driving a store manager to write and post that letter? Is Dollar Tree doing enough to support store leaders and associates during a time when the definition of work/workplace is changing dramatically?

29 days 5 hours ago
I agree that every generation, mine included, has good to very good and bad to very bad workers. But I would also say that as time has gone by the notion of, say, what defines a “notions counter” worker or “soda jerk” (gads!) has changed, vastly. They were meant, among other things, to do their boss’ biddings, mostly unquestioned, and to believe the “customer is always right.” Ironically, with my still being among that front-line force, the companies continue wanting you to do as you’re told and treat the customers as “right.” However what has changed, really, is the general ways in which workers, especially of younger generations, view such work. Nowadays they believe (and we can argue how right or wrong this impression is) their duties often conflict with their own perceived workers’ AND human rights. Furthermore, I have to forcefully disagree with those who say management should just take certain workers aside and train (or discipline) them properly. Sorry, but that kind of power is gone. Once someone is hired — and it… Read more »
Georganne Bender

I managed a Gap store in a high end mall in the ’70s and I can tell you that I had the same kinds of issues with young employees. Kids would call in sick because they got a better deal or because they just didn’t want to work that day.

This is just one of the things that retailers have to dance with and I don’t think it is unique to Gen Z. It’s just a stage every generation goes through.

Gene Detroyer

My colleagues are being kind. True, you must treat every hire as an individual. But this is the “every player gets a trophy” generation. It is the generation of “helicopter parents” who never let their kids fail.

It is tough to understand why you didn’t get the trophy like the other guy. If you are fired, it must be the manager’s fault.

Craig Sundstrom

Sorry this is rather silly: the only thing more annoying than irresponsible youth is older people claiming we were never like that. There are great — and, yes, terrible — people in every age group … ask me how I know that. (Then again … no. Please don’r!)

Christina Cooley

There are rockstar employees at all ages. It starts with hiring, and then providing the necessary training so the employee knows clearly what the expectations of their role is and how they impact the bigger picture for the company as a whole. Leadership will keep the employee on the path, and needs to foster an environment of continual learning, development, and recognition of how their contributions are impacting the business’ success. Providing a context for how important the store experience is to satisfying customers, driving repeat purchases, and advocacy is critical. Retail employees need to see their key role as being helpful to customers, which includes being available to help customers find the merchandise the are looking for, being courteous, being knowledge about the company and its merchandise, and listening to and offering guidance when customers have questions.

There’s no need to overcomplicate what’s being asked of employees; it’s simply delivering on the foundations of an outstanding customer experience.

Anil Patel

Gen Z, in contrast to previous generations, is more focused on establishing their own identity. This trait influences the majority of their life decisions, such as work. Leaders should enable Generation Z workers in finding purpose in their jobs. Gen Z should recognize the significance of their work and the fact that they have chosen to do it. In this way, employers will be able to fully utilize Gen Z’s potential to bring their vision to life.

"Companies need to take a hard look at hiring practices, compensation, and value systems rather than play the blame game."
"This is just one of the things that retailers have to dance with and I don’t think it is unique to Gen Z. It’s just a stage every generation goes through."
"Give Gen Z a chance. They’ll grow up into grouchy older folks complaining about those damn kids soon enough."

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