Gen Z Employees Face Uncomfortable Interactions in the Workplace

Gen Z employees are experiencing discomfort and bullying in the workplace as they return to office environments, impacting their overall well-being and productivity.

As the workforce gradually transitions back to in-person office settings, a concerning trend is emerging among Gen Z employees. Nearly half of Gen Z workers report having uncomfortable interactions with colleagues since returning to the office, with some even describing these encounters as "creepy" and fear-inducing. This revelation comes from a recent survey conducted by, shedding light on the challenges faced by this generation as they navigate the post-pandemic work environment.

According to Julia Toothacre, a Resume and Career Strategist with, these uncomfortable interactions include colleagues staring, invading personal space, and exhibiting bullying behaviors. Shockingly, almost 40% of Gen Z employees have reported being bullied at work since their return to the office, a significantly higher percentage compared to other generations in the workforce.

The Reader's Guide

With Gen Z poised to represent a significant portion of the U.S. workforce in the near future, addressing these issues is crucial for employers looking to attract and retain top talent. The impact of these uncomfortable interactions goes beyond individual experiences, affecting overall workplace culture and employee engagement.

Understanding the Root Causes

So, what is driving these uncomfortable interactions among Gen Z employees? Kelly Kinnebrew, a Clinical and Organisational Psychologist, suggests that the discomfort may stem from a lack of experience in processing challenging emotions and setting boundaries. Growing up in an era of overprotective parenting styles may have contributed to this phenomenon, leaving Gen Z ill-equipped to navigate complex social dynamics in the workplace.

Moreover, the shift from virtual work to in-person collaboration has presented new challenges for Gen Z workers, who may struggle to adapt to traditional office norms and communication styles. This adjustment period requires support and guidance from HR leaders and managers to help Gen Z employees build emotional resilience and cope with uncomfortable situations effectively.

Tools for Building Emotional Resilience

To assist Gen Z employees in managing their emotions and responses to challenging situations, HR leaders can implement various tools and strategies. Kinnebrew recommends teaching Gen Z workers how to recognize, process, and respond to their feelings appropriately, emphasizing the importance of developing healthy coping mechanisms.

Journalling can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and emotional processing. Encouraging employees to document their experiences, feelings, and reactions to uncomfortable incidents can help them gain clarity and perspective on the situation. By identifying personal triggers and biases, individuals can better understand their emotional responses and take proactive steps to address them.

Additionally, creating a culture of open communication and support is vital for fostering psychological safety in the workplace. Gen Z employees should feel empowered to speak up about uncomfortable interactions and seek assistance when needed, without fear of retaliation or judgment.

Training for Positive Workplace Behaviors

While Gen Z may lack experience in navigating workplace dynamics, they often exhibit greater self-awareness and intolerance for inappropriate behaviors like bullying and harassment. Matt Enhard, a Managing Partner with Summit Search Group, notes that Gen Z employees are more likely to call out toxic behaviors and challenge traditional workplace norms.

HR leaders can play a pivotal role in promoting positive workplace behaviors by providing comprehensive training on office etiquette, anti-bullying practices, and sexual harassment prevention. Educating employees on appropriate conduct, communication styles, and reporting protocols can create a safe and inclusive environment where all team members feel respected and valued.

By empowering Gen Z employees to recognize and address inappropriate behaviors proactively, organizations can cultivate a culture of accountability and mutual respect. Building a supportive work environment that prioritizes psychological safety and emotional well-being benefits not only Gen Z but also enhances overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

Addressing the challenges faced by Gen Z employees in the workplace requires a proactive and empathetic approach from employers and HR leaders. By fostering a culture of respect, open communication, and support, organizations can create an inclusive environment where all employees can thrive and contribute their best work.

The Report Findings

The report found that 41% of Gen Z employees do not believe they will remain anonymous if they file a complaint, versus 32% of Baby Boomers. This stark contrast highlights a significant issue in the workplace - the fear of speaking up. It's alarming that younger employees, who are the future of any organization, feel hesitant to report incidents that make them uncomfortable.

To combat this, HR leaders must develop a culture where employees feel encouraged to speak up. This culture should be reinforced through positive behavior and accountability. Offering an anonymous platform for employees to submit complaints about bullying, harassment, or any uncomfortable incidents is a step in the right direction. This not only empowers employees but also ensures that their voices are heard and respected.

Organizations need to take the issue of speaking up seriously. Building a culture of accountability starts with reaching out to younger employees and encouraging them to report more. It is crucial for employees to understand the safeguards that protect them when they do speak up. This is not just about compliance; it's about creating a safe and inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Creating Cultures of Respect

Leading organizations understand the importance of creating cultures of respect, especially as employees return to the office. Respecting each other's boundaries, opinions, and feelings is key to fostering a positive work environment. By promoting open communication, organizations can ensure that employees feel comfortable speaking up without fear of retaliation.

HR leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for respectful interactions within the workplace. By demonstrating empathy, active listening, and transparency, HR professionals can create a safe space for employees to voice their concerns. Encouraging dialogue and feedback helps in building trust and strengthening relationships among team members.

Attending events like HRE’s EPIC Conference in Las Vegas can provide valuable insights into how leading organizations are creating cultures of respect. Learning from industry experts and networking with peers can offer new perspectives on how to promote inclusivity and diversity within the workplace. By investing in employee well-being and promoting a speak-up culture, organizations can foster a sense of belonging and mutual respect.

Register for HRE’s EPIC Conference

Learn how leading organizations create cultures of respect after returning to the office at HRE’s upcoming EPIC Conference, scheduled for April 24-26 in Las Vegas. This event is a unique opportunity to gain practical strategies and best practices for building a safe and inclusive workplace environment.

Don't miss out on this chance to enhance your HR skills and contribute to creating a more respectful workplace. Click here to register for HRE’s EPIC Conference today!

Fateh Muhammad

Hey, I'm Fateh Muhammad, a Lahore local with a passion for arts and politics. My journey led me through the halls of the National College of Arts, where I delved into the intricacies of both disciplines. Now calling Lahore home, I'm here to share my insights and perspectives on the dynamic intersection of art and politics. Let's embark on this enlightening journey together! Connect With Me .