For the first time in modern history, up to five generations are working side-by-side in the same organizations. The high number of generations working together can cause intergenerational conflict. Generation Z (Gen Z), born after 1995, is significantly different from previous generations due to the cultural realities that have shaped their development. Gen Z has their own attitudes, beliefs, and expectations about the workplace and the centrality of work. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the attitudes, beliefs, values, and expectations about work and toward leadership in the workplace and how those expectations may have been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic for Gen Z. This study placed a particular focus on Gen Zers from the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe. This research was rooted in Mannheim’s (1952) problem of generations, Mead’s (1970) generation gap, transformational leadership, and generational theory. Previous generational research has indicated that Gen Z is profoundly different from previous generations due to being digital natives. This study drew 15 participants from six countries who were seniors at Consortium of Christian College and Universities (CCCU) institutions. Each participant was interviewed over Zoom and asked to describe their expectations for their ideal workplace and ideal supervisor while also asking questions about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research findings indicated that participants seek to be treated as worthy of dignity in their work and desire to be respected as having a life outside of work. Findings showed that Gen Z is particularly drawn to leaders who exhibit humble and vulnerable leadership. Gen Z is concerned about mental health and wellbeing and places a high priority on being respected. Those who supervise Gen Z would benefit from learning more about the workplace expectations of Gen Z so they can lead them most effectively. Recommendations for further research include expanding this research once Gen Z has had more years of experience in the workforce and extending the number of countries from which study participants are drawn.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Generation Z--United States; Generation Z--Canada; Generation Z--Europe, Eastern; Work environment--Leadership; Intergenerational relations; Conflict of generations in workplace; COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020-

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

H. Eric Schockman