Leading an organization full of self-righteous hypocritical (i.e., normal) people has always been difficult. We think it's going to get a lot more difficult in the next few years, unless leaders take careful and thoughtful steps to prevent safetyism from taking root in their organizations.
The Coddling of the American Mind focuses on events on college campuses, and then traces the problems back to younger ages — mistakes made by parents, and in K-12 education. As we were finishing the book, in early 2018, we considered writing a chapter on how these trends were beginning to affect organizations, particularly companies. We had just begun to hear stories from businesspeople about how safetyism was showing up in industries that hired primarily from America's most elite universities — industries such as journalism, media, the arts, and technology. But in early 2018, all we had was a few anecdotes, so we decided we could not yet write such a chapter.
The first members of Gen Z just began to graduate from college in May of 2017, or 2018, depending on how you count it. And just in late 2018, the trickle of anecdotes began to increase. Working in a company requires very high levels of cooperation, and an ability to submerge your own concerns for the good of the team. Such norms are incompatible with the callout culture and safetyism that some (just some) recent college graduates are taking with them into the workplace. We predict that the spread of safetyism into American companies — along with the moral dependence and constant conflict it engenders — will be a major theme in the business world, and in pretty much every organization, including churches, synagogues, and non-profits. Well say more about the problem, and how leaders can minimize it, as we learn more about it.
In the meantime, here are a few articles in the popular press about Gen Z and safetyism at work:
A) On the rise in anxiety among young employees:
B) Advice for leaders and managers, about integrating Gen Z into the workplace
— Generation Z Is Coming To The Workplace: Are You Ready? Jeff Cunningham interviews Jon Haidt (2019), in Chief Executive. [Includes advice about how to set norms to minimize political conflicts at work]
— As work gets more ambiguous, younger generations may be less equipped for it, by Peter O'Connor & Karen Becker (2018). Medium.
— Experts Say Gen Z Isn't Prepared For The Workplace, But It Isn't All Their Fault, by Brianna Wiest (2019). Forbes.
--There’s No Z In Team- 8 Things To Know About Gen Z. by Remy Blumenfeld (2019), Forbes. "Be very clear about the values of your organization..."
C) Advice for members of Gen Z
— Skills for the 21st Century — Building Human Capital for Economic Mobility, by Ben Wilterdink (2019), Archbridge Institute. [Soft skills are becoming more valuable; cultivate them, and grit]
--Advice for Gen Z: Demand a Better Workplace Than We Did, by Ed Frauenheim (2018), Workforce. "Young people, don’t buy the depressing vision he’s selling! Because you can push for a much better work life than we older fogies have tolerated. And I hope—for all of us—that you will."
D) Conflict, callout culture, and social media in the workplace
— Managers need new ways to deal with worker dissent, by Andrew Hill (2019), Financial Times
--Why I quite the writers' room, by Walter Mosley (2019), New York Times. "Someone in the room, I have no idea who, called H.R. and said that my use of the word made them uncomfortable, and the H.R. representative called to inform me that such language was unacceptable to my employers. I couldn’t use that word in common parlance, even to express an experience I lived through..."