Gen Z feels ‘tech-shy’ in the workplace.



March 10, 2023 | 5:42 p.m

Ctrl + Clueless.

Gen Xers and younger millennials may have known how to hack their parents’ smartphones out of the womb, but they put them in a traditional office environment—with printers, scanners, fax machines, and desktop computers—and are very naturally tech-savvy. People who are alive are as suddenly gone as their grandparents were at the dawn of the digital age.

According to a report by the LaSalle Network, a staffing agency based in Chicago and Nashville, by 2022, nearly half of college graduates feel “unprepared” for the technical skills needed for the job — leading to some tough situations around the water cooler.

“When I can’t get the printer to work on my job, my great colleagues give me a good laugh. It made me feel stupid,” Megan Whittar, a 29-year-old social worker from Brooklyn, told the Post.

Using printers and shared office technologies is stressing today’s youth, says a study.

“She can’t type, but she can calm someone down,” says Whitaker, who was frustrated at school when she couldn’t manage office supplies.

Intergenerational tension is so common, there’s even a word for it – technology fraud. According to data from Hewlett Packard, “1 in 5 young office workers feel judged when faced with technology problems.” According to the computer manufacturer, young people are “ten times more likely to be embarrassed in these situations than their more mature peers.”

“It’s a shame — we’re a technologically advanced generation,” 24-year-old Jazmin Castillo, an associate group leader at H&R Block in Garland, Texas, told the Post.

“I was doing the scanner, how does that work? Like, how do you scan in. I didn’t even know how to do the copier. It’s so frustrating,” she said.

“[Older colleagues] They find it funny — they’re telling me, ‘You should know how to do it,’ or ‘You should be able to take everything and figure it out,'” Castillo added.

Jazmyn Castillo admits she struggles with things like office printers.

Damien Andrews, 22, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama and went to school to learn coding, said he felt equally weak in the basics.

“If you tell me you need a website, I can make a whole website for you by myself. But if you tell me to fax three documents, I have to Google them. I didn’t even know people still faxed,” he said.

In a recent case where Andrews was asked to fax some papers, he asked a colleague to find someone else.

Damien Andrews is a skilled technician, but admits he doesn’t know how to use a fax machine.

“It’s not in the wheelhouse when it comes to things like this,” the business analyst told the Post.

In some cases, the next generation of office cleaners are having trouble with the most basic functions. A Reddit user recently regaled the internet with tales of Gen Z co-workers who are so bad at the basics, everyone had to start naming the power buttons on office desktop computers to remember how to turn them on.

“I’ve been told Gen Z needs to be tech savvy,” user Mowkin wrote. “After many calls, I finally had to decipher the letter.”

One Reddit user had to tag the power button on a computer monitor at work because his colleagues were so confused.

Young IT workers are coming on board, but the hopelessly lost are finding themselves in friendly hands.

Randall Wade, 26, also from Alabama, told the Post he hates office printers as much as his coworkers do.

“I have problems setting up some more complex things, but some simple things, like just scanning an email or just putting a sheet of paper in the printer,” Wade said.

Randall Wade, who works in IT, admits he avoids using office printers whenever possible.

“It got so bad that I called a different company straight away. [that] It’s just print troubleshooting,” he said. I was like, “I’ll just pay $150 and you guys make me do it because we can’t help it.”

Wade has noticed that the old tech — some of which is now twice as old as his younger colleagues — is second nature to the older generation in his office.

“My friends and I joke that they are printers. [run] With the Boomers – if it was up to us, everything would be very different with a better interface,” he added.

Many young workers say their lack of technology knowledge makes them feel ashamed.

“We’ve got a big girl; she’ll lock up. [herself] Six times a day we have to log in and out of her computer. But that printer, that fax machine, that scanner — she knows all the ins and outs,” he said with a laugh.

Owen Kelly, a 33-year-old office hardware veteran from Melbourne, Australia, says the future isn’t about teaching new college graduates how to use a printer — it’s about empowering the next generation to learn how printing works, maybe even a printing job. For the first time in history.

One technology expert cited the 1999 cult of “the office space” as suggesting that publishing is intergenerational.
20th Century Fox Licensing / Merchandising / Everett Collection

“From now on [forever]printers were difficult to use,” he told the Post. But that’s not the fault of people trying to use them.

Kelly, who recently sparked the infamous “office space” printer destruction scene on Twitter, added that it’s too late to change the way offices work.

“[We’re] Two decades into the new millennium,” he said. “No one should use a fax machine.”

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