Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – are both the 20th century’s last generation and its first truly digital one. We spoke to eight millennials from across the UK to find out how they want to live, what stops them, what they view as the biggest issues facing society, and what they think of the generations before and after them.
5 things: what the millennial generation thinks of the generation following in its footsteps (Gen Z)
- A theme that emerged repeatedly in our interviews is the perceived lack of values held by Generation Z: “From what I’ve seen they don’t seem to have as strong values” (N, 33, London); “I’m not sure that people below 25 really have values, their values are more concerned with how many likes they can get on social media” (C, 32, Leamington Spa).
- In the eyes of millennials, Gen Z are consumeristic and looking for “instant gratification”. With saving so difficult and many of the things that previous generations strove for (property) out of reach, they are looking to other forms of consumption to express themselves. As a 32-year-old from Manchester summarizes: “Fundamentally the generation below differs [from us] very much. They are commodity driven – the big acquisition is so untenable and the inability to save enough means that there is a huge push on owning the nice things that can be seen and shown. This generation is much more about having and spending now and not saving.”
- Generation Z is also alleged to be lacking in work ethic. One respondent said: “I don’t see a strong work ethic, many of the people that work for me are temporary – not driven by a career.” Another said: “I think they are even more flighty than we are – I manage some under-25s and they’re more kind of – let’s just see how it goes. They feel very entitled e.g. benefits in the workplace, they [unrealistically] feel they deserve pay rises and promotions”.
- One respondent from Glasgow was kinder in her view. For her, Generation Z does not lack in ambition, but has expectations about how they will and won’t work: “I think they are as ambitious as we are – but want to work a lot more flexibly. They are more entrepreneurial and want to work for themselves, less forced to go to University and they are able to make decisions more freely”. Lack of resilience (in the workplace and more widely) also emerged in several conversations.
- There is sympathy for Gen Z as the generation that has grown up with social media. “I think they are under a lot more pressure because they have grown up with social media at school and university. Social media is no longer innocent – they have multiple Instagram accounts to present different images – they are very image conscious” (J, 30, Glasgow).
- While most of the views we heard about Generation Z were negative, some of our millennials were willing to give credit to this generation for its open-minded approach to life – something that millennials might learn from. Our respondent from Glasgow noted that Gen Z is “even more open minded around things like gender and different variants. It’s still a learning curve for me.”