To find out what Gen Z stereotypes are out there, let’s take a look at what people are Googling.
Here’s a list of the most common searches people have typed in the last few months about this generation:
“Why does Gen Z not want to work?”
“Why does Gen Z dress so badly?”
“Why does Gen Z have anxiety?”
“Why does Gen Z cancel everything?”
“Why does Gen Z lack social skills?”
There’s no shortage of negative stereotypes about the generation that will soon make up the majority of the workforce around the world.
This phenomenon is nothing new. Every generation complains about the ones that came before them and the ones that follow. You can also find equally ugly Google searches about Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers.
Stereotypes, by their nature, are never accurate. They’re based on generalizations and biases, not facts. And for that reason, it’s important to call them out.
So let’s do just that. Here are 5 of the most common stereotypes about Gen Z and why they’re total garbage.
What do we mean by Gen Z?
Before we get into the Gen Z stereotypes, let’s list a few facts about the people who make up this cohort.
Generally, Gen Z includes anyone born in the mid-90s through the early 2010s. This means that as of the time this article was written, the oldest Gen Z members are approaching their 30th birthdays, while the youngest are just getting into high school.
Gen Z covers a very broad spectrum. They’re members of the workforce, they’re in college, they’re in school. Some are old enough to be parents, and others are preparing to leave home and live on their own.
Of course, it’s ridiculous to think that such a large generation of humans could ever be painted with a broad brush. But there are some defining factors that make Gen Z as a population different from the generations that came before them.
First, Gen Z is the first generation born when internet access was already up and running. And most Gen Z members have grown up with mobile phones and social media.
Gen Z has also lived through some defining historical moments. They were born or grew up during the great recession and are now living through another period of economic downturn.
And perhaps most importantly, Gen Z lived through the global pandemic at a young age. Many of them were unable to go to school or socialize during crucial years of their youth and, like everyone else, suffered the trauma of watching a pandemic change the world overnight.
With all that in mind, let’s dig into these stereotypes, what’s actually true, and where these myths came from in the first place.
#1: Gen Z doesn’t want to work
The stereotype: Gen Z is lazy and entitled. They aren’t motivated to work and just want easy money.
The truth: Accusations of being lazy, entitled, and unmotivated have plagued nearly every generation—it’s almost too easy to debunk this Gen Z stereotype because it’s so nonsensical.
But let’s debunk it anyway, starting with the numbers. Aside from the fact that a significant portion of the Gen Z population is still too young to work, those that are old enough are entering a difficult job market, with unemployment rising and millions of people in the U.S. out of work. Layoffs at major tech companies have driven up the competition, making it harder for younger people with less experience to get jobs.
But even with all that stacked against them, Gen Z is motivated to work. According to a Monster.com report from 2022, 88% of Gen Z members surveyed said they applied to jobs they weren’t suited for simply out of desperation. And another 39% said they would take a lower pay rate than what they anticipated they’d get after graduating from college.
Another 58% said they’d be willing to work nights and weekends for higher pay—a higher percentage than Millennials and Boomers.
The origin: So if Gen Z is looking for work, why do people call them lazy? Perhaps because members of the generation are challenging the way people work and coming in with higher demands than generations before them (for very good reasons).
The way people work changed significantly during the 2020 pandemic. Most Gen Z workers have or will enter the workforce after many businesses shifted to remote work and even more people discovered their desire to work on their own.
Gen Z is no exception. According to the same study, more than 75% of Gen Z folks said they are responsible for driving their own careers, and 42% said they aspire to own their own business.
Unlike generations before them, however, Gen Z does expect to get more out of their job, both financially and on a purpose-driven level. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z said they put purpose before how much they earn when it comes to work, and 64% said they have higher expectations for pay in 2023. They are also more likely than other generations to participate in job hopping vs. staying at a job long-term.
Given that our world has become a lot more expensive, while pay rates have remained stagnant, you can’t fault a generation for wanting to be fairly compensated and aligning their career aspirations with what they want in life.
For Gen Z readers who want more tips on how to find meaning in their career or work for themselves, check out these resources:
#2: Gen Z wants to cancel everything
The stereotype: Gen Z is so easily offended that they leap at the opportunity to destroy the career and credibility of anyone who thinks differently than them.
The truth: To debunk this Gen Z stereotype, let’s pause and ask the question: What exactly does it mean to “cancel” someone? There is no official “Council of Canceling,” so it’s largely up to interpretation.
Does canceling mean boycotting something or someone? To protest? To speak out against something? To stop supporting a person or corporation financially? To just stop liking someone?
If so, none of those things are new or unique to Generation Z. The concept of canceling largely came out of the #MeToo movement, which most certainly was not led by members of the Gen Z population—people from many generations joined in that movement.
Now, are there times when cancel culture has gone overboard? Most people would agree—including many members of Gen Z. And more often than not, this occurs on social media channels, where the combination of anonymity and mob mentality can get out of hand. But once again, it’s not just Gen Z who gets swept up in these things—this phenomenon knows no age limits.
The origin: This stereotype likely stems from a few different places. First, it’s true that Gen Z is generally more progressive than generations before them, and they are more vocal about their beliefs.
According to a report from Murmuration, Gen Z is more politically left than other generations on topics like the need to address systemic racism and climate change. And they ranked abortion access as a higher priority than any other generation.
Gen Z is also incredibly fluent when it comes to technology. So their ability to use social media to make their voices heard, collaborate with others, and share information has made them a powerful, vocal group.
But this does not mean they want to “cancel everything.” Rather, they are less comfortable being silent when their beliefs are challenged and aren’t afraid to advocate for more inclusion and equal rights.
In this way, they are actually a more welcoming generation than many that came before them. So the idea that they want to “cancel” everyone is ludicrous—they are more focused on dismissing people who stand in the way of inclusivity.
#3: Gen Z is addicted to technology
The stereotype: Gen Z members are glued to their phones and computers and don’t know how to have normal human interactions.
The truth: As we’ve already mentioned, Gen Z is the first generation born after the advent of the internet. So it’s true that, compared to other generations, they spend more time on social media.
According to a report from McKinsey, around 35% of Gen Z respondents said they spent more than two hours on their phone a day, compared to just 24% of Millennials and 14% of Baby Boomers.
Does this suggest that they are more addicted to technology than other generations? Not necessarily. More usage broadly doesn’t inherently suggest addiction. And while we know that phones and social media can be very addictive, once again, there are no generational boundaries when it comes to tech addiction.
Social media can have a major impact on mental health, especially for younger people. But Gen Z demonstrates that they have a greater awareness of this fact than other generations.
Compared to other Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, Gen Z was more open about how social media impacts their lives, both positively and negatively. (To be fair, in this study, Millennials show even more awareness of these issues, though only slightly).
The origin: For this Gen Z stereotype, the origin is based on a truth: Gen Z does use technology more, and they report social media has a more profound impact on their life.
But because anyone who uses technology or social media can become addicted to it, Gen Z’s greater awareness of the issue suggests they are more likely to address the problem.
In fact, a recent study from Squarespace found that 50% of Gen Z respondents said they were considering taking a break from their smartphones, more than any other generation—only 20% of Boomers said the same.
#4: Gen Z is weak and mentally ill
The stereotype: Gen Z is plagued with mental health issues because they were raised to be overly sensitive. The entire generation lacks a backbone.
The truth: Let’s get one thing straight: Struggling with mental health issues does not equate to weakness. No one on this earth makes it through life without dealing with feelings of anxiety and depression.
That being said, the study from Murmuration did find that, in general, Gen Z reported higher feelings of anxiousness, depression, and self-harm than other generations.
In the same study, interviewers asked young people why they felt anxious and depressed. Their answers revealed that much of their mental health issues stemmed from real-world problems: everything from school shootings to the war in Ukraine to restrictions on abortion access.
But in a study from the American Psychological Association, Dr. Arthur C. Evans makes an important point about stats like these:
…The high percentage of Gen Z reporting fair or poor mental health could be an indicator that they are more aware and accepting of mental health issues. Their openness to mental health topics represents an opportunity to start discussions about managing their stress, no matter the cause.
Gen Z may experience more mental health issues on average, or they may just be more comfortable reporting them. Either way, they’re much more likely to address and deal with their mental health issues, which makes them anything but weak.
The origin: As we’ve seen, Gen Z is more willing to talk about mental health. For older generations, particularly Boomers and beyond, mental health was often treated like a taboo subject.
This explains why older generations are less able to talk about or deal with their mental health issues than younger generations. And to members of those older generations who still feel this way, the mere fact that Gen Z is willing to talk openly about mental health may make the generation appear “mentally ill and weak.”
#5. Gen Z doesn’t care about politics
The stereotype: Gen Z is completely politically apathetic. They don’t show up to vote and don’t care about the democratic process.
The truth: This stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth.
Though many Gen Z members are still under 18, according to the Murmuration study, Gen Z voters in the 2020 elections voted at the same rate as other generations, if not slightly more.
And beyond that, Generation Z has shown that they are extremely politically active, more so than Millennials. In an interview with The Harvard Gazette, John Della Volpe, director of polling for the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, said this:
The biggest difference is Gen Z has an urgency about their approach that Millennials lack. Millennials seem more comfortable working outside of the traditional systems, in nonprofits, and in their communities, to tackle the issues they care about. Whereas Gen Z seems committed to using all the tools in their civic toolbox — voting, running for office, as well as everything else that Millennials were doing. There’s an urgency, almost a desperation in some cases, I’d say, when you talk to some of the more active members of Gen Z.
The origin: This Gen Z stereotype might be an example of some wishful thinking from older generations. In the same interview, Della Volpe referred to Gen Z as the “Republicans’ worst nightmare” because they are politically left and active voters. Perhaps some older members of the Boomer generation are spreading this stereotype because they want it to be true.
Gen Z is a unique generation, and they’re challenging many of the systems and belief structures of generations before them. But like any generation, they are not a monolith—they are nuanced and unique, and as we’ve seen, a far cry from the stereotypes you hear.
The next time you come across someone making a generalization about Gen Z (or any generation for that matter), remember that stereotypes are not fact-based, and paying them any attention is a waste of your valuable time.