Alex Mahon: Gen Z can’t work with people with different views

Gen Z workers are already getting flack from businesses for lacking the basic skills needed to navigate the working world—and now, the boss of a major British TV channel has added to the mounting criticism. 

Channel 4’s CEO, Alex Mahon, complained that the youngest generation to enter the workforce don’t have the skills to debate, disagree, or work alongside people with different opinions. 

‌“What we are seeing with young people who come into the workplace, Gen Z, particularly post-pandemic and with this concentration of short-form content, is that they haven’t got the skills to debate things,” Mahon said at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge according to multiple outlets, including the Telegraph.

‌“They haven’t got the skills to discuss things, they haven’t got the skills to disagree.”

But Gen Zers (those born between 1997 and 2012) aren’t entirely to blame: She pointed to social media and the pandemic’s disruption to education as the main cause of the workplace challenge.

On the likes of TikTok and Instagram, videos under a minute long are fed straight into viewers’ feeds based on content they have previously enjoyed, possibly creating an echo chamber among youngsters and impacting their ability to consider opposing ideas.

Meanwhile, as Gen Zers were forced to study alone and limited to interactions on Zoom during the pandemic, the broadcasting boss cited “being out of colleges” and away from “people with a difference of opinion” as the reason lockdown-era students can’t hold down a heated discussion. 

“That is a really dangerous step-change that we are seeing,” she added.

Neither Alex Mahon nor Channel 4 responded to Fortune’s request for comment.

Last year, research commissioned by Channel 4 similarly found that young people today are less tolerant of others’ views than their parents or grandparents and as a result are less liberal than previous generations. 

The study revealed that a quarter of the Gen Z respondents said they have “very little tolerance for people with beliefs I disagree with”, meanwhile nearly half agreed that “some people deserved to be canceled”.

Not the first time Gen Z have been told they lack basic skills

Mahon isn’t the first executive to shine a light on Gen Z’s communication skills—or lack thereof. Workers who came of age during the pandemic have repeatedly been told they lack the “basic” social aptitudes needed to work in an office with other people. 

Take the world’s Big Four consulting firms, for example: Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, and EY are all offering incoming junior hires soft skills training, including lessons on how to speak up in meetings. 

“It’s wholly understandable that students who missed out on face-to-face activities during COVID may now be stronger in certain fields, such as working independently, and less confident in others, such as presentations to groups,” Ian Elliott, the chief people officer at PwC UK, said in sympathy with young workers. 

Even colleges are stepping up to close the social skills gap between their students and the wider workforce. Michigan State University is getting its graduates ready for the job market with lessons on how to handle a networking conversation—including how to look for signs that the other party is starting to get bored and that it’s time to move on—reports the Wall Street Journal.

The school is also asking companies to give explicit guidance on a hire’s first day, including what to wear and where to get lunch. Miami University even organized a dinner with senior leaders in order to teach proper mealtime etiquette, such as how to engage in conversation on neutral topics. 

Of course, students aren’t so socially inept that they haven’t taken stock of their shortcomings. In fact, they’re just as worried about settling into working life as their university lecturers and future employers are.  

Fresh graduates shared concerns with the Wall Street Journal about how to work with colleagues, deliver in-person presentations, and build a personal network. One student shared how draining being surrounded by people in the office all day was, while another shared his surprise at finding office deadlines were harder to extend than those set for a college assignment.


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