MIT interviewer blasted Gen Z for always being late – and research shows she may have a point

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An MIT interview and finance CEO recently took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to blast young people’s time management. 

“I’m an MIT interviewer. Every single applicant was late to their Zoom interview,” the now-deleted tweet from the account of Christina Qi, CEO of the financial services firm Databento and an MIT board member reads. 

“One no-showed after picking the time on my calendar,” the post continued. “Look, I know college isn’t for everyone, but this 1 meeting could affect where you go for these next 4 years of your life.”

But, according to research, her experience may not be a coincidence—Gen Z workers generally are increasingly missing work and struggling to stick to deadlines.

Days lost per employee increased at a faster clip for 21 to 25-year-olds in Britain than for the population as a whole between 2019 and 2022, according to research from the employee wellness consultant GoodShape, as reported in Bloomberg

At eight days off work a year, those in their early twenties are taking off almost as much time as workers in their early 50s did before the pandemic.

Plus, even if they’re not missing work by taking a sick day (or quiet quitting, or partaking in Bare Minimum Mondays) they’re failing to deliver on time. Separate research from Asana shows Gen Z workers—those born between 1997 and 2012—are more likely to miss deadlines than any other generation.

On average, Gen Z workers miss almost a quarter of their deadlines each week, compared to 6% for baby boomers and 10% for Gen X. 

That’s despite the fact they’re working until late most nights: Baby boomers and Gen X workers pull just over an hour of overtime each day, whereas young workers stay behind for over 2 hours into their evenings.

The research suggests it’s because Gen Z—who waste four and a half hours a week on unnecessary tasks, according to Asana—don’t know how to prioritize their time.

Some, however, are more sympathetic. Nick South, managing director at Boston Consulting Group, says tardiness isn’t a Gen Z-specific trait—it’s more a learning curve that every young worker goes through at the start of their career.

“When all of us entered the workforce, it took quite a long time to learn, we wasted time being ineffective,” he told Bloomberg. “As you go on, you learn when to focus and where you can take a shortcut.”

Qi did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.

Don’t wait on Gen Z to pick up the phone—or Zoom call

Like MIT, Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) similarly found that Gen Z is hard to pin down. 

The government body was recently forced to scrap key employment data because young people didn’t bother responding to its telephone surveys.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics production and analysis at the Office for National Statistics, blamed the internet and social media for stealing young people’s attention while emphasizing that it appears to be a global phenomenon.

If employers want to get a hold of Gen Z, he suggests they need to understand that the generation doesn’t communicate in the same way that older generations do. 

“If you think about the ones who are the least time rich, they tend to be the younger people,” Morgan told Bloomberg

“People are so connected, and there’s so many choices for them to how they spend their time. I actually think it is quite different in terms of the world we live in now compared to where we were perhaps even just 20 years ago.”

Plus, as one X user commented on the MIT interviewer’s situation, young workers today have a housing crisis, spiraling inflation, and stagnant wages on their hands so their disengagement with employers is just.

“I had a restaurant & found it impossible to motivate zoomers,” @stack_collymore wrote. “You can’t entice them or put pressure on them because they simply don’t care. If you think about it, it’s a fair response to their f-cked up situation (low wages, no chance of ever buying a home).”

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