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Gen Z Get More Heat Than They Deserve for Poor Office Etiquette

As per a recent survey conducted by, it was found that 65% of business leaders acknowledge the need for office etiquette training in their organizations. This initiative is either already in place or is part of future plans to aid employees in transitioning back to the office environment.

The anticipated friction over office etiquette post-pandemic is not surprising, considering that many workers have spent the last three years working remotely. Moreover, the return to desolate offices for those who came back early and the entrance of Gen Z employees into the workforce during the pandemic, missing out on organic "office etiquette" training, have been contributing factors. Respondents specifically identified young employees as a primary reason for implementing office etiquette training.

Office etiquette training covers a broad spectrum, including topics such as dress code and workplace conversation. During a keynote address at a regional HR conference in 2021, I experienced firsthand the sensitivity of workplace discussions, especially in a hybrid setting with in-house and remote employees. This highlighted the importance of addressing communication challenges in a diverse work environment.

Reflecting on my role as the founder of Lady Blossoms Finishing School for Girls, I recall providing job training for the Mayor's Summer Youth Program in response to a request from the City of Oakland's Chief of Staff. This underscores the idea that office etiquette is a valuable skill not only for young people but also for adults transitioning between careers and navigating different company cultures.

The pandemic exacerbated existing challenges, prompting a need to retrain employees and update onboarding processes. Issues like time zone awareness, video call fatigue, and effective online communication have become crucial in the new normal. Additionally, the legalization of cannabis in certain states has added another layer to workplace dynamics, as seen in a case involving a young man reprimanded for smoking marijuana during his lunch break.

Approximately 60% of companies surveyed indicated that office etiquette courses will be mandatory for all employees. The unique introduction of Gen Z to the workforce has posed challenges in this regard. While addressing the importance of training young employees, it's essential to recognize that issues extend beyond age, including social media addiction and undertrained new hires.

During a conference with leaders from the US meat industry, a young lady expressed frustration with workplace policies. Her experience highlighted concerns about management practices, such as last-minute requests to work on approved off days due to staffing shortages. This emphasizes the need to address broader issues affecting performance, beyond just office etiquette.

According to the Orlando Business Journal, about 10% of companies offering etiquette classes plan to make them mandatory for most or all new college graduates and employees aged 18 to 27. The survey also revealed that while 95% of respondents acknowledged Gen Z's competence in using computer software, only 62% considered them competent in soft skills in the office.

Stacie Haller, chief career advisor for, emphasized that Gen Z candidates lack on-site learning opportunities for soft skills due to the remote nature of their college and entry-level experiences during the pandemic. The survey results indicate a growing understanding among companies that Gen Z employees require training from day one to adapt quickly to an in-office environment.

In conclusion, while Gen Z is often criticized for lacking soft skills, it's crucial for organizations to consider the unique circumstances they face. Instead of blaming a specific generation, there is a need to see the larger picture and address the broader challenges affecting workplace dynamics. It's essential to avoid unjust division and discrimination, especially in the delicate post-pandemic situation.

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