- Gen Zers are saying they need to be “delulu” to get ahead in their careers.
- They think that deluding themselves into thinking everything will be fine is the way forward.
- It’s a good reminder that vilifying young people in the workplace always ends badly.
Young workers think they’ve found the solution to getting ahead: being delulu.
Delulu isn’t a personality trait or a behavior — it’s a Gen Z mindset.
Being delulu involves some level of delusion as the word implies, but it’s also something else. Delulu is part manifesting, part “fake it til you make it,” and part true outsized self-belief. It’s something Gen Z thinks you have to embrace if you want your life to go the way you planned, including your career.
As my Gen Z colleague Sawdah Bhaimiya wrote: “Being delusional is more than just a fun trend on social media. Instead, it reflects young people’s desire to find a sense of control in an uncertain economic environment where normal life goals like buying a house or having a family seem increasingly out of reach.”
Basically, when they feel like the deck is stacked against them, their coping mechanism is to be delulu.
Employment-wise, Gen Z is not in a bad spot. Up until a pandemic-related spike in 2020, youth unemployment was consistently declining in the US after peaking at 18.3% in 2010.
But they do face other challenges: many have never worked in an office full-time, which can lead to clashes with managers, who are likely millennials or older. Plus, a slew of high-profile layoffs would feel scary when you’re 22 and applying for your first jobs.
But Gen Z’s need to delude themselves into jobs and promotions may be down to something else — the fact that not being a bit delulu would mean realizing the corporate world doesn’t take them seriously.
Gen Z workers are stereotyped as being “difficult,” “lazy,” or socially inept. Even when well-intentioned, these generalizations are often wrong, but perhaps more importantly, it’s easy to see how it could lead to the feeling that you have to use psychological hacks that alter your perception of reality to make working workable.
And the worst part is we’ve been here before: it’s the same thing Gen Xers and Boomers did to millennials, but no one’s learned the lesson that stereotyping young people in the workplace is damaging to all involved — they’ve just moved onto the next generation.
It’s enough to make anyone resort to being delulu.