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How to Motivate Gen Z with Emotional Intelligence

How to Motivate Gen Z with Emotional Intelligence

Cultivating motivation amongst Generation Z poses significant challenges for leaders today. On top of the tribulations of the past year, Gen Zers struggle with stress tolerance, problem-solving and independence.

With Gen Zers forecasted to account for almost 20% of global labour force by 2025, leaders are scrambling to close the generational gap within their organizations. However, leaders cannot just look through their own generational lens to cultivate a culture of motivation for the Gen Z workforce. 

Instead, leaders need to recognize that different generations come with different perspectives, and more importantly, different internal motivations. Learning to navigate and understand the different motivational factors of Gen Z is vital to leveraging their unique talents and strengths.

As Bob Nelson said, “You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them but by lighting a fire within.” Leaders need to leverage the Gen Z workforce in different ways than they are used to. 

Although this is new turf for all generations, there is a single concept that leaders can ground their motivational practices in – emotional intelligence. 

How to Motivate Gen Z with Emotional Intelligence

Stellar leaders recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. By instilling emotional intelligence into an organization’s leadership practice, the organization is able to build a bridge between the different generations, creating a foundation of understanding for everyone’s differences.   

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and continuously developed. While there are many ways to introduce emotional intelligence into your workplace, we have listed the 5 most effective ways to motivate Gen Zers, beginning with 5 essential EQ competencies.   

Emotional Self Awareness: Create Meaning & Purpose

In order to foster meaning and purpose in the workplace, leaders must understand that most Gen Zers feel restless and confused when entering the workforce. Many Gen Zers have been taught to follow their passions, which leads them to look for purpose in each job they land.  

If leaders fail to create a sense of meaning and purpose in their organization, Gen Zers will treat their position more as a stepping stone to their next career journey, bringing a high risk of turnover. But, how do leaders help their Gen Z employees even realize their unique motivations? The answer is instilling a culture of emotional self-awareness.

Emotional self-awareness results from truly looking within, and identifying not just what motivation looks like, but how it feels. When leaders allow time for open, honest conversation with their Gen Z employees, that is when meaning and purpose comes to light. Leaders should ask their employees about what inspires them; in return, the employees will feel heard, while the leader gains a clearer picture on how to challenge and inspire them. 

Interpersonal Relationships: Create Trust & Connection

Allowing time to foster a meaningful connection between Gen Z employees is essential. Having a successful interpersonal relationship means building trust and connection. When leaders collaborate with Gen Z employees on a deeper level, they are more likely to open up about their truest motivations in the workplace. 

Some ways to build these relationships include: creating a mentoring environment, allowing time for collaboration, and frequent one-on-one check-ins. How to Mentor in the Workplace outlines the importance of creating a two-way street mentorship. 

By involving them in mentorship, team collaboration, and one-on-one conversations, it creates a space to focus on their individual needs, which will help motivate them to achieve their goals. 

Gen Zers thrive in an organization that fosters a coaching leadership style where they can be a part of the change through actively voicing their opinions and receiving feedback. Therefore, it is critical to tap into your interpersonal skills and understand what motivates and ignites the passion of your Gen Z employees. 

Self-Actualization: Instill a Long Term Vision 

The Gen Zers are motivated by stability and enjoyable work. When a Gen Z feels that their current position is not sustainable for their lifestyle and/or fails to fulfill their passion, it probably won’t be a long term commitment in their eyes. 

Self actualization is all about following meaningful objectives that bring joy to life. With stability and enjoyable work being the two main workplace objectives Gen Zers are looking for, leaders can have a better picture of what sort of salary and company initiatives need to be in place to satisfy the needs of the emerging workforce.

One in four of Gen Zers expect managers to clearly define the goals and expectations of the company to ensure a proper trajectory to promotion is set within the first month of employment. By outlining a vision for Gen Z employees, leaders motivate Gen Z to feel involved in the growth of the company and provide a clear direction of how they can move up.

It is crucial that organizations offer a fair salary with clear and authentic strategic objectives for how to grow within the company to further engage and motivate Gen Zers.

Social Responsibility: Make Giving Back a Priority

Not only are Gen Zers trying to fulfill their own unique ambition, they also want to contribute to a good cause in the process. The Gen Z cohort is more socially and politically progressive than other generations; they expect organizations to support their social responsibility efforts, whether it be contributing to their community or freely speaking about their beliefs. 

It is vital that leaders allow time and space for Gen Zers to take part in community involvement. Whether it be paid volunteer leave, allowing a day off to vote, or even having a company wide cause that they can contribute to, this will fuel motivation for Gen Zers. 

Flexibility: Allow Time for Innovation

While research shows that Gen Z may struggle with problem solving (thanks to Google) in comparison to other generations, leaders need to adapt to this learning curve by finding a solution aligned with Gen Z’s core values. For instance, Gen Zers value autonomy and innovation; they are going to storm into the workforce with fresh, different ideas to tackle every challenge.    

Flexibility is adapting to unfamiliar circumstances and ideas, which will be frustrating for other generations. However, this is a strength of Gen Zers; leaders need to allow Gen Zers to take the reins on building new, innovative strategic angles. To support this, leaders can actively listen to what Gen Zers have to say, and look at their creative solutions with an open mind, instead of instantly shooting them down. A new phenomenon known as reverse mentoring can be helpful in bridging generational frustrations, and create a safe space to leverage each other’s strengths. 

The Bottom Line: Generation Z is Coming

As Generation Z enters the workforce, organizations have two choices: adapt or suffer the losses. The fact is, Gen Zers are coming in either way, and ignoring the new generational factors will take a hit to your bottom-line. 

If leaders can focus on the incoming generation and pinpoint their emotional makeup, they will spend 2021 retaining, engaging, and motivating their new young team members rather than suffering the losses of turnover, disengagement, and lack of productivity. 

Are you ready to take the next step as a leader to prepare and get ready for Generation Z? 

We have multiple resources that can aid you in the process. Be sure to check out our Leading a Multigenerational Workforce Workshop, available in both live and virtual delivery. The workshop covers effective strategies on how to foster a culture of inclusion in the workplace and creating an action plan to implement these strategies. You can also check out our blog, Bridging the Gap Using Emotional Intelligence for more ideas on how to lead a multigenerational workforce!

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Bridging the Gap Using Emotional Intelligence

Bridging the Gap Using Emotional Intelligence

Everyone is facing similar challenges that 2020 has brought on, but they are all handling it differently. Each generation is in a different emotional position, and leaders need to acknowledge each individual struggle equally. However, despite the generational gap in handling obstacles, it is possible to all come together over a commonality: everyone wants to feel cared about. 

By bridging these gaps in the workplace through emotional expression, connection, and awareness, people will feel more cared for and more inclined to offer a helping hand to their peers, no matter their generation. Organizations need to take advantage of all their peoples’ strengths and weaknesses and come together as a team to leverage each other’s talents with the new direction the workforce is headed in.

Bridging the Gap with Emotional Intelligence


The main generations we see in today’s workplace are Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and now Generation Z. This eclectic generational mix in the workforce will undeniably lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. A one-size-fits-all culture is one of the past, and organizations need to learn to take into account the different personalities, needs, skills, and challenges each individual can face, while delivering leadership in the same manner to everyone – respectfully. 

Each generation typically has their own working style. In general, Baby Boomers are often considered the workaholic generation, Generation Xers want flexibility and autonomy, Millennials want to make an impact and have a purpose, and Gen Zers prefer self-directed and independent learning. Despite these different work expectations, all employees have three core human needs: to survive, belong, and become. Just like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once people surpass the need for food and water, they are looking to be accepted for who they are, and succeed at becoming their best selves. 

Emotionally intelligent leaders make sure their people aren’t worried about the food and water needs, and take the money worries off the table. When you pay an employee what they think they are worth, they will rise to that. They focus on contributing to something greater than themselves. Emotionally intelligent leaders create a sense of community and connection for their staff. They appreciate their efforts and talents, and provide them work that fulfills them and helps them realize their full potential.

Bringing Strengths to the Table


Leveraging a team’s strengths is essential in bridging the gap between the generations, especially amidst a world-wide shift in the workforce. With the new challenges 2020 has brought on, some generations are more resilient to change than others. Emotional Resiliency indicates how much hardship you can deal with without experiencing stress. In other words, people with high “emotional resilience” are better able to roll with the punches and lead happy healthy lives despite the inevitable hardships and challenges they may be facing.

Generation Z is now entering the workforce, and are facing a lot of instability and uncertainty head-on. With Gen Zer’s need for stability, they are most likely not managing the stressors that come with the current work environment. However, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have experienced many booms and busts of the economy and value optimism and rebellion in times of despair. In fact, a University of British Columbia study found older generations to be less stressed and threatened by the pandemic and experienced better emotional well-being than other generations. Instead of leaving Generation Z in the dust, this provides a teaching opportunity for the older generation to step up to the plate and support Gen Zers in developing a sense of grit and resilience. 

Although younger generations may not be as strong in stress management, they make up for it in their tech-savviness and entrepreneurial spirit. Older generations can learn from Gen Zers and their tech knowledge, reaching out for support during this huge shift to remote work. Gen Zers also prefer independent learning, so the shift to a virtual environment has given them the opportunity to work in a self-directed manner. However, Baby-Boomers prefer face to face collaboration and are missing social interaction. If both generations can work together to create a virtual work environment that allows for self-directed work, an engaging and collaborative face-to-face experience, there will be less resentment between the communication preferences.

Here are some tips on how to bridge the gap and leverage strengths within different generations:

1. Mentor Opportunities


Pairing up younger workers with more seasoned employees in a mentoring format could form a mutually beneficial relationship. Younger workers could share their knowledge of technology and the different opportunities for collaboration in a remote work environment. Whereas, more experienced employees could share their knowledge on stress management, and how they are navigating through all the new challenges the pandemic has brought into the workplace. By connecting different generations, it increases cooperation and leverages the different skill sets to solve problems quickly and effectively.

2. Conflict Management


Leaders need to create a process for conflict management and address it immediately. With the large age gaps within workplaces, there are bound to be misunderstandings. It is important to address conflict head-on and act as a mediator, letting each employee voice their side of the story. It is important to acknowledge both sides and come up with a strategy to leverage both generational perspectives and avoid the recurrence of the same issue.

3. Hire Positive Workers

Leaders can train any skill to new hires, but it is near impossible to change their negative attitude. It is important that leaders in charge of the hiring process, like HR departments, identify and profile the behavior of a positive worker, which can be done through EQ Assessments. Recruiting positive workers will bring a level of energy to the team to increase productivity and optimism into the culture – which is needed now more than ever!

Focus on What Matters


Accommodating the needs of multiple generations can pose a difficult task, so it is helpful for leaders to focus on what is constant in the workplace. Core values can act as an anchor amidst a storm. Make sure there is a reason people have chosen to become a part of the team and culture, generations aside. 

Focus on the positive commonalities of the workplace culture prior to the global pandemic, and otherworldly divides. If the team was doing weekly lunches together, then bring that to the table virtually. If the organization values connection, collaboration, and communication, then leaders need to find a way to continuously support these values despite the changing conditions. 

A team comes together to achieve a common goal, despite their differences. It is important to emulate the same culture throughout all generations, to bring them on the same page beyond their personality differences. When a team is working together on a common goal and has fostered a culture of support, care, and empathy, they will naturally leverage each other’s strengths and come together in the end.

To learn more about how to bridge the gap between generations, check out our Using EI to Lead Multigenerational Workers Keynote or our Leading a Multigenerational Workforce Workshop. Look out for our next blog on managing the future workforce – Hiring for the Future Using Emotional Intelligence!

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