This Week in Culture

Gen Z’s Failure To Thrive is Our Fault 

There’s a growing number of Gen Zers who are deciding that traditional paths to adulthood aren’t for them. Instead of pursuing higher education or joining the workforce, they’re choosing to become NEETs—Not in Employment, Education, or Training. This trend is creating a surge in youth unemployment globally and raising serious questions about the future of work. 

According to the International Labour Organization, one in five people aged 15 to 24 were NEETs in 2023. In Spain alone, over half a million young people are neither studying nor working. Meanwhile, in the UK, almost three million Gen Zers have become economically inactive, with a significant increase since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Why are so many young people opting out? It comes down to the fact that traditional milestones of adulthood feel unattainable. Compared to millennials, today’s 20-somethings earn less, carry more debt, and face higher financial delinquency rates. Inflation has driven up the cost of essentials like food and housing, while wages have stagnated. Saving for the future feels increasingly futile. As one Gen Zer put it, “I’m just focusing on the present because the future is depressing.” 

The once-popular hustle culture that glorified working non-stop is losing its appeal for many. They’re not interested in climbing the corporate ladder only to end up stressed out and unfulfilled. Many are choosing low-stress jobs, like teaching, which might pay less but offer more vacation time. Others are turning to trades, finding stability and satisfaction in hands-on work. 

Adding to the complexity is a growing mental health crisis among young people. Gen Z is nearly twice as stressed as millennials were at their age. Over a third are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other common mental disorders. This decline in mental health is leading to higher rates of unemployment due to ill health, with more young people taking sick leave than older generations. 

This trend forces corporations to make a critical choice. Do we care enough to change the way we do business? Can we offer something that makes work appealing to these young people? Or will we just replace them with AI and move on? This isn’t just a headline—it’s a wake-up call. If we don’t address these issues, we risk hurting an entire generation. 

Their failure to thrive is our fault. We create a system that works against them and then laugh at how “lazy” they are. I’d be depressed too.  

As leaders, we need to decide: will we step up and create workplaces that support and value young people, or will we let them slip away? 

Elsewhere In Culture

Patagonia has given some staff 3 days to decide whether they’ll relocate close to the office—or quit

Patagonia just dropped a bombshell on its remote customer service staff, giving around 90 employees a brutal three-day ultimatum: relocate closer to one of their seven hubs or pack your bags. This sudden move has left many feeling blindsided and frustrated. Imagine being told on a Tuesday that you need to uproot your life and move to Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Reno, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, or Pittsburgh by Friday—or else. It’s not surprising that some employees are feeling like they’re being forced out rather than given a fair choice. 

This isn’t just about logistics; it’s a culture clash. Patagonia’s decision flies in the face of the flexible, people-first workplace culture we’ve been championing for years. Sure, they’re offering a generous severance package and $4,000 plus extra PTO to those who move, but let’s be real—how many people can actually pick up and relocate across the country on such short notice? This heavy-handed approach not only disrupts lives but also sends a chilling message about the company’s priorities. Instead of fostering a culture of trust and flexibility, Patagonia seems to be doubling down on rigid, outdated corporate norms. It’s time for companies to rethink how they manage their workforce and consider the broader impact on their employees’ lives and the workplace culture they claim to value. 

Patagonia seems to be another company making this return-to-office policy but this executive hopes they won’t be the last. 

Execs should urge workers to return to the office to help San Francisco, Fed president says

San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly is calling on executives to urge their employees back into the office to help revive the city. With San Francisco facing the highest office vacancy rate of any major U.S. city at 37%, Daly’s message is clear: the business  

community needs to step up. During a recent appearance at the Commonwealth Club, she highlighted the city’s strengths—its educated workforce, solid infrastructure, and innovative spirit. Daly pointed out that despite the dire predictions, San Francisco bounced back from the dot-com bust, and she believes it can do so again. But it requires a concerted effort from those at the helm of companies. 

Daly’s appeal to CEOs and founders is straightforward: if you’re part of the city’s business landscape, you need to help shape its future. This isn’t just about surviving—it’s about thriving. Encouraging employees to return to the office isn’t just a business move; it’s a community service. Hybrid work might be a middle ground, but even that faces resistance, especially from those who have moved further away. Daly’s stance is that in-person work fosters collaboration and innovation, essential elements for the city’s comeback. She urges leaders to be vocal about the importance of returning to the office, not just for the sake of their companies, but for the revitalization of San Francisco itself. 

If you want people to genuinely care, you need to change their beliefs, not only their actions.

I’ve been approached by countless CEOs and leaders, all expressing a shared frustration: despite reminding, urging, and implementing perks and benefits, they face a stark lack of genuine engagement.

This is precisely what we refer to as the “Action Trap.” The Action Trap occurs when leaders find themselves in a continuous cycle of implementing new processes and systems (taking new actions) to change results, rather than addressing the underlying experiences that lead to those results. Our beliefs stem from our experiences.

So, if you want to instill a new belief, you need to create a new experience.

That’s the key to making people care.

 

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