The Unintended Consequence of “Stay Home”
Generation Z is facing their first crisis. We are all shaped by our first crisis. Mine was 9/11. Seeing how quickly everything can change made the world seem fragile. For my dad, it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The safe resolution following the fear of nuclear war gave him confidence in our system of government.
How will this global pandemic shape Generation Z? What will be the long-term impacts on our future leaders?
“Stay home” is a powerful message.
Like all of us, youth are hearing again and again that the best thing they can do is stay home. Generation Zers (8-23 year-olds) are in their most formative years. What if they internalize that staying home is the best thing to do during emergencies?
This message of inaction could trickle deep into the psyche of our future leaders, leaving them paralyzed in times of crisis. Research shows that crisis conditions experienced in childhood stay with us for the rest of our lives (NPR) and can impact our leadership styles (Leadership Quarterly).
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Our front line heroes are working tirelessly to keep us safe, and the rest of us are trying to do our part by staying home. However, Generation Z in their formative years may be connecting shutting down with crisis mode.
We can mitigate the risk of this unintended consequence by investing in leadership development today.
Generation Z is the largest generation in American history. By 2030, they will be a third of the workforce (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Even before the pandemic, they were already unprepared for success. Gen Zers are entering the workforce with less job experience than previous generations (University of Pennsylvania) and only half of them think their education prepares them for future careers (Dell Technologies).
We can’t leave this generation of future leaders behind.
In the short term, Generation Zers are uniquely capable of handling this new reality. They have used technology to connect to community their entire lives and they grew up building the skills to thrive in this newly virtual world. For Generation Z, virtual communication is not a tool; it is part of who they are.
In the long-term, the worst unintended consequence from COVID-19 might be ingraining paralysis in an entire generation.
We can’t afford not to train the next generation of leaders how to handle crisis. For the good of society we need our future leaders to be equipped and ready to lead with resilience, creativity, and hope.
Our best protection against the next crisis is investing in our future – our youth.