It’s no secret that Gen Z gets a lot of hate when it comes to the workplace, with colleagues commonly complaining about their lack of motivation, poor productivity, and being easily offended. In fact, our recent survey on grade grubbing (students begging for better grades than they’ve earned) found that 45% of educators believe Gen Z students grade grub more frequently than previous generations.

In September, surveyed 228 high school teachers and college professors  to find out how educators are feeling about teaching this generation of students and how ready they believe their students are for the workforce.

Key findings:

  • 1 in 3 educators who have taught for 11+ years say Gen Z is more difficult to work with
  • Half are worried about being called out by Gen Z for saying the wrong thing
  • 50% of educators say their Gen Z students have complained that their class is too hard
  • 1 in 3 educators say their Gen Z students are unprepared for the workforce; work ethic tops reasons why

One-Third of Educators Who Have Taught for 11+ Years Say Gen Z is a More Difficult Generation to Work With

Among educators surveyed who have taught for more than 10 years, 32% say Gen Z students are more difficult to work with than previous generations. Twenty-one percent say Gen Z is easier to work with, while 45% say working with Gen Z is about the same as previous generations.

When asked what they like about working with Gen Z, respondents of all levels of experience wrote comments such as:

  • “They are fun and funny, they keep me current.”
  • “Very outspoken and ready to learn new things at all times.”
  • “Gen Z students bring fresh perspectives and tech savviness to education.”

However, when asked what they dislike about working with Gen Z, respondents wrote:

  • “Covid didn’t do them any favors. Some of them have immature coping skills, but they will persevere.”
  • “Rude and no ambition.”
  • “Little drive or motivation or awareness of reality.”

Half Worried About Being Called Out by Gen Z Students

Among educators of all levels of experience, 49% admit they are ‘somewhat’ (35%) or ‘very worried’ (14%) about being called out by Gen Z students for saying something perceived as wrong or controversial in class.

Additionally, 50% of educators say their Gen Z students have complained that their class is too hard.

1 in 3 Say Gen Z Students Are Not Ready for the Workforce, Work Ethic Tops Reasons

Thirty-one percent of educators surveyed say their Gen Z students are ‘not very’ (25%) or ‘not at all ready’ (6%) for the workforce, while 46% say their students are ‘somewhat ready’ and 23% say their students are ‘very ready.’

“Many professors and employers feel that Gen Z is not ready for the workplace, but there’s a lot of nuance to those feelings,” says Professor and Higher Education Advisor Diane Gayeski. “Students who lost a few years of high school or college to COVID missed out on some important skill and confidence-building activities such as internships, travel, and club participation.

“However, the last few years have changed the attitudes of most people – not just Gen Z – towards work, as we are seeing with the widespread resignations of front-line workers in retail, hospitality, teaching, and healthcare,” she continues. “Gen Z is idealistic, and they are not afraid of hard work – they just don’t want to spend their time and energy supporting causes that are not aligned with their values or on tasks that they feel are just ‘busy work.’  They have been told to guard their physical and mental health, and they are doing so.

“While these attitudes certainly will challenge some traditional managerial styles, understanding the motives and appreciating the perspectives of Gen Z can improve workplaces for everyone. They may need a bit more coaching in things that we take for granted – such as how to interact on the phone or in meetings, or what communication channels are expected or required in a particular organization.

“They actually may need more computer training than one might think since they are mainly used to interacting with phone apps and some cloud-based tools like the Google Suite. But they are, for the most part, flexible, efficient, empathetic, and goal-driven if they are presented with authentic challenges and can see that they are making a difference,” Gayeski explains.

Among survey respondents who did not say that their students were ‘very ready,’ ways respondents believe their Gen Z students are unprepared for the workforce include work ethic (62%), emotional intelligence (49%), and communication skills (56%).

Write-in contributions included:

  • “General common sense.”
  • “They have been sheltered too much and lack the grit to tackle conflict in a reasonable way.”

“Contrary to the popular belief that Gen Z are ‘slackers,’ studies show that many of them hold multiple jobs and approach the job market with trepidation, fearing that even if they land a great job they won’t be able to afford those expected milestones in life like owning a car and a home, and they also fear that the job market is very unstable,” says Gayeski.

“These reasons are why some of them seem to want to jockey quickly to get pay raises, why they value training, and why they may have a ‘side gig.’ Gen Z employees can also help companies meet many of their goals for inclusivity, innovation, and sustainability,” Gayeski finishes.


This survey was commissioned by and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. It was launched on September 6, 2023. 228 respondents completed the full survey.

To qualify for the survey all participants had to be aged 25 or older, employed for wages in the education sector with at least 11 employees at their workplace, have a household income of at least $25,000 per year, and at least a university degree.

Respondents were then screened to include only teachers and professors who work with students at the high school, undergraduate, or graduate level and have been teaching for at least one year.

To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.