Chicago — In the survey of over 1,200 U.S. professionals by global recruitment firm Robert Walters, under 1 in 5 Gen Z workers said they preferred working in a team environment while 31% said they “work better alone,” according to Yahoo News.
Those findings resonated with Andrea Lopez, a 26-year-old account manager at a big tech company.
“I view collaborative projects as time-consuming,” she told HuffPost. “When I know that I have to collaborate with people in order to carry out a certain project, that’s when I’m really happy to work collaboratively ... because that’s going to help get the job done. But other than that, if I can do it by myself, I will 99% of the time just prefer to do things by myself.”
Tony Guevara, a 23-year-old who runs Latino engagement for nonprofit Gen-Z for Change, told HuffPost that his preferred working style shifts depending on the situation. He likes working alone when he doesn’t need help and can listen to his music. But at the same time, he also appreciates when he’s surrounded by teammates.
“I’m going to ask for help, because I’m not going to make it harder on myself,” he told HuffPost. He also shared that some people his age might prefer to work alone because they work in a judgemental environment, adding that “you kind of have that magnifying glass on you,” when other colleagues are present.
Gen Z’s independence can often come off negatively, the Robert Walters report found. Managers in the report said issues like a lack of communication skills (53%), teamwork (21%) and critical thinking (17%) were the main barriers to young workers being better collaborators.
But the truth is a bit more complicated, Jenny Fernandez, a leadership coach and startup mentor for Techstars, told the outlet.
“They’re used to having information real-time on the tip of their fingers, and kind of managing their own schedule and having the type of autonomy and independence that older generations didn’t have,” Fernandez explained. So all of these [factors] contribute to their desire to be a little bit more self-driven and self-directed.”
There are things Gen Z and older generations can learn from each other, she said. There should be flexibility to work alone but Gen Z should also remember that “you cannot be efficient with people. As logical as we are, we are emotional beings.”
Showing up to work in person is “where you learn to manage dysfunctional teammates, where you learn to negotiate or, frankly, even influence others about your idea,” she said.
Managers can try interventions like “reverse mentoring,” pairing a younger colleague with an older one in order to foster stronger work relationships. Managers should also solicit feedback from their Gen Z colleagues and be open to changing their workflow.
Try talking to them like they’re a co-worker, and not a co-worker who’s Gen Z,” he said. “There’s that preconceived notion that ‘Gen Z is lazy, Gen Z doesn’t like working with other people’ that they’ll use to influence how they approach a situation with someone who happens to be Gen Z.”
Noah Johnson (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based journalist. Follow him on X: @noahwritestoo.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett