Although not as obvious or often talked about as other diversity issues, generational differences can cause conflict, disruption and team dysfunction in the workplace. By understanding, recognizing, and appreciating the differences, not only can conflict be avoided but value and opportunity can be found in utilizing generational differences to a workplace advantage.
Today’s workplace has four distinct generations working together:
Traditionalists or Veterans (born approximately 1922–45)
Baby Boomers (1946–60)
Generation X (1961–80)
Millennials or Generation Y (1981–?)
Because of generational differences, workers may clash over work ethics, acceptable work hours, or perceptions that co-workers from other generations are over- or under-reliant on technology. This is often due to the different world events and culture, which influenced the different periods in which workers were growing up.
Traditionalists and older Baby Boomers grew up in a world where job loyalty was an expectation and work was seen as a privilege. They were influenced by the World War II, the Korean War and by Watergate. Baby Boomers grew up in a more chaotic era of protests over the Vietnam War and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Generations X and Y had much different influences on their lives such as high rates of divorce, Middle East wars and 9/11. These world events, together with the icons, music and symbols of the ages, have an influence on our values and our ability to understand those who had different influences.
One Boomer said to me in a workshop that he had a high value for loyalty to his employer until he was laid off. Now he understands why many younger workers build their resumes by working for several employers instead of just one. Instead of gaining insights the hard way, managers and employees can learn about generational differences and how to best work with them by attending workshops where, through dialogue and facilitation, workers can learn what values each generation holds dear, how to best leverage the assets each generation brings and how to recruit and retain valuable workers by paying attention to their differing needs.
Accord & Collaboration offers workshops on “Learning to Bridge the Generation Gap in the Workplace” as well as workshops that teach people better communication skills in the workplace such as “Interdependent Communication” and “Conflict Resolution”. Contact us for more information.
Dee Knapp, J.D.
Resolving conflict by creating conditions that work.