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The Age of Discontent: Gen Z is Frustrated At Work

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Many young American employees remain disenchanted when it comes to work. That was a major takeaway from Morning Consult’s recent research on the state of the U.S. workforce.

Gen Z workers reported being less engaged with their jobs than all workers (81% versus 88%) and continue to drive the “quiet quitting” trend.

“Ultimately, [job perks like] ping-pong tables aren’t really going to be enough for us at this point,” said Gen Zer Ellyn Briggs, who serves as a brands analyst for Morning Consult. “We’re really looking for employers to allow us full ownership over, and to help amplify, our own unique skill sets.”

Briggs spoke during a recent webinar, during which Morning Consult discussed how the American workplace is evolving as well as how workers’ attitudes have changed over the past 12 months.

While America’s overall workforce is generally satisfied professionally, Gen Z (a category including those 27 years old and younger) remains an outlier. Work engagement among Gen Z workers dipped from 84% in January 2023 to 81% a year later.

Social media plays a key role, according to Amy He, Morning Consult’s head of industry analysis. Essentially, Gen Z talks about its frustrations at work often enough that it impacts the cohort’s negative perception of work.

“What’s unique about Gen Z is that they just have many more places to talk about their dissatisfaction … with many aspects of their jobs,” He said.

“I do think that a lot of trending topics that are work related have kind of fomented and the charge has been led by Gen Z. They’re just talking about it very openly.”

Many of Morning Consult’s recent findings hint at Gen Z’s professional discontent. Approximately 45% of Gen Z employees admit to taking long breaks (compared to 35% of all U.S. adults). Some 39% of Gen Zers acknowledge they embellish how long it takes to complete work tasks (9% higher than all adults). Additionally, 49% of young adults admit to leaving work early (7% higher than all adults), and 28% of young adults said they call in sick when they feel fine (versus 22% for all adults).

Meanwhile, pay remains a concern for much of the overall workforce. According to Morning Consult, just 29% of American workers surveyed said they were “very satisfied” with their pay, while 18% were somewhat unsatisfied and 10% said they were very unsatisfied.

The percentage of employed U.S. adults interested in leaving their current jobs is on an uptick, rising from 34% in 2023 to 36% in 2024. The top reasons for workers considering leaving their jobs include:

  • Feel underpaid (41%)
  • Want better work-life balance (40%)
  • Feel burned out (35%)
  • Want to explore other interests (35%)
  • Want more flexibility in when they work (34%)

Another noteworthy finding from from the survey: nearly one-third (30%) of workers currently considering leaving their job feel they’re not getting adequate benefits. Similarly, He said many American workers now want financial support from employers regarding childcare costs.

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