They’re Ctrl + Clueless.
Gen Zers and younger millennials may have emerged from the womb knowing how to hack into their parents’ smartphones, but put them in a traditional office environment — the kind with printers, scanners, fax machines and desktop computers — and the most naturally tech-savvy humans alive are suddenly almost as lost as their grandparents were at the dawn of the digital age.
According to a report released by LaSalle Network, a staffing agency in Chicago and Nashville, nearly half of college graduates in 2022 feel “under-prepared” for the technical skills needed on the job — leading to some awkward situations around the water cooler.
“Whenever I can’t get the printer at my job to work my older colleagues laugh at me in good fun. It makes me feel silly,” Megan Whittaker, a 29-year-old social worker from Brooklyn told The Post.
Using printers and common office tech is stressing today’s young people out, according to research.Shutterstock
Whittaker, who says she “may not be able to work a printer but can calm an emotionally disturbed person,” feels frustration that she wasn’t trained to manage office equipment while still in school.
The inter-generational tension is so common, there’s even a term for it — tech shaming. A recent batch of data from Hewlett Packard found that “1 in 5 young office workers feel judged when experiencing tech issues.” The youths are also “Ten times more likely to feel shame in these scenarios when compared to their more mature peers,” according to the computer manufacturer.
“It’s kind of embarrassing — we are the technologically advanced generation,” 24-year-old Jazmyn Castillo, 24, an H&R Block associate team leader in Garland, Texas, told The Post.
”Working the scanner, I was like, how does that work? Like, how do you scan it in. I didn’t know how to work the copier either. It’s pretty frustrating,” she said.
“[Older colleagues] find it kind of amusing — they’re telling me, ‘You should know how to do that’ or, ‘You should be able to catch on and figure it all out,’” Castillo added.
Jazmyn Castillo admitedly struggles with things like office printers.
Damien Andrews, 22, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and went to school to learn coding, confessed to feeling equally weak on the basics.
“If you told me you needed a website, I can make you a whole website by myself. But if you told me to fax three documents, I would have to Google it. I didn’t even know people were still faxing,” he said.
In a recent situation where Andrews was asked to fax some papers, he asked his colleague to find somebody else.
Damien Andrews is a skilled techie, but admits he doesn’t know how to use a fax machine.
“When it comes to stuff like that, it’s just not in my wheelhouse,” the business analyst told The Post.
In some cases, the next generation of office drones is having trouble with the most basic tasks. One Reddit user delighted the internet recently with tales of Gen Z co-workers who were so feeble on the fundamentals, they had to start labeling the power buttons on the office desktop computers to remind everyone how to turn them on.
“I was told that Gen Z are supposed to be tech savvy,” user Mowkin wrote. “After far too many calls, I finally had to spell it out for them.”
One Reddit user had to put a label on the power button of a workplace computer monitor because colleagues became so confused.
With younger IT workers coming on board, however, the hopelessly lost are finding themselves in friendlier hands.
Randall Wade, 26, also from Alabama, told The Post he hates the office printers just as much as his colleagues do.
“I have issues setting up some of the more complicated stuff, but even some simple stuff, like just scanning to email or just putting a piece of paper in the printer,” Wade said.
Randall Wade, who works in IT, admits he avoids using office printers as much as possible.
“It has gotten so bad that I literally called a separate company [that] only does printing troubleshooting,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’m just gonna pay $150 and have you guys do it because we can’t figure it out.’”
Wade noticed that the early tech — some of it now twice as old as his youngest colleagues — is second nature to the older generation in his office.
“My friends and I joke that printers are [run] by Boomers — if it was up to us, everything would be a lot different with a much better interface,” he added.
Many younger workers say their lack of tech knowhow has made them feel ashamed.Shutterstock
“We have an older woman; she locks [herself] out of her computer six times a day and we have to go in and unlock her. But that printer, that fax machine, that scanner — she knows all the ins and outs,” he said, laughing.
Owen Kelly, 33, a techie with an office hardware background from Melbourne, Australia, says that the future isn’t teaching freshly minted college grads how to use a printer — it’s empowering the next generation to figure out how to make printing work, possibly for the first time in history.
One tech expert pointed out that issues with printing are inter-generational, citing the 1999 cult classic “Office Space.”20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising / Everett Collection
“Since [forever], printers have been hard to use,” he told The Post. “But that’s not the fault of the people trying to use them.”
Kelly, who recently evoked the infamous printer destruction scene from “Office Space” on Twitter, added that we’re long overdue for a change in the way offices work.
“[We’re] two decades into the new millennium,” he said. “No one should be using a fax.”