September 21, 2022

Will Gen Z Kill Bad Companies?


Episode Highlights

Subscribe to the Talent Insights podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, (recommended for Android users), Amazon Music, or Spotify. Watch us on YouTube—and don’t forget to rate us!

Turn back the clock a generation or two. How did you know a company was terrible to work for?

Word of mouth. It was slow and hard to get the word out. Toxic environments could stay below the radar. Little motivation to change.

Fast forward a bit. Social media and Glassdoor got people talking. Employee engagement, pay transparency, and work-life balance became mainstream issues. Companies took notice. They finally had to.

And now? The young generation is dunking on bad bosses to millions of people on TikTok. And it’s driving the work culture narrative. (Unless you somehow missed the whole ‘quiet quitting’ thing.)

Have we reached a critical mass? Will awful companies be forced to change or risk being unable to hire? Jeff Smith and James Hornick discuss in episode 51 of The 10 Minute Talent Rant, “Will Gen Z Kill Bad Companies?”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two- not this week. Before we dig in, all our content can be found on

This week’s topic, episode 51: will Gen Z kill bad companies? It’s the- it came out of a completely separate conversation and boy, am I excited for it? Yeah. So this is actually not a topic that was on our radar or something we thought we’d talk about. Originally what we wanted to discuss was, do bad companies ever really go away?

So if you’re on LinkedIn and you just follow the trends are happening in workplace culture, however you might do that, you kind of pay attention to these types of things. Things have shot up from 10 years ago. A lot of things that are top of mind now pay transparency, diversity, inclusion, work life balance.

These are all things that weren’t, that are a bigger deal now than they were then, right? But we still hear tons of horror stories from candidates we talk to coming out of micromanaged environments that deal with unethical hiring practices, inappropriate workplace behavior of every conceivable variety, which made us wonder does this shit ever go away?

Like as much as we’re progressing or it seems like we’re progressing for the last like couple decades, like it’s still here, right? Yeah. And then talking it over, we kind of stumbled across how Gen Z is kind of changing the game in a few of these situations, which we’ll come back to, stay with us. But we want to lay the groundwork here.

So let’s take a quick step back. Jeff, if you want to maybe define the terms for us here? Yeah. So there’s like this old definition. So maybe think post industrial revolution through eighties, nineties, like pre-internet stuff. The goal was make enough money, buy a home, get a car, take the family to Disney world a couple times.

You know, it was less complicated, sure. But- that’s of a “good company” is what we’re defining here- of a good company. That’s quote unquote. Yeah. Okay. Exactly. Exactly. But all of that was kind of, as we now know, completely right for exploitation. So people were getting away with some pretty bad stuff.

Then you had the shift into the internet age maybe 10, 15 years ago. Good company then got a little smoke in mirror Z. You could definitely- you can manipulate Glassdoor a little bit to make it look like you were great. Big company, work hard, play hard.

Like the whole thing that we’ve ripped on with like the ping pong tables and beanbag chairs and video games, like that became a little bit synonymous with “good company”. Still very ripe for exploitation. The new definition now is stuff that actually matters like quantifiable high employee engagement, long tenure, low turnover, pay compensation being at or above market,

everybody being more or less happy with their work life balance. Profitable. Crazy right? The company actually makes money. It solves a problem. The customer’s getting some real value out of it. Yeah. So I’d like to say that’s every company, but it’s clearly not. So we thought more about okay, what causes these shifts?

And I guess my central thesis is it’s people talking about it. It’s social pressure. It’s just- when it becomes part of the discussion that everyone seems to be having, it affects how people can hire and retain employees. It’s as simple as that, you know. I’m saying, and one of the arguments I got into this week too, is more social pressure and awareness than

actual legal changes. I think legal changes is, while important, that’s a lagging indicator. Those things already happen like after everyone already knows and agrees there’s a problem. Mm-hmm. So what made us realize holy shit, look at what Gen Z just did with quiet quitting. It was a full blown media sensation driven by early 20 somethings

shit posting on TikTok. Yep. Simple as that. And if you really dig into it too, it wasn’t just like it’s not just quiet quitting. Like Gen Z has all kinds of work topics they talk about on TikTok, like pay transparency. There is TikTok videos out there of people just talking about how much they make openly with their peers so they can like help each other negotiate.

And the thing that kills me is like, when you talk about pay transparency specifically, the barrier to pay transparency isn’t companies. Like it’s an easily solvable problem by people if everyone just feels more open to discuss what they’re making, like pay transparency isn’t something we need companies to do for us.

We can do it for ourselves, but it’s not something that’s typically happened because it’s such a taboo topic for everyone in the older generations who comes from an older school mind of thinking, which just doesn’t exist as much for Gen Z. Which it’s a good point in that our gene- I’m Gen X, my parents Boomers, like we were told that not talking about your pay was going to somehow benefit you in some way.

And people drank that Kool-Aid. Mm-hmm. But it is. It’s turning around like you said. And who told them that? Their old boss at their old dinosaur company who didn’t want them to know which anyone else is making so they can negotiate harder against them. Obviously, right? So let’s take a look at these folks for a second,

all you youngsters. Look, you’re the most educated generation, you know. You did everything that we told you to do. You racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and you know what, like we hear you. You want your money back. You want the university system and the corporate system to like do good by you. That’s not unreasonable in any stretch of the imagination.

Like us, and I’m using us as like the editorial. We’re butt hurt that the kiddos don’t bow down to every single thing that we say, like it used to be. Oh well, sorry. Like hiring managers tell me all the time they want innovative entrepreneurial minds over and over. But! But, but,

but only if they bow to every one of their little whims. Like it’s nonsense and they’re onto it. Yeah. They look at this- they, the Gen Z look at this at like this clown show and they’re putting it on blast. Like you said, they’re using the mediums at their disposal to get some radical transparency. And as much as I’m over people throwing around their 2 cents with quiet quitting, find one TikTok, post from the Gen Z- from Gen Z

and tell me that it’s wrong. Like you can’t. Yeah. I think that if I was going to make a correlation here, like Gen Z, they’re the ones who walk into a CrossFit gym for the first time, look at what everyone’s doing and they’re like, “Holy shit, this is stupid.” Meanwhile, everyone complaining about them or the people who are like blowing out their shoulders with injuries and whatnot.

Totally. They’re like, what is going on here? What do you mean? This is how you’re supposed to do it- anyway. Yeah. I mentioned- so I did say this and we were talking about this like last week in a post I made. I mean the old part of me, like I get a mild annoyance when people rebrand stuff

because there’s nothing new about quiet quitting. Like that’s one thing we have to say. These are concepts that have been around forever, mailing it in, phoning it in. They’ve kind of made new a term out of it, but I can detach myself from that. It maybe needed a new rebrand. I think as kind of you were saying, there’s a tendency among people who are Gen Xers, older millennials, Boomers to say, “Suck it up” because we all did.

And when people struggle, we want to know that that’s normal. So everyone else would struggle too. But I think that if, I guess there is a takeaway. So there’s one big takeaway I have from this is like, we should want things to be better for future generations. Yeah. All the things that like, again, I’m not-

it’s not a pile on Boomers, but everything that Boomers said and Gen X said that they were like about like making things better for their kids. I actually think Gen Z’s going to walk that walk for maybe the first time, which is interesting. I mean predictably, we put a post out to market on this topic and we got the token folks talking about yada, yada, complaining, “Gen Z complaints or the younger generation complains.”

And I made it a point to subsequently respond with a bunch of gifs in kind to really rile up the masses. So raises the question. No real takeaways again, but like we talked about it, do bad places- companies really die? I would say that they more just keep ground feeding is probably the better way to put it.

It’ll be interesting to see if Gen Z kind of puts the final nail in the coffin and says like, we’re just straight up not working for these types of companies. But again, that’s for the future to tell us. Yeah. Real talk and thing I always feel like I have to throw out there too, like I always have to say is I don’t want- as much as we put these shows and content out there,

I actually don’t want every company to be good at hiring. No. I’ve seen far too many awful companies build up phony street cred using predatory hiring practices, running people through the grinder. Like every recruiter has had a job like that before. We’ve all been in this situation. So what I dig is that if we can

make things less about companies like elevating their own brand and more about people shining some light on what’s really going on behind the scenes, which is why I love this. The good companies will have an easy time hiring, the bad companies won’t. So keep shit posting on TikTok- and the rant. Yeah. We’re short on clock. That’s a wrap for this week.

Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights Series- which is always available for replay on as well as YouTube, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify and Amazon. Jeff, thanks again as always. Everyone out there, see you soon.

Don’t assume hiring has turned the page. Recruiters may have turned the page on 2023, but that doesn’t mean things are going to...

Our Shows

Our Latest Blog