“I won’t kill myself with the task”: the company, a new theater of generational conflicts

“I’m fine with giving it my all, making days bigger on an ad hoc basis, but I’m not going to kill myself. I have a life beyond work.” That’s what Alexandre Potier, 27, explained in a job interview for the human resources area, which will start in June after two years at the same company. It’s no wonder Laurence Breton-Kueny, vice president of the National Association of Human Resources Directors (ANDRH), says: “There is greater freedom of expression. At first, it is surprising that it is put on the table and non-negotiable, but forces us to move the lines”.

Generation Z, of which Alexandre belongs, as the oldest of the “millennials”, requires maintaining a balance between work and personal life, as well as flexibility in working hours and methods. Expectations that the elders, sometimes disconcerted, have to adapt to, like Pierre Beaudry, director of a design and innovation agency: who will give me several extra hours every night and I don’t want to force my hand”, he says before adding : “My young employees are no less efficient, but they are not swayed by customer demands. They set priorities.”

A distance interpreted as a lack of investment on the part of some employers, especially when the work environment is harmed, as in the team where Julie Ragueneau works. This lawyer regrets not having shared a meal with her younger employees: “When we propose, they say they don’t want to talk about work during lunch”, she says, with a hint of disappointment in her voice. “However, we talk about our weekends and our vacations.”

two opposing worlds

While for these young graduates, the work place, which used to be central, fades away in favor of other aspects, the older ones see it, sometimes, as an expression of laziness. Between misunderstandings and frustrations, the generation gap is widening. “They can’t say you’re lazy because you’re leaving at the time stipulated in your contract to carry out all your projects,” protests Alice, 23, who is currently an intern at a consultancy. There is no way to repeat the same pattern as parents or grandparents. “I saw them bow down and give years of their lives to get fired at 40. Why did you accept all these sacrifices?” This student, who is disillusioned with the job market, asks: “Our generation knows that the company will separate from us without any. So what’s the point? What’s the point of leaving at 8 pm to do well in front of your boss? All those unspoken rules are no.”

Especially when the prospects for development in a company and the accompanying stress are no longer a pipe dream. Prove to yourself that you expect to climb the ladder and see your pay rise to more responsibilities? Too little for them. Thomas Godey, managing director of a law firm, remembers this young employee who, when offered to move up, chose to leave the company. “Social status doesn’t interest them, most of the time, it’s a failure,” he laments. For this 45-year-old lawyer, young people show “pragmatism” in asking themselves what’s best for them. With that in mind, a third of the 30-something in his cabinet wanted to continue working for him from another region, or even another country, and made reasoned requests. “They presented their projects with powerpoints. We smiled and accepted because we had to follow the movement”, says Thomas Godey, still amused. “Twenty years ago, the company decided and the candidate adjusted. Today, it’s the opposite, the company adapts to the candidates’ requirements”, analyzes Audrey Chapot.

Guided by a quest for meaning

Relocate, adjust your telecommuting days, leave early… With these demands, personal life is invited to enter the company. “This generation speaks to us,” confirms Thomas Godey, happy with this transparency. On the other hand, he wanted to be more attentive to his employees: since last year, two of his employees also performed human resources functions, to ensure the well-being and aspirations of the team members. If he appreciates this “human” side, he is sometimes surprised by comments from third parties or second interns about the company’s lack of diversity. “Twenty years ago, no one would have dared to express it,” he notes.

A confidence that sometimes translates into a form of activism on issues of equality or the environment: in Julie Ragueneau’s office, “young people no longer want to print anything because they think it’s a waste”; where in Pierre Beaudry’s design and innovation agency there is a debate about working for such and such energy company. He also remembers the day he heard, during an event, a 21-year-old intern giving a moral lesson to a banker on a mission for his company. “There, I told you to stop.” Even if the entrepreneur also sees this as a positive aspect: “it gives a lot of energy and a driving force to change things”.

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Particularly concerned with the company’s impact on their well-being, Generation Z and millennials do not hesitate to impose their conditions, namely in the matter of contracts. Like Nesrine Rououissi, 25, who signed her first permanent contract a week ago, she had previously turned it down. After three years at the same logistics company, she finally said yes, satisfied with the salary negotiations and being able to leave whenever she wanted with conventional time off, in “three years at the most.” “Staying in the same box, you don’t learn enough and you can’t move forward in life. And then comes the boredom, the routine…”, She explains. “Young people have no qualms about quitting a job quickly if it doesn’t satisfy them immediately. It’s either that or it’s nothing,” agrees anthropologist Audrey Chapot. This is also confirmed by the report “People at Work 2022: the Workforce View study”, which indicates that “72% of employees aged 18-34 considered a radical career change in the past year”.

And that, sometimes to the detriment of companies: “They say yes and in the morning they cancel because they found a better offer”, explains wearily, Karine, director of an interim agency. From now on, to avoid these inconveniences, she prefers to turn to people in retraining. This volatility, along with your new expectations, can, in particular, arouse the jealousy of the elderly, hence the importance of ensuring equity among employees, according to Laurence Breton-Kueny (ANDRH): “We must be able to individualize treatment while remaining in the collective, with a pyramid of different ages. , we have to ask ourselves how these generations can complement each other”.


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