EP: 178 In Defense Of Gen Z Employees: Bridging Generational Gaps With Stephanie Joong

Brave Women at Work | Stephanie Joong | Gen Z Employees

 

As a mid-career professional, what has your experience been working with or leading Gen Z employees? How would you manage and work with Gen Z employees? My guest today, Stephanie Joong, is a friend and colleague who shares her experiences with Gen Z employees and co-workers. Since Stephanie is a millennial and I am Gen X, I thought it would be helpful to hear her perspective. I learned a thing or two from Stephanie during our conversation!

 

During my chat with Stephanie, we discussed:

  1. Her work history and experience as a Millennial.
  2. The differences Stephanie has seen between Millennials and Gen Z people.
  3. Gen Z expectations for work and how they differ from Millennials and Gen X.
  4. How Stephanie has flexed her leadership style to support her Gen Z employees.
  5. The stereotypes of Gen Z and how we can defend and even learn from this generation.

Listen to the podcast here

 

In Defense Of Gen Z Employees: Bridging Generational Gaps With Stephanie Joong

How are you doing out there? Question for you, as a mid-career professional, what has your experience been working with or leading Gen Z employees? According to an article in Business Insider that I read from February 2023 titled The Millennial Boss’ Guide to Managing Gen Z, Based on 5 Stereotypes of the Younger Generation, the following quote is relevant to this discussion. “Their reputation proceeds them and stereotypes abound. They’re pegged as entitled and overly demanding. They’re seen as sensitive snowflakes with zero job loyalty. They’re labeled as TikTok-obsessed and known for drawing firm boundaries in their work lives. That may be why some Millennial managers think of Gen Z as high maintenance.”

As everybody knows, I am not a Millennial. I am a Gen X and I’ve heard in my Gen X community the same thing about that, which Gen Z is high maintenance. Why did this topic of the show come up? I wanted to share a little backstory. I run an annual survey for this show together with feedback to learn more about what you want to be covered on the show in the next year, guests you would love to hear from, and more.

You’ll get an email from me or see it on socials. I send this out annually. In 2023, we got over 900 responses. It was crazy. One of the overwhelming topics that these respondents group wanted was to ask, “How do I work with and manage Gen Z employees?” Here we go. We’re going to talk about it in this episode. My guest, Stephanie Joong, is a friend and colleague. I’m thankful that Stephanie agreed to be on the show to share her experiences with Gen Z employees and co-workers.

Since Stephanie is a Millennial and I’m solidly Gen X, I thought it would make a good interplay and conversation, and it would be great to hear Stephanie’s perspective. I learned 1 thing or 2 and much more even on off-air. I’ve learned so much from Stephanie during this conversation and some of our other conversations outside of the show.

During my chat with Stephanie, we discussed her work history and experience as a Millennial. Also, the differences that she has observed between Millennials and Gen Z employees, Gen Z expectations for work, and how they differ from Millennials, me, and all of our Gen X-ers out there. Also, how Stephanie has flexed her leadership style to support her Gen Z teammates and employees, the stereotypes of Gen Z, and how we can defend and even learn from this generation. We’re going to flip all of these stereotypes on their head in this conversation. Here is more about Stephanie.

Stephanie Joong is an accomplished professional in the life sciences industry. She started as an engineer in a technical domain but has a broad business focus in dynamic work environments. Stephanie has been a consistent promoter of women in STEM and serves as a volunteer coach for the Society of Women Engineers, SWE Mentor Network. She believes in paying it forward with the life-changing mentorship that she has received.

Stephanie has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University, a Master’s of Engineering and Biochemical Engineering from Lehigh University, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Through her studies, her work experiences, and her published story on building confidence, she has embraced the kind of leadership that aligns with her inner values and has played a vital role in shaping the culture in her workplace.

Please read her story and how she overcame her struggle, rediscovered her identity, and stepped into the spotlight in Brave Women at Work: Lessons in Confidence, which was the second book in our Anthology series. Spoiler, we have a third one on leadership coming out in April of 2024 so check us out. You can find more about the book on Hunter Street Press. The website is Hopey.net so you can learn more about the book there.

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If the show has made any type of impact on you, I would love it if you would share it with a family member, a friend, or a colleague. Your ratings and reviews help the show continue to gain traction and grow in the world. If you’ve already left a review, I thank you so much. Finally, if you haven’t yet downloaded one or all of the freebies for my site, check them out at BraveWomenAtWork.com. I’ve created three for you.

The three are 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations, 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome, and one of our most popular, Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. Who doesn’t want to get paid? These are workbook-style guides. They have places for you to write, make notes, and leave questions to yourself. They’re there for you to work in. You can complete them on your own time. Go to my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com to learn more. Let’s welcome Stephanie to the show.

 

Brave Women at Work | Stephanie Joong | Gen Z Employees

 

Stephanie, welcome to the show. How are you?

I’m doing great, Jen.

I’m so happy that you’re here. Unlike many of my other guests who I’ve found on LinkedIn or via introductions with PR agencies, I wanted to start by saying this is a different kind of little meat queue. Hope Mueller is my business partner, friend, and colleague. She also owns Hunter Street Press and C.L.I.M.B Conferences. I believe that you are her colleague and MBA cohort. Is that correct, Stephanie?

It was. Hope and I met through business school. We were in the same cohort studying at Kellogg.

You have been part of retreats that we’ve all run. You’ve ingratiated yourself in the community, which I appreciate. I love your energy. We chatted about your laugh, which is so contagious. I’m so happy to have you here.

Thank you so much, Jen. You never know where things are going to take you but networking and business school introduced me to Hope. Hope and I got a lot closer after school through this line conferencing and the retreat that we were talking about. I’m so refreshed and renewed. When you asked me, “Do you want to be in my show,” I couldn’t say no. I have to say yes to every new opportunity. I’m happy to be a part of this community and feel like I’ve found my people.

Why don’t you share a little bit about your backstory and how you’ve gotten to where you are?

I’ve always worked for large corporations. My background is I came from the East Coast. I studied Chemical Engineering, believe it or not. The reason I studied Chemical Engineering was simply because my godfather was a chemical engineer. I loved chemistry, science, and math. He said, “Why not study engineering? You can make this your job. You can do well for a living. If it’s too hard, you can always dial it back and study something else.”

When I entered the workforce, to me, company reputation and notoriety were very important. I wanted to work somewhere that was highly recognizable and make my family proud. The name recognition rang true to me at the time. Fast forward, all my work experience is in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and medical devices so very patient-focused environments. At some point, I decided I wanted to make a bigger impact, get out of that life science comfort zone, and learn from other industries.

I found that the best way to do that was to go back to school. I also love being in school so it was my third time going to school. I love being in academics and I completed my MBA. I work in an operations role in the Bay Area. I’m talking to you from California. Back to our intro, what brings me a ton of joy and something I’m majorly proud of is becoming a first-time published author, where you and I first got introduced to Brave Woman at Work lessons and confidence. For the readers out there, I get personal and vulnerable in my chapter. Writing has shown me that I can pursue multiple endeavors and not limit myself.

This is another way that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking powerful action by being on this show. Kudos. I found a kindred spirit in someone else who wants to be an academic. I told my husband, “I’m going to go back and get another Master’s degree at some point.” I don’t know. Why are we gluttons for punishment? I am going to go back and look at Somatic Psychology.

You never know where your road is going to lead you but I’m glad that your road has led us to this moment. I’m not going to ask you to share your age but there’s a gap. There are women who listen to the show that are all different ages and stages in their careers. What I did in 2023 was a Google survey of the show. 2023 was the second year that I had run the survey. The first year I got a couple hundred responses, which I was so proud of, and then in 2023, I got 900 responses.

That is incredible.

“What’s the purpose? What do you want to talk about? What do you want to hear about? What guests do you want to have on it? What feedback do you have for me,” and all of that. One of the big trends I saw in the show is how we work with our Gen Z co-workers. How do we manage them? How do we navigate them? I’m a Gen X-er. How do we deal with that? I believe you’re a Millennial. I know that you work with Gen Z so I was like, “Let’s talk about the different generations and how we navigate that in corporate and at work.” Are you ready to jump in? I’m excited about this.

In Defense Of Gen Z In The Corporate Workplace

I’m so excited. My unofficial title for this is In Defense of Gen Z in the Corporate Workplace. I know it’s going to get a ton of backlash and comments. It’s so controversial and juicy but that’s the energy I’m trying to give here.

Let’s start with you. As a millennial, what are your expectations for the work environment?

I expect to be in a place where I can grow, expand my thinking, be challenged, learn from others, and be respected. I also expect to have a very capable and inspiring boss. I want to work in a place that drives personal and team accountability, and a real sense of ownership in the work. I think back and ask myself, “Why are these things important to me?” The time and conditions in which I entered the professional full-time workforce shaped a lot of that.

As a Millennial, I entered the full-time workforce right around the housing market collapse and the following recession. Those financial crises had a huge lasting impact on whether or not me and my friends could get jobs. If you were called during that time, this was when the term fund unemployment was coined, where it was cool to not have a job and stay at home with your parents.

If you had the luxury of partying and traveling, that’s great. Take a gap year but it was hard to find a job. We were desperate and that shaped my need to have perceived job security. As a result, stability, working in a stable environment, and loyalty too. Whoever it was that was going to give me my first job, I owed it to them to stay with them for a very long time.

You have that stability. I’m trying to draw correlations and parallels for a Gen X-er. It’s similar. We want stability. My parents were of the Boomer generation. I was still very much like that gold watch generation. My mom was a teacher for 37 years. My father passed away early but he was in the education field for well over twenty years in administration. I can relate to the stability.

With the gap year thing or the fun employment thing, I do think that was more of a Millennial thing because I don’t even remember my friends talking about a gap year. I’m not opposed to a gap year. I want a gap year. Those are some of the similarities and differences that I’m hearing. Did you take a gap year or go from college right into the workforce?

I did not get the luxury of a gap year or a time to discover myself. I got my job offer. It was non-negotiable. It was so set in stone in December before I finished college. I accepted it because I felt like I had no other choice.

It’s a different ball game, which we’re going to talk about our Gen Z friends here in a minute. Fast forwarding, you are a people leader. You have Gen Z employees on your team. That was why I was so interested in talking with you because I was like, “Stephanie, do you have Gen Z?” You’re like, “Yeah.” I’m sitting there thinking that we’re about to hire a Gen Z in my corporate work but until then, I didn’t have any Gen Zs. For all of our Gen Z audience, it’s not a purpose. It just didn’t end up working out that way. I’m excited that you have a better experience than I do. Thinking and reflecting on your Gen Z folks, what’s the difference that you’ve seen between Millennials and Gen Z employees?

Preface my experience. While it is intimate and personal, it’s fairly recent. Gen Zers are the upper end. If that’s making sense illogically, I had first-hand experience with managing and working with a large Gen Z population. Preface that I have managed young Boomers, Millennials, and Gen X-ers. It’s a lot of generational diversity. I’ve gotten flavors of each. There are some big differences between millennials, the era that I come from, and Gen Z.

This is in defense of Gen Z. They want a lot more flexibility. They value flexibility. That’s not surprising to our audience. You read about this everywhere. On a deeper level, they’re much more in touch with their value systems. I come across people and talk to them. They’re so self-aware and socially in tune. They are not happy with societal expectations and society in general. They’re very vocal about it.

When we think of big corporations that are pushing the DEI or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, it can’t be lip service to these people. You have to walk the talk. They are looking for these unconventional work experiences, whereas I consider myself to be traditional. You’re going to work hard and get what you deserve. That’s not the narrative that they’re playing in their minds.

You are on LinkedIn. We’re both active there. I see so many profiles and headshots on Linkedin where it says, “Open to work.” Here’s where I’m going to expose my Gen X and you’re going to agree with me. I’m freaking out for these people. It’s a tough market. It’s hard to find work. It is a challenge. When you say these things, you have to be in touch with your value systems.

They’re more self-aware. You’ve got to walk the walk as an employer. It creates an uncomfortable dissonance within me where that is so bold of them to do that. It terrifies me because I’m like, “Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to be out of work? No one or limited employers are going to meet your expectations.” What are your thoughts on that?

That’s maybe on the extreme end, where people are boldly refusing to work for any conventional employer or corporation. I’m surrounded by Gen Z workers in my workplace but I know that’s not true. There are Gen Z-ers who are willing to take interesting jobs at big corporations but the way that they express themselves needs to be honored let’s say.

There may be smaller team dynamics that help them feel like they belong and that they feel like they’re contributing in a real way. They’re given the flexibility to some extent with a reason. I don’t think that it’s all or nothing. You can’t hire any Gen Z-ers because we’re too dull or old. I was able to create a good work environment for my team members because I had to make a lot of adjustments to my leadership style. I had to take the time to understand and learn these new people. I was able to find a way to work across the generations so that ultimately, we were doing valuable work for the company but it didn’t have to be so black and white.

You were talking about values. I’m being self-deprecating here but it’s true. I didn’t know about values work until several years ago.

I didn’t know about it until a few years ago.

Both of our generations didn’t know about values. The other thing was a huge eye-opener. This horse has been beaten dead but I have to say, after or during COVID, the whole flexibility thing has been massive for me because I didn’t realize that it is important for me as a working mom and a working person to have that flexibility. I didn’t know about asking for that flexibility since I started. You would never dare to ask about flexibility. Does that resonate with you, where some of those things weren’t on the table?

Yeah. I didn’t even know that I was good at certain focus work at different times of day and that I was allowed to arrange my calendar and work schedule around those moments of activity. I was being dragged along to whoever was putting meetings on my calendar and assumed that everybody felt exhausted at the end of at least an eight-hour work day and that was the only way. You use the weekend to catch up.

I’ve used this with my employees for my corporate work. I always said it was a magic time. Magic time was your personal time to get your work done, whatever extra, but all that was a fun and fancy way of saying your second shift. I like that you are talking about energy management, which we talk a lot about on this show. How do I manage my time and energy so that I don’t feel drained by other things that are important to me?

I wouldn’t say that my interactions with Gen Z taught me about energy management explicitly but I would say I am very influenced and impressed with their ability to ask for what they need and to know what they need. Most years leading up to fairly recently, I didn’t even know what I needed.

I relate to that. One other thing I wanted to dig into quickly is you said, “I had to change my management style and maybe the way I was speaking with my Gen Z colleagues or employees.” Do you have any thoughts about how you had to change your management or communication style to better suit them?

I’m thinking of one team member in particular. She knows that we’re having this conversation so it’s okay. We had to be a lot more open to activities and ways of engaging the team that were not my ideas, let’s say. I’ll give a very specific example. I still remember this team member who was a Gen Z. I put her in charge of leading a DEI activity. She wanted it to be authentic, have a lasting effect, and be meaningful. It was during a time when we were having some interpersonal conflict with different departments and we wanted to bring everybody together.

We had to be more open to activities and ways of engaging the team. Click To Tweet

The result I wanted was for people to feel like they could trust each other and get a little bit deeper. I spend so many hours in this workplace during the day. I feel like we should know each other and be able to genuinely trust each other. I put her in charge of this DEI activity. I’d have no idea what the script is or what the agenda is going to look like. I just know to show up at this time at this place.

She brings together a bunch of different departments. We got the cross-functional nature of it squared away. Let’s call it a privilege walk. We all stand in a line shoulder to shoulder next to each other. We’re all different titles standing next to each other on the line. A series of questions are asked to reflect whether you agree or disagree with a certain aspect of privilege in your life. One question might be I have a four-year college degree and then you take a step forward.

At the end of the exercise, you’re doing this in silence. People are getting emotional and looking around. At first, they think, “This is so personal. Why are we doing this at work?” We were outside. It was a beautiful day. At the end of taking a number of steps or not taking a number of steps, you looked around and saw where you fell in terms of privilege and the very specific set of questions against your peers or coworkers. For me, that’s not something that I would have thought to do and been comfortable bringing up and initiating in my workplace. That social equity and progressiveness came through. I honored that for her. I’m a better person because of that one-hour experience.

First of all, kudos to you as a leader. I know that you are not a micromanager because you didn’t need all the details. You trusted that person to put together something that would be impactful and you too benefit from that program that that person put on so that’s cool. That person probably felt more confident, empowered, and all that on the other side of it, which is great. I also wanted to know what the outcome was of the privilege walk. Did everyone feel positive about it on the other side of the experience?

Emotionally Empowered Gen Z

Everybody felt moved by the experience. There were some emotions that people were grappling with understandably so, especially if it’s not something that you think about as regularly or maybe our emotionally empowered and socially aware Gen Z-ers. What we ended up doing at the end, and this was also her idea, was to recap. We didn’t just end it there and everybody goes and cries in a corner or feels alone because that was not the intent to make anybody feel guilty or bad.

We stood in a circle and went around. We purchased a megaphone for the occasion. That was fun too. We passed around the megaphone and exchanged a little bit about what we appreciated about the activity. There was a lot of appreciation for my team members who organized the event because they were all so moved.

That is cool. I’m glad that that turned out so well. This person created this privilege walk. It was creative. They asked for what they thought the team needed and what they wanted. They created something innovative. How has maybe that experience or other experiences with Gen Z inspired you to speak up at work and ask for what you need?

This is not necessarily a Gen Z-er told me to do this but I was inspired by maybe the proactive nature of talking and being upfront about what you want. As a result of their influence, I demanded higher compensation for myself in my corporate job. They had taken on some new responsibilities. It never dawned on me that I could ask for additional compensation for those responsibilities and it worked out.

I’m high-fiving you over here. We should all be doing this. Everybody, write that down, ask for more money, and report back. It doesn’t have to be Gen Z but women as a whole, not to derail us too much, I was wondering if you might share some of the things you did to prepare yourself to ask for that higher compensation.

I try to be objective and remove myself from the situation. The emotions do get a little bit screwy with your brain. Instead of saying, “I deserve this and I want this,” I look at the additional work responsibilities that I didn’t have before that now I do or this person. I can remove myself from the situation and say, “This person is not doing more work than before.” It’s very important work. It’s not just busy work. It’s going to move my business forward for instance.

It’s new work. Somebody else wasn’t doing it before but it’s necessary for us to make progress. I had a very candid conversation with my people leader about it too. You have to be able to open up. It’s our responsibility to develop good relationships with our managers. Those two things grease the wheels and you should try them. The worst that can happen is they say no. At least it’s not taking up brain space and wasting your energy wondering what if it was a yes.

There’s no resentment because you did everything you could. You did your part and you’re not going to lay frustrated. You don’t feel like, “They’re going to pay me what they think I’m worth.” Good for you for doing that and for framing it in a positive way. Congrats on getting some more pay for yourself.

Thank you.

That’s so great. Our Gen Z-ers are not the villains but why do they get a bad reputation? You and I talked as we were prepping for this about some things that I’ve heard or even thought that they’re spoiled, entitled, and difficult to work with or manage.

It has a lot to do with, and don’t laugh here, TikTok and social media. My theory is if you get your generational norms and learn the generational norms mostly from these types of sources, you’re only going to see those stereotypes. It’s so pervasive. You’re looking for the evidence to confirm this suspicion that you already had, your confirmation bias, or what you’ve heard through word of mouth, which also could not be reliable sources. What I’m hearing you say is things that you thought and read about them being spoiled and they have no work ethic. Every Gen Z who I’ve met and worked with looks and acts nothing like that.

How do they look to you? Is it the exact opposite and we’re giving them a bad rap?

Like everything, it’s a spectrum. If I choose to see somebody as a spoiled person, then the next thing that they do is going to heighten my senses and it’s going to confirm what I already suspected or had preconceived about that person. We can’t make these sweeping generalizations about an entire population that most people want to be treated like individuals to begin with. I joke about being a Millennial because I do pretty much buy into the stereotype but at the end of the day, I want to be Stephanie. Gen Z is no different. They want to be treated like individuals.

We can't make these sweeping generalizations about an entire population. Most people want to be treated like individuals to begin with. Click To Tweet

I can agree with that. This is showing my age for sure. With Facebook, I got it. It’s way out. That’s more for our Boomer friends. Not everyone likes Facebook anymore. Instagram, I’m there. I love LinkedIn. That’s where I hang out. Should I go to TikTok? I don’t know if I can. Everyone gets on the talk but I’m like, “I don’t know if I can do it.”

I’m not on it. At first, I was interested and I ended up scrolling deep into the evening. I spent hours watching content. I don’t think you need an account to view things, which is also dangerous, or at least it was a couple of years ago that way. I had to get off of it because I was like, “What’s happening to my time?” I reserved TikTok and social media influencers as their thing that I am not keenly aware of or participating in. I respect the big universe that they’ve made but I’m not a part of it.

That makes me feel better because you’re a Millennial. I thought it was maybe our Gen X and Boomer friends that weren’t on TikTok but you’re not either. That is one of the other reasons that I’m not on TikTok because I have heard all of it does but that one particularly sucks your life away. You have hours and hours that you have lost.

I don’t want social media to influence what I think about a whole generation of people. I want to experience people under the age of 27 in person with my interactions. That’s what I want people to do for me too. I don’t think that LinkedIn is so cool anymore. I don’t know. It was like the butt of a joke on an episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on HBO. If you watch it, I love it. They were making fun of and shaming LinkedIn. LinkedIn is my favorite one because I spend too much time on Instagram.

Forget them. It’s their opinion. Everybody, keep an eye on LinkedIn. That’s all I have to say.

I love it.

Managing Your Team

You shared what you’ve done to help manage and lead your Gen Z-ers but what advice would you give to others? Let’s expand it. Millennial teams or Gen Z teams, what would you say?

A couple of things. The first is to treat Gen Z or Millennials the way that at least in a corporate environment we’ve been trained to treat older generations with the goal of embracing generational diversity. You need a little bit of everything to keep things manageable and keep the ecosystem healthy, let’s say. Give them the mic equally. Try to understand their stories, the trends, and how they entered the workforce their origin story. That’s important.

It’s like how I started this episode sharing how I entered the workplace. These people are entering maybe a pre or post-pandemic world. What they’re going through and how they view the world is different than how I view the world. Another thing that I suggest, and this is my personal aim, is to always keep at least one person of a younger generation close by at all times, or could be a half generation. Sometimes that’s a big enough gap. If you have access to interns, capitalize on that.

That’s a good idea. I’m thinking of summer intern programs like volunteering to have one on your team so that you can continue to keep your wider perspective.

Keep one within arms reach at all times, co-ops, some are interns, and even having lunch with one of them. They may think that you’re offering to mentor them but all you’re trying to do is still information from them and try to understand how to manage them. That’s a great two-way relationship.

I’m going to joke here. I don’t have children who are Millennial or Gen Z. I like thinking in my head, “Does raising Gen Alpha children count?” It’s a lot. They have a very different perspective but we’ll see how the Gen Alpha comes out. I digress but they’re tough, especially in their preteen.

I’m looking forward to Gen Alpha entering the workplace and then we can do another episode. We thought that we were villainizing Gen Z. We didn’t know.

I’ll be looking back like, “They were pretty easy breezy next to Alpha.”

What were we making a big deal about?

Anything else that you want to share on this before we move on?

Balance the team back to generational diversity. Other people have said this to me as well. You need the wiser generations who have tons of lived experience to temper that new energy that sometimes comes with unrealistic workplace expectations or unrealistic expectations to begin with. It’s refreshing being surrounded by the younger generation. They walk around carrying far less baggage. They’re a lot freer and they aren’t afraid to share their dreams. It’s a win-win. It’s refreshing to have that youthful energy in the workspace. I highly recommend it there.

Brave Women at Work | Stephanie Joong | Gen Z Employees
Gen Z Employees: You need wiser generations with much-lived experience to temper new energy.

 

I was thinking about this when I was looking at my notes. I am not a social psychologist or an expert in human behavior but there has to be a phenomenon out there. Readers, if there’s a word for it and you know it, please get that information back to Jen. It’s a phenomenon. People want it to be difficult for others because they have injured suffering themselves at some point. I entered the job market when was during a recession and hard to get a job so I wanted to be hard for other people to get jobs.

There’s a much easier way to do the work because of the financial circumstances, the state of the economy, access to technology, or simply access to more information because of the internet or social media. We shouldn’t want it to be hard for the new people. If it’s easier, that’s great. It’d be so much better if we could all get over whatever this ghosting phenomenon that I’ve made up in my head. That would help with the mindset shift.

This is what I’m thinking about that, talking about the suffering. I’m thinking of my parents and grandparents saying, “It was snowing when we walked to school. I had to walk 5 miles to the school.” That was their suffering.

What about shoes in the snow or blizzard?

Here’s my suffering. I’ll share this. This is what I tell my kids. I’m like, “Do you know that I had to live without a regular cell phone? I am the last generation that had a rotary phone. I remember rabbit ears on television.” My kids are like, “Whatever, Mom.” Yours might be, “Do you know that I had to come out of college in 2008 when the free world and the whole economy was falling apart?”

That’s my narrative.

Let’s play it forward. Think about Gen Z folks. They were in college during a world pandemic. Some of them are on the younger side or more in that moderate age side but they’ve had their struggles. You’re right on, even though you and I are riffing here. We’re not social psychologists but we do see that every generation has their struggle. If we could get over that and not point fingers, we’d all be better for it.

That is life advice, I would say. The struggles and comparing, there’s no competition.

What would you say about this? Gen Z employees, I love this about them and this is a stereotype but I want your thoughts on it. They do not live to work. They work to live. The examples I’ve seen are that during COVID, they may have moved to other parts of the world and maybe that’s everybody but they understand the balance.

I can say this on my side with an expert level and some knowledge because I am a recovering workaholic. I don’t know if that’s generation-specific or more me-specific but I have had periods where I live to work. It’s not something that I’m proud of but I have no problem sharing it. I can learn something from the Gen Z employee. Do you think that’s true for them on the whole? What do you think we can take away from it?

It’s the whole notion of work to live. This is so admirable. Be in touch with what’s important to you and have that ring true through all the noise that comes up in our busy lives. That’s amazing. I also think it’s okay to find Gen Z-ers, especially early in their careers, which is what they are in most cases, in jobs that they don’t know if they want to be in forever and be upfront about them. That’s okay. There’s no shame in that.

Brave Women at Work | Stephanie Joong | Gen Z Employees
Gen Z Employees: Be in touch with what’s important to you and have that ring true through all the noise in our busy lives.

 

Going back to the team member that I mentioned, she is a super rockstar performer. She knew the jam. She also took on a lot of responsibilities. She expanded the role but she also knew at the same time that it wasn’t going to be at the job that she was going to end her career. It was very far from any personal angle that she had in mind that it wasn’t fulfilling her true purpose. She knew that and still did the job.

We had that two-way honesty so it made managing that person a lot easier because we weren’t fooling each other anymore. That authenticity is how I benefited. It taught me that we can be a little bit more upfront with each other’s desires and what needs to happen to make it work. If I embraced the whole work-to-live philosophy earlier in my career, I probably wouldn’t have spent years in large corporations. I’m going to be very honest. However, when I started working, that wasn’t widespread in my network and something that we talked about in my inner circles.

I’m sitting there thinking of that very brave Gen Z employee you have. First off, is that employee still with you, or did that person move on to something more focused on their purpose?

She moved on. She did that.

Props to you wherever you are, if you’re reading.

I hope she knows I love her. She has taught me so much.

Let’s share this with her because we want to spread that love to her. The other thing is this. In my generation, we would have stayed in that job because it was comfortable or cushy or it was the “right thing to do.” It’s that whole you’re living to work versus working to live and having a purpose-centered life and lifestyle. I give her big props, big credit there.

My chapter is not just upon a very real depiction of the opposite of live-to-work. My personal experience was devastating going through what I can only describe as the deepest depression possible and having lost all sense of self-worth and confidence. I do blame it on putting my singular identity against a job. These were the very real consequences of live-to-work.

I’m not going to spoil the chapter. I want everyone to go and get the book and read Stephanie’s chapter because it’s amazing. How do you think that shifted in terms of your self-worth and confidence? Do you think that you’re in a very different place?

There’s a lot more confidence that is internally derived. This external validation of measuring myself in career achievements and the number of promotions, moves, and raises was my old life. I feel that I’ve been much more in touch with what’s going to make me whole and maybe writing a book is going to make me whole. Maybe being on this show is going to make me whole as well. Refined that leading a team still makes me whole. I’m still working for a large corporation as my day job. Nothing has changed on paper there but my attitude about it has changed.

I’m able to say no to work that doesn’t bring me joy. I’m able to distinguish the difference between busy work and things that I don’t have to do or give any energy to and the things that matter to me that are going to help me grow inside my corporate job. I can make those distinctions a lot better. It’s a fueling type of behavior. Every time I’m engaged in something that seems meaningful to me and hits on my sense of purpose, it boosts my confidence one more time. That’s a nice learning.

I do too. You are coming in with a whole different mindset and attitude. Regardless of where you land corporately or outside of corporate, it makes for a whole different experience coming in with a different mindset.

Everything else could be the same on paper. It’s amazing what your mind can do to manipulate your thoughts and make things a lot worse than they have to be.

Be Braver At Work Today

I need to talk to you offline about this a little more. I’m absorbing your teaching right there. I ask all my guests this question. What are 1 or 2 ways women can be braver at work?

Spend time with the people who extend you. After reading this episode, maybe that includes 1 or 2 Gen Z-ers too. Who knows? You want to spend time with the people who want to see you succeed. I do believe that this encouraging energy from your inner circle or other people who have called it your personal board of directors lifts you and helps you do very hard and important things. Maybe this includes a fellow Gen Z-er that you are trying to get to know a little bit better. You never know.

Spend time with the people who want to see you succeed. Click To Tweet

I like that, too. There’s some good challenge in there for us. It’s not just about mentoring a Gen Z. It’s if you could have them as someone that is on your board of advisors or within your inner circle so that they can give you a new perspective. Often, if you would tell me before this conversation, “Gen Z can be my mentee. I can mentor them,” but no. You’ve taught through this conversation that they have something to teach us and we need to have those eyes and ears open to listen and see.

They have a lot to say. If you give them the mic and your equal attention, there’s going to be a new perspective. They might push you to try new things, ask for more money, and plan your team-building activities differently. They deserve attention.

Give Gen Zs the mic and your equal attention. There will be a new perspective, and they might push you to try new things. Click To Tweet

I hope that people reach out to you. How can people connect with you online?

I’m very active on LinkedIn, @StephanieJoong. This is already an outdated social media platform so who knows how long that’s going to last but I’m active. I check my messages. I like to stay engaged there. Send me a note on LinkedIn and we’ll connect.

That’s so great. Stephanie, thank you so much for widening our perspective, for being who you are, and for being such a dear friend and colleague. I love the community we’re building and I appreciate your time.

Thanks so much for having me, Jen. This was a blast.

That’s a wrap on my discussion with, Stephanie. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on any other platform you enjoy. Until next time. Show up. Let’s hear it for Gen Z and be brave.

 

Important Links

 

About Stephanie Joong

Brave Women at Work | Stephanie Joong | Gen Z EmployeesStephanie Joong is an accomplished professional in the Life Sciences industry. She started as an engineer in a technical domain but now has a broad business focus in dynamic work environments. Stephanie has been a consistent promoter of women in STEM and serves as a volunteer coach for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Mentor Network. She believes in paying forward the life-changing mentorship that she has received.

Stephanie has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University, a Master of Engineering in Biochemical Engineering from Lehigh University, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Through her studies, her work experiences, and her published story on building confidence, she has embraced the kind of leadership that aligns with her inner values and has played a vital role in shaping the culture in her workplace.

Read her story of how she overcame struggle, rediscovered her identity, and stepped into the
spotlight in Brave Women at Work: Lessons in Confidence.

Book Your Discovery Call

How much would you give to sit across a coach who was trained to help women just like you get clear, overcome their obstacles and take action to achieve their career goals? Well, for anyone serious about their career, the price would be quite high and worth every penny. But for a short time, for a small number of people, I’m offering that opportunity…without charge.

That’s right, with my Discovery Call you have the chance to work with me one on one, absolutely free. Typically a session like this is $250, but I’m waiving the fee for anyone who applies today.

Because I hold these calls personally, there are very few spots available, so if you’re serious about about finding your dream career and would like the guidance and support of a trained expert, use the calendar provided to apply for your session now.

Get ready for your next negotiation with our Free Guide

Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips from Brave Women at Work

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.