Gen Z expose the ‘toxic’ behaviours of their bosses

Jessica* is only in her second job after finishing university, but she describes her boss as “very toxic”, says he puts off her workload most days and has previously fired her for complaining to HR.

The 25-year-old works 10-hour days and said her boss had previously suggested she wasn’t very smart.

Add to that the fact that no one really follows him, she said, which means he gets away with misbehaving and doing very little work.

“He has to do reports a lot of the time, and instead of him doing them, he’ll make me do them, and I can’t tell anyone that he’s putting his work on me. A lot of the time I do his work and he doesn’t do anything and that’s just the way it is,” she told news.com.au.

“If I ever talk to HR, instead of trying to work it out, they’re going to tell him directly to work it out.”

As a result, she was forced to simply “shut up,” even though she noticed that her boss was offline and unavailable 80 percent of the day, and that no one was holding him accountable.

“Overall I would say I enjoy my role, but I don’t enjoy having to do his job as well,” she added.

“I’m potentially considering interviewing at other places just because of my boss, but I like my co-workers and the company — just not this guy. He makes me feel very miserable at work.”

Jessica is one of a growing number of Gen Z employees who are facing toxic workplaces while the confidence of business leaders is dramatically declining.

Aaron McEwan, vice president of research and consulting at Gartner, said there has been a major erosion of trust in business people and that the public now views them on the same level as politicians or institutions such as the church.

He said Generation Z are increasingly sharing their ‘flaws’ or ‘frustrations’ in the workplace, particularly when it comes to the behavior of their managers.

Common complaints from toxic bosses include microaggressive feedback, blatant double standards and making co-workers feel isolated, he added.

It plays on popular TikTok topics like #quittok and #worktok, where employees share their workplace experiences, from exposing a toxic boss to highlighting bad work practices.

“In recent years there have been all these cases of people recording an internal town hall meeting and publishing the results of it. One example was a CEO who congratulated an employee for selling his dog so he could return to the office for work. Other examples include large-scale redundancies being announced,” he told news.com.au.

“On a micro level, managers have to deal with the complexity and changing expectations of employees and the emergence of social media, which allows for a much higher level of control over day-to-day behavior.

“But managers are not ready for transparency and behavior control. People used to go home and complain to their partners about sexual harassment, but now managers are filmed and fired the next day.”

Mr McEwan said the pandemic had “drastically changed employees’ expectations of work”, but it had also led to fragmented living conditions and record levels of fatigue leading to higher levels of workplace conflict.

At its most extreme, this means bullying, harassment and inappropriate workplace behavior by managers or being mistreated by bosses.

But he warned that an even bigger toll on jobs is coming as the cost of living shrinks.

“It’s strongest when you combine all of that with cost-of-living pressures, particularly the housing crisis,” he said.

“It used to be that if you worked hard and did a good job, you would be rewarded with development and promotions and increase your earning potential.

“But we’ve had 30 years of flat wage growth but rising costs of living, so it almost feels like if you work hard there’s no real reward at the end, so what’s the point?”

Poppy* said she is on the verge of “burnout” after dealing with a manager she describes as “incompetent” but is also incredibly unhappy with no promotion despite picking up the boss’s slack .

The 27-year-old works as a consultant and said one of the biggest “downsides” at work is her boss eating while on client calls, which she finds “super unprofessional” – but that’s only when he shows up.

“I don’t think she’s very capable. I don’t think he’s doing his job properly. She won’t attend meetings and if she does attend meetings with clients or internally, she doesn’t know what’s going on because she’s not in the field every day and she’s not involved in the work,” she told news.com.au. .

“So it’s me and one other person on the team carrying that burden, and we’re both a lot younger.”

Another issue, she said, is that it’s well known within the company that you’re more likely to get promoted if you take on the admin work of one boss, which is a big disadvantage.

Meanwhile, a recent change in leadership at the top has dramatically changed the culture.

“The reason I stayed so long … is partly to survive the turmoil. This is the third time we have been dismissed,” she said.

“I always felt like I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t let me go and it felt intimidating because it’s very difficult to get a job in the market. I felt it was safer to stay, but now I want to move from the company to another consulting company or change my career.”

A Gartner survey recently revealed that less than half of employees agree that they can trust their leaders, and only 53 percent believe that their organization has employees’ interests at heart.

This issue is also emerging as the gap between CEO and employee pay continues to widen, Mr McEwan noted, leading younger generations in particular to question whether it is worth working for a particular company.

“We often see scandals with overpaid CEOs or just look at the bank investigation a few years ago with massive fraud and dodgy practices,” he noted.

“Then there is the hospitality industry which has been accused of wage theft, the big supermarkets accused of wage theft and pushing people away during the cost of living crisis and price gouging. Then these company CEOs are being interviewed and they’re failing the pub ethics test, so there’s a whole host of factors that erode trust.”

He said organizations can forget public relations management and embrace “radical transparency” instead.

“There’s really nowhere to hide, so what was previously swept under the rug or hidden behind closed doors is no longer the reality of the workplace,” he said.

“No PR stunt can save you from that, and these things have a huge impact on businesses.

“A case of a CEO congratulating an employee who sold his dog so they could go back to work went viral within 24 hours and sent that company’s stock price down. There is a much greater level of scrutiny and expectations of ethical and responsible behavior by managers.”

*names changed for privacy

sarah.sharples@news.com.au

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