1 in 5 Gen Zers haven’t had a single conversation with someone over 50 in their workplace in the last year, LinkedIn research says



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Young workers today aren’t afraid to broadcast their salary or tell their boss what they think of them, yet plucking up the courage to talk to their senior coworkers is a whole other matter. Despite being the most vocal generation yet, new research from LinkedIn suggests that Gen Z’s confidence doesn’t extend to talking with the baby boomer and Gen X coworkers on their team. 

One in five Gen Z workers reported that they haven’t had a single direct conversation with someone over 50 in their workplace in the last year. They’re also the least likely to feel confident interacting with other generations generally.

In comparison, just 17% of the 1000 British workers LinkedIn surveyed said that they don’t know how to approach colleagues of other age groups. 

LinkedIn’s data didn’t reveal why Gen Z are struggling to interact with their senior peers, but previous analysis compiled by Harris Poll for Fortune highlighted that without a spouse, pet, or children to talk about, Gen Zers feel like they can’t relate to older coworkers who are in a different life stage.

Either way, their lack of lip service could be damaging their career prospects.

Research has consistently shown that face time with management can increase your odds of winning their affection and therefore scoring a promotion or a raise.

What’s worse, LinkedIn’s study shows that Gen Z knows that cozying up to their seniors could boost their careers, but they’re leaving the ball in the court of management.

Although most of the Gen Zers surveyed reported that communicating with their wider team would improve their productivity and learning, 64% are waiting for their company to do more to encourage intergenerational collaboration.

Unfortunately, they may find that forced water cooler moments from the top can’t quite match genuine catch-ups when it comes to forging a real connection with others.

It’s on baby boomers and Gen X to make the first move

Although LinkedIn’s research found that 74% of all professionals believe they can learn a lot from other age groups, it’s not only Gen Z who prefer conversing within their own cohort.

Around 40% of those over 55 haven’t spoken to a Gen Z colleague in the past year either—and it’s probably why the youngest generation of workers feel hesitant to approach them.

Three-quarters of young career starters previously told Fortune that they would only talk to their senior coworkers if the latter made the first move.

Ultimately, making small talk may seem like common knowledge, but it’s well documented that it’s one of many “basic” soft skills that Gen Z missed out on learning while coming of age in isolation during the pandemic—and workers know this. 

The majority of the employees LinkedIn surveyed recognized that professionals who joined the workforce during the pandemic lack communication and networking skills, as well as the informal cues that traditionally influence office behaviour.

It’s why the onus is on experienced baby boomers and Gen X to make the first move.

If talking about TikTok or the “cozzie livs” with Gen Zers in the office is too painfully awkward, LinkedIn’s career expert, Charlotte Davies, suggests reverse mentoring is a good place to start.

“Mentoring can help bridge generational differences in the workplace and help generations who are decades apart better understand each other,” she said. 

Likewise, new starters could ask their manager to be mentored by a seasoned worker. 

“A good mentor can further your professional growth by helping you develop specific skills, set career goals and connect you to people and opportunities,” Davies added.

Either way, both younger and older workers would do well to leave their “preconceptions at the door” and try to gain insight into each other’s worlds.

“Actively listening to colleagues outside of your cohort can help avoid assumptions about different generations and their attitudes to work, build trust and rapport and allow you to learn from each others’ experiences,” Davies concluded.

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