Manager Says His 18 To 25-Year-Old Workers ‘Completely Shut Down’ When A Task Requires Critical Thinking Skills

“Every single solitary kid that we’ve hired is having the same issues.”

Young man looking frustrated with his head in his hands. Fizkes / CanvaPro

Growing up, millennials and Gen Zers were sold a dream. They were told there was a traditional path to follow to find success later in life. With standardized testing, SAT and ACT scores, college pathways, and interview prep, there was one option: succeed and be the best. 

So, why attempt something when there’s a chance you’ll fail at it? You’ve been conditioned your entire life to only follow clear, traditional, and well-proven paths toward success. If you fail at those, it’s not your fault. You did what you were told. 


A manager said his 18 to 25-year-old workers ‘completely shut down’ when they’re tasked with something requiring critical thinking skills. 

Many commenters pointed to this perspective in the manager's since-deleted Reddit post on the “Managers” forum. As he discussed his younger generation of workers and their “lack of competency” at performing basic tasks, people theorized and debated why this controversial take might actually have some validity. 



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“The majority of my staff are 25-40 years old,” he wrote. “You can give this group some decent general direction … they are capable of doing it with not much additional help. Maybe once they're done, you have to explain … something trivial, but by and large, they are self-sufficient and figure it out.”

On the other hand, the manager shared that his Gen Z and young millennial workers struggle with basic tasks — often asking a million questions after being told to “figure it out” or even giving up completely. “It wasn’t like this 5-10 years ago … It’s like every single task, the moment they get stuck, they COMPLETELY shut down. Every task, you have to hold their hand.” 

Commenters argued that Gen Zers had ‘impossible expectations’ for success and ‘controlled educations’ that promoted brilliance over common sense. 

According to Iowa’s CORE Employability Skills Inventory, “critical thinking” encompasses four main skills: accessing and analyzing information, developing solutions to complex problems, challenging assumptions, and streamlining processes to make complexity more manageable. 

Accessing and analyzing information and finding solutions to problems is a vital skill for children today. You can utilize it whether doing high school homework or sitting in a college lecture hall. In addition, many educational curriculums and institutions focus more on “controlled” learning with step-by-step instructions for success instead of unpredictable problem-solving. 


Alongside educational and social barriers to learning critical thinking skills, many younger generations face personal ones, including an overreliance on emotions, fears of failure, and a lack of effective communication skills. 



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Especially given the kind of power people have on the internet — from communicating with strangers to sharing opinions with millions of people to accessing their banking information — it’s concerning that younger generations lack critical thinking in their unpredictable professional lives and at home. 


Stemming from their increased “screen time” and reliance on technology, these dwindling skills also make young people susceptible to online risks and scams.

Almost three-quarters of marginalized communities admit to experiencing online harassment from people on social media, and that’s only the beginning of the risks that younger people have access to digitally. 

With the power to ruin a reputation instantly, bully and harass others anonymously, or even share personal information with a stranger, young people need to develop a kind of literacy that protects not only their job stability but also their personal safety. 

In addition to the harmful effects of increased screen time and technology use, younger generations face heightened social consequences from the pandemic. 

Studies on Gen Z’s educational curriculums and institutions reveal that despite being the most “open-minded, inclusive, and technologically savvy” generation, they tend to have been educationally disadvantaged when it comes to professional skills like perseverance. 


Manager Says Young Workers Have No Critical Thinking Skills Skynesher / CanvaPro

Especially since the pandemic isolated many Gen Zers from their communities, schools, and families, during their most formative years, these skills were not easily learned by experience. Instead, these younger generations grappled with insurmountable mental health epidemics — struggling with heightened anxiety, depression, and identity crises. 


So, this Reddit manager was on the right track when theorizing that something “cultural” was causing this disconnect in younger generations. “I’ve tried highly educated kids, hustler kids with no college education,” he wrote. "In reviews, we bring this up, but the feedback is that they ‘need to be taught.’ Still, they mentally shut down.” 

While it’s ignorant to assume this lack of critical thinking and perseverance is true of every Gen Zer or millennial professional, it’s a disservice to not acknowledge the ways in which societal expectations, technology, and educational institutions have set them up to fail. 

RELATED: Gen-Z Employee Shares 3 Clever Tips To Help Workers 'Survive' A 9-To-5 Job

Zayda Slabbekoorn is a News & Entertainment Writer at YourTango who focuses on health & wellness, social policy, and human interest stories.