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I Can't Call My Boss!

September 21, 2023

Laura L. Rubenstein

These were the words uttered recently by my son, after I suggested he call his manager to ask if he could alter his restaurant shift scheduled later that day. I suggested that a call would be better than texting so he could explain his situation. He was indignant, “Nobody calls, mom.” I suggested that if his manager understood his situation, then she’d be more willing to grant his request. His response: “I can’t call my boss!”

Although he requires a work permit because of his age, my baby’s providing me with insight into what employers can expect from Generation Z (born between 1997-2012). This is the first generation to grow up with a device in their hands. They communicate with images and multitask across multiple screens. I’ve caught my son playing a video game with a friend on his monitor, doing his homework on his laptop screen, and FaceTiming a friend on a cell phone while wearing a headset covering one ear with an AirPod in the other. It’s dizzying.

Generation Z’s communication style differs from previous generations. Companies must understand that this generation has a short attention span. They demand efficiency. Texts are preferred. Brevity is best. Images work, too (although I’ll never understand the point of snapchatting a photo of the ceiling to a friend). They seem to care less about the “why” and merely accept that there must be a reasonable underlying explanation.

Texting over talking is what Gen Z’s prefer. So, those of us already in the workforce and who are hiring or planning to hire this generation, let’s get prepared for how they communicate, and let’s make sure that we all adapt in small ways and be patient. They will bring a lot to the table and will need coaching to understand how your business communicates internally and externally. They will need training and clear and repeated direction.

As for my strident son, my husband helped him draft a text, which he sent. His request was immediately approved.

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