Generation Z's Work Expectations: Why They Want to Be Coached, Not Managed

The term ‘smartphone’ was first used in 1995—the same year Generation Z (Gen Z) came into this world. Born sometime between 1995 and 2015, Generation Z ranges in age from 5-25 years old, with the oldest segment now graduating college and entering the workforce. Always connected to smartphones and social media, Generation Z has always had instant access to information. How has this upbringing shaped Generation Z’s work expectations?

Generation Z’s Work Expectations

“Radically different than Millennials, [Gen Z] has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce,” reports Deloitte. If employers want to attract Gen Z, they must develop “...robust training and leadership programs, with a real and tangible focus on diversity.” Similarly, other research mentions apprenticeship programs, mentoring arrangements, and leadership training—highlighting Generation Z’s desire to be coached and not managed.

Coaching Generation Z—Not Managing

Though closely related, and incorrectly used interchangeably, coaching and managing are not the same. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as, "a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires maximum personal and professional potential.” Conversely, managing is defined as “having executive or supervisory control or authority.” Unlike managing, coaching is inherently collaborative—both the coach and the coachee must play an active role in the process. Here are three reasons why you should be coaching Generation Z—not managing—and how your organization can adapt.

  1. Gen Zers are active problem-solvers. With near-instant access to information since birth, Generation Z is accustomed to indepently finding answers and creating solutions. Rather than dictate exactly how to accomplish a task, when appropriate, leaders should discuss options and let Generation Z employees make the call—holding them responsible and accountable to the results. As quoted in Forbes, Mike Tinney, CEO and founder of FIX Health, shares, “I can always tell [Gen Z] what to do, but when I share the pros and cons based on my experience and suggest they think about it, they tend to stick the landing...”
  2. Generation Z wants to learn and develop. Generation Z is hungry for development opportunities. As TechRepublic reports, “Once on the job, Generation Z candidates seek managers who can assess their skills, needs and interests and connect them to mentors that can help develop their capabilities.” Gen Zers respect leaders who take a coaching-approach and prioritize skill development. Unsurprisingly, Generation Z rejects bosses who micromanage and lead through fear.
  3. Generation Z prefers bite-sized learning. With immediate access to answers, Generation Z is used to learning quickly and independently. LinkedIn shares that, “Nearly 58% of Generation Z would like to learn a new skill, but don’t feel they have the time to do so.” When developing Learning and Development Programs, organizations should consider self-directed, micro-learning opportunities—quick ways for Generation Z to gain knowledge and skills on their own.


Generation Z is the youngest, most educated, and most diverse generation. To help Generation Z thrive in the workplace, organizations should foster active problem solving, leverage a coaching leadership style, and create bite-sized opportunities for growth.