19 Workplace Norms That Millennials and Gen Z Are Refusing to Accept

Millennials and Gen Z are reshaping the workplace with their distinct values and expectations, challenging many traditional norms. Though there are still some differences in workplace values, there is a unity in the fact that things need to change. Here are 19 things Millennials and Gen Z refuse to accept in the workplace.

Long Working Hours

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It was once expected for employees to put in hours well above their 40 a week. Racing in to beat the boss and waiting until senior team leaders leave for it to be time to go home are not on the agenda for Millennials and Gen Z. Gen Z is refusing to buy into productivity theater and will leave work or sign off the second their shift is done.

Lack of Boundaries

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Millennials and Gen Z advocate for clear boundaries between work and personal life, rejecting the notion that employees should always be available. Sharing personal information is also a huge ‘no’ for Gen Z. This is a huge contrast compared to Millennials, who have always felt quite comfortable detailing their personal lives, though they still wanted work-life boundaries.

Toxic Work Environments

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Young workers are increasingly unwilling to tolerate toxic behaviors, including harassment, discrimination, and undue stress. They are willing to speak up to higher-ups when they are feeling unhappy or unsafe at work. If their bosses won’t listen, they will use their voices in other ways.

Overbearing Bosses

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There’s a pushback against authoritarian leadership styles and a preference for leaders who are approachable and supportive. Gen Z and Millennials know they don’t have to take abuse from their bosses. Millennials, or the job hop generation, will move on and find another job. Gen Z, according to Business Insider, is more likely to try to change things from within and is the most pro-union generation.

Inflexible Work Arrangements

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The in-office 9–5 just doesn’t appeal to the latest generations of workers. The pandemic proved a lot of jobs can be done remotely or outside “standard” business hours. That knowledge has fueled the demand for flexible working arrangements, including remote work options and flexible hours.

Poor Work-Life Balance

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There’s a strong emphasis on achieving a healthy work-life balance, with younger workers prioritizing personal time and well-being. Millennials and Gen Z are clocking off at the end of the day and not answering calls from their work after hours. Many will not even participate in the after-work happy hour, according to the NY Post, because it feels like work creeping into their personal time.

Lack of Financial and Social Transparency

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Employers have always expressed their preference for employees to not share their salaries with their coworkers. However, Millennials and Gen Z demand more transparency in the workplace, including open discussions about salaries and company policies, part of a broader expectation for honesty and integrity from employers, and a rejection of opaque corporate practices. It is actually illegal to ban these discussions, and workers are using that knowledge to keep companies paying with integrity.

Undervaluing Mental Health

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Millennials and Gen Z are vocal about the importance of mental health support and expect employers to take it seriously. “Being able to talk about mental health, being able to talk about your frustrations, [and] telling your boss that you don’t feel like you’re getting paid enough” are all good things, said global industry analyst and corporate talent consultancy CEO Josh Bersin. If employers don’t take their mental health seriously, employees are comfortable finding someone who will.

Lack of Purpose and Impact

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A job isn’t just a way to get paid anymore, and Millennials and Gen Z won’t just take whatever jobs pays them. Younger generations seek meaningful work that aligns with their values and contributes positively to society.

Insufficient Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts

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There’s an expectation for genuine commitment to DEI, beyond mere lip service. Gen Z views diversity in race, gender, religion, and orientation as standard. They grew up in a society that was willing to adapt to change, which means they widely celebrate diversity. They want to focus less on diversity as an attribute and more on the fact that it’s just become the norm in society.

Environmental Negligence

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Companies that disregard environmental sustainability face rejection from young workers who prioritize climate action. Only 15% of Gen Zers and Millennials feel able to influence their organization’s efforts on sustainability, but climate change increasingly shapes career decisions: many are researching a brand’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a role.

Rigid Communication Styles

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Gen Z, in particular, favors more casual and authentic forms of communication, challenging traditional corporate etiquette. Gen Z, in particular, is communicating more casually at work, using slang, emojis, and less formal email signatures. This reflects their desire for authenticity and individuality, even in professional settings. However, this has led to some employers offering business etiquette classes to younger workers to ensure appropriate workplace communication.

Taking Sick Days

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In 2023, some 30% of white-collar workers with paid leave took sick days, up from about 20% in 2019, according to a report from HR software company Gusto. Those aged 25 to 34 are taking their sick days most often. “The younger generation is now the most likely to take time away from work to rest and recover from an illness—a sign of a generational shift in the attitude that employees have to take time off to protect their health.”

Political Correctness and Social Justice

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The office used to be a place where you were supposed to leave your politics (unless that’s the field you work in) at the door. This was designed to maintain a neutral work environment and ease tensions between people with opposing beliefs that had little to do with work. Younger workers are more likely to bring their political beliefs into the workplace, leading to tensions around sensitive topics.

Rejecting Assignments on Ethical Grounds

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Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to refuse work that conflicts with their ethics or values. In a Deloitte survey, nearly four in 10 respondents said they have rejected work assignments due to ethical concerns. Whether it is diversity, climate change, LGBTQ+ topics, or women’s rights, employees aren’t just taking the task at hand and pushing their emotions to the side anymore.

Demand for Higher Wages

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Younger workers are vocal about their salary expectations and are willing to leave jobs that don’t meet their financial needs. Gen Z is less concerned with job security and instead cares more about work advancement. They demand higher salaries and won’t settle for anything less than they know they’re worth. This is completely different from a Millennial’s way of thinking, who much prefers to know they have job security.

Casual Dress Codes

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There is a trend toward rejecting formal dress codes that aligns with the push for more authentic self-expression and comfort at work. It started with the introduction of casual Fridays and then adopting business casual instead of the once-standard suit and tie. The latest workforce wants to be able to wear whatever makes them comfortable, thinking their clothes don’t affect their work performance.

One Career Path

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Both generations are more likely to change jobs frequently in search of better opportunities, work environments, and alignment with their values. This contrasts with the traditional expectation of long-term loyalty to a single employer. Millennials and Gen Z are also exploring careers outside the conventional 9-to-5 jobs, including gig work and entrepreneurship, reflecting their desire for flexibility and autonomy.

Collaboration Styles

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Gen Z prefers to work independently rather than as part of a team, which may also be why they prefer remote work so much. This puts a higher emphasis on personal achievement and makes them more self-reliant. It challenges traditional workplace environments, where you usually work as part of a team.

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