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Gen Z Workers Afraid to Speak Up

Report finds those age 25 and younger willing to report misconduct but held back by fear.

January 18, 2023

A recent report published by Ethisphere Institute, a corporate ethics assessment company, has found that Generation Z workers are less likely than other generations to say something when they see something wrong within the workplace.

According to 2023 Ethical Culture Report, 38.9% of Gen Z participants, which the report defined as people 25 years old and younger, said that they did not mention workplace misconduct when they observed it, even though they expressed the willingness to do so. This number contrasts with 31.8% of millennials (ages 26–41) and 27.6% of both Generation X (ages 42–57) and baby boomer (ages 58–77) workers who also said they failed to report wrongdoing. Gen X workers lead the list in actually reporting misconduct (53.5%). The report surveyed 12,454 Gen Z workers, 84,259 millennials, 116,043 Gen X employees, and 37,569 baby boomers.

Overwhelmingly, Gen Z’s reason for not speaking up was fear. Among that Gen Z workers surveyed who didn’t report the bad behavior, many said that fear-based feelings held them back, including:

  • Concern about retaliation against them and their team members (68.1%)
  • Worry over the ability to remain anonymous (41.2%)
  • Uneasiness with offender’s superiority (40.1%)
  • Anxiety regarding reputation damage (36.1%)

Additionally, 55.55% said they didn’t say anything because they didn’t really believe that any corrective action would be taken.

The report also revealed that the most commonly observed misconduct among the participants was harassment (including discrimination), closely followed by bullying, which saw a leap of 12.9 points (from 20.1% to 33%) following the COVID-19 pandemic.

For ways to approach the generational diversity at your facility, check out Making the Most of Multigenerational Talent.

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