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My Gen Z Wants a Promotion… Now!

By Perry Holley | June 14, 2023
My Gen Z Wants a Promotion… Now!

It’s not unusual these days to have someone from the youngest generation in the workforce, Gen Z, come asking for a promotion to first-line manager after only a few months in their current role. While you admire their confidence and conviction, you also know they are not ready. You also know they are the kind of person who can be in leadership one day, and you don’t want to discourage them or push them out the door.

What’s going on here?

As Generation Z moves from school to career, many enter their first job with not only different expectations than those of their employers, but speedier ones. They want to move up the organizational chart faster than their manager believes they’re ready for that move. According to a survey by InsideOut Development, more than 75% of Gen Z members believe they should be promoted in their first year on the job.
“This makes sense if we weigh their previous reality,” says Dr. Tim Elmore in his book, A New Kind of Diversity. “Most young adults have not worked a job in high school, so they have no work experience to help them understand precedents for promotions at a job. Since they may have no work experience (they have only school experience), they’re used to ‘moving up’ every year; junior year is followed by senior year. Most of their life has been a succession of regular promotions. Think video game levels, club or school athletics, and extracurricular activities.”

What’s a Leader to Do?

For many young people, promotion is about the title. They don’t understand leadership. Many people, young and old, have been raised thinking leadership is about their title or position in the organization. They see leadership as being the boss. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. While having a title gives you a small amount of influence, it is the lowest level, and you don’t want to stay there.

If you are a leader facing this challenge, consider these ideas to help your younger team members prepare for one day getting that promotion, just not today:


Be up-front and transparent. Talk about specific reasons for slowing their pace if you believe you must.


People feel and perform better as they see a clear path toward promotion.


Offer bonuses to those who achieve goals. A goal and a reward should always go together.


If possible, provide new titles and new levels of authority to challenge your young team members with new mountains to climb. Even if they’re small achievements, they can be significant.


Celebrate work anniversaries, noting the team members who’ve been on the job with for two to five years. Give shout-outs to team members who help you reach collective goals.


Dr. Elmore also suggests talking about crockpots and microwaves. This imagery comes from one of his Habitudes® (images that form leadership habits and attitudes). Most people’s careers should be viewed as a meal prepared in a crockpot—not nuked in a microwave within minutes. Just as the slow cooker meal tastes better, slowing down and taking the time to grow and develop will provide your younger leaders with a much more robust and rewarding leadership experience.

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