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Gen Z are proving to be confident line managers

The new generation of managers are far more confident in dealing with many of the most sensitive topics in the workplace according to new research.

The new generation of managers are far more confident in dealing with many of the most sensitive topics in the workplace according to new research. Gen Z (aged 18-24) line managers are more comfortable than their older peers discussing matters of religion (82% confident), race (78%), harassment (75%), neurodiversity (72%) and gender identity (71%).

The findings are revealed in a new research report* that unearths which sensitive and important topics UK line managers are least confident in handling. The youngest working generation are the most eager to improve their management skills with 85% having requested management training. However nearly one third haven’t received any from their employer despite their request.

Percentage of line managers who are confident dealing with employee relations issues:

18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64
Religion 82% 71% 71% 65% 57%
Race 78% 74% 76% 70% 70%
Harassment 75% 66% 69% 74% 64%
Neurodiversity 72% 66% 63% 50% 43%
Gender identity 71% 64% 62% 55% 45%
Severe illness 69% 67% 69% 67% 77%
Menopause 66% 61% 53% 57% 57%
Death of relative / friend 65% 69% 71% 72% 77%
Fertility 63% 59% 57% 47% 45%
Disability 56% 64% 62% 66% 63%

A need for training in other areas
The national research identified clear gaps in training that will best support Gen Z managers.

Employees with a disability might not be receiving the best support in the workplace as this is shown to be a sensitive topic that 18-24 year-old managers are least confident discussing. 25% say they are not confident in having sensitive conversations on physical or invisible disability. There is a clear difference around this subject compared to confidence levels seen in older managers.

Sarah Dillon, Director of Legal and ER at esphr, said: “Gen Z managers are more confident than the average worker around neurodiversity and gender identity possibly because these areas are hot topics for their generation on social media platforms. 

“Those in this age group are more likely to know people who have been diagnosed as neurodiverse, or openly identify as non-binary or transgender for example, and are therefore more comfortable discussing such topics. 

“In comparison they are less likely to have experienced or know people who have experienced infertility, or the death of close relatives, meaning they are less confident discussing these matters and emphasising the need for training. 

“It is not a surprise this group tends to struggle with discussions related to disability. This can be put down to the complex legal definitions in the Equality Act and the array of employer obligations concerning disabled workers. This adds to the worry that this group has about getting in legal trouble due to managing employees.

“To address these issues, businesses should invest in comprehensive training programmes that empower young managers to navigate sensitive topics effectively. This approach promotes legal compliance and fosters a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.”

The research also uncovered that despite Gen Z having entered the job market at a time when more emphasis is put on inclusivity, they are still significantly more likely to have had their management capability explored before they begin a role. Whilst those over 55 are particularly spared the scrutiny of their management style whilst being interviewed. 

One third (33%) of Gen Z line managers say they were questioned thoroughly during the interview process on their capabilities to handle sensitive subjects compared to just 14% of those aged 55-64. 

Sarah Dillon said: “When considering age brackets, as well as levels of seniority, it’s important not to assume that everyone has the same level of understanding and capability to deal with employee relations issues. Our findings reveal that senior managers, and those who are in the older age brackets, can in fact be less confident in navigating difficult conversations than their younger, and more junior peers. 

Sarah Dillon added: “By recognising the value of diverse perspectives and skill sets, organisations can harness the full potential of their workforce, creating an environment that thrives on a harmonious blend of experience, fresh insights, and innovative thinking.”

*Middle Managers Matter research here

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