Gen Z vs. Gen Y: What’s the Difference?

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The past decade has had significant focus on the impact Gen Y is having on our workplaces. Since different generations are raised with different values, it’s not surprising that we experience shifts in our workplace values as well. Simple value tensions like respecting authority (Baby Boomers) versus a distrust of hierarchy (Gen Y, aka Millennials) will cause workplace conflict. Overall, this increase in generational value preferences has been a healthy movement as it has given us the opportunity to understand our differences. However, the focus on Gen Y is shifting as Gen Z are now entering the workplace (generational age norms are provided below).

Barna Research has released data which helps us understand Gen Z (as well as their predecessors). While Gen Z may share some common ground with Millennials, we would be mistaken to treat them the same. Some of Barna’s more notable Gen Z conclusions are as follows:

  • A key characteristic of Gen Z is that their expectations are largely shaped around themes of academic and career success — more so than any other generation.
  • However, nearly 40% want to spend their 20’s enjoying life before they take on the responsibilities of being an adult—significantly higher than the 25% of Millennials who said this.
  • Six out of the top 10 reasons teens look up to their role model are related to career or financial success.
  • Personal achievement, whether educational or professional (43%), and hobbies and pastimes (42%) are the things most central to Gen Z’s identity. Their responses stand out against those of their elders: Twice as many teens as Boomers strongly agree that these factors are important to their sense of self (22% and 24% in Boomers).

The charts below provide many other helpful insights. However, I encourage you to remember the principle behind this data. We are all created uniquely and for different purposes. The rise of generational awareness is simply a reflection of our desire to be treated as the unique people we are. In fact, you and I personify a microcosm of this same principle. This truth requires you to do more than just manage people. Identifying and maximizing the potential of each employee is the work of a gifted leader!


GEN Z were born 1999 to 2015 (only teens 13 to 18 are in this study) | MILLENNIALS were born 1984 to 1998     GEN X were born 1965 to 1983 | BOOMERS were born 1946 to 1964 | ELDERS were born before 1946

Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness –

Source: Barna Research

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