The GenZs are a tech-savvy lot. Or, are they just assumed to be smart at tech? Well, they have spent much of their lives online. They literally grew up with a smartphone, swiping up and down, jumping effortlessly from one app to the next, editing pictures and making videos, as if everything is a cakewalk. This can make them appear as tech-efficient.
While the GenZs can be incredibly efficient at what is seen as the newer technology
The term loosely describes how overwhelmed the young workers feel in using these office tools, and the subsequent scrutiny they might be subjected to. According to a survey by HP, one in five young workers feel judged when they face any technical difficulties at the workplace, compared to one in 25 older workers. This clearly indicates that tech-shaming, which is associated with the feeling of embarrassment or inadequacy, affects the GenZs more compared to their boomer counterparts. In another survey by LaSalle Agency, an employment agency, almost half of the class of 2022 reported feeling ‘underprepared’ when it came to the technical skills required at a workplace.
Behind age-shaming, age bias can be seen at play. Since GenZs are assumed to be good at tech, they are often thought to be good at all kinds of tech, including the ones they were not trained at or grew up with — fax machines, copiers, scanners, desktop computers, etc. Not just that, they might even be expected to help their older colleagues out. However,
struggling with devices that are often seen as basic can result in tech-shaming, which, in turn, can cause a feeling of inadequacy.
Tech-shaming, at the outset, can come off as harmless. However, several reports indicate that it can be more damaging than it is thought to be. The shaming, and the subsequent sense of embarrassment, can make it difficult for the workers to reach out when in need of help. This not only pulls them back when it comes to their skill set but can also impact overall productivity. It can impact their self-esteem and in the worst case scenario, can even result in a toxic workplace scenario, where workers are not encouraged enough to open up and seek help. Not just that, it can further have impact on the team, in general, further affecting the overall work. And since most modern workplaces are much tech-driven, it can lead to unnecessary advantage for some, the workplace tech-pro ones, in terms of visibility and productivity; which might have an impact on others.
Better prevent and manage
Clearly, tech-shaming is damaging for both the individuals and the employer. Hence, it is crucial to take steps to prevent it from happening and address it if it happens.
Firstly, training at the basic office tools can help. After figuring out what the employers might be struggling with, a question-and-answer session can easily address much of the issues. Also, it is crucial to foster an open culture where issues and challenges can be discussed and addressed liberally without any scrutiny. Equally important is to bridge the tech divide between older and younger workers. One just need to factor in that just like the former might need training with understanding how the modern tools work, the latter might struggle with the older ones, and a middle ground can benefit everyone. Lastly, it is important to use updated technology, which is much easier to use for everyone.
Also, it is crucial to address the age bias and understand that not all boomers are out-of-touch with technology, and not all GenZs are pro at every piece of tech. They just need assistance with the what they haven’t grown up with.