Intergenerational Conflicts in the Workplace

Causes of Intergenerational Conflicts in the Workplace

To be fair, intergenerational conflict in the workplace is not something you can adequately address in an article!

Entire studies have been dedicated to the subject because let’s face it; employees being uneasy with each other is not good for business. Regardless, we’re going to try our best to address some of the causes of intergenerational conflict in the workplace. We’re also going to touch on potential guidelines for conflict resolution in the workplace, but like we said, the problem of intergenerational conflicts is a rather extensive. This is not just in its affect but also in its underlying triggers!

What Causes Intergenerational Conflict

Intergenerational conflict can occur for a number of reasons. If you cut it down to personal interactions, it would be hard to address the many reasons this occurs adequately. What we can do, is reduce it to a few commonly occurring triggers and work our way from there.

Differences in Work Ethic

Most employees belonging to older generations tend to have a slightly stricter work ethic. Schedule and structure are as important as results for many individuals belonging to this group. Millennials and some younger generation X-ers seem more geared towards goal and result driven work demanding a degree of flexibility with regard to time and scheduling.

Different Expectations from Work

Different generations have different expectations from the places they work. Where for some it is stability and security, others seek accumulation of experience. The older lot in general goes for the former. Many millennials are still at a stage where they are finding their feet professionally.

different expectations from work

Culture Shock

Whether it is parents to their children, old teachers to students or aged employees to younger ones, the difference in culture is very real. One example is the, “do what you’re asked without question”, mentality that many older generations seem to abide by. The younger ones…not so much! That being said, this is not necessarily a bad thing as healthy questioning should always be encouraged.


A lot of individuals also tend to assume that just because someone belongs to a certain generational demographic, they automatically inherit the general characteristics of that generation. This does not help as in truth though there may be similarities, people are all cut differently!

Gap in Communication

The issues stated above and many of those similar would be a lot less of a problem if there was productive communication. One of the biggest problems is that sometimes, people, regardless of generation are too arrogant to really hear each other. All generations have their own forms of entitlement. To be fair, most of us could use a lesson in productive communication and humility!

Why Bother?

You might wonder how this makes any difference to your business or why you should bother rectifying it. Truth be told, not addressing this will likely result in your employees, being frustrated. This will further lead to reduced productivity, low profits and a detrimentally high rate of turnover!

What to do?

There are a number of ways employers can mitigate intergenerational conflict. These include:

  • Mentorship programs
  • Encouraging communication
  • Being Supportive
  • Being aware and accepting of differences
  • Leading by example

These are just a few of many possible solutions to mitigate intergenerational conflict at the work place. That being said, it is still a tall order and it always helps to consult with a specialist if things get unmanageable! In this case, this could be a respected workplace advisory service. Look into your options and see what you can do to improve that work environment. Remember; happy employees mean workplace efficiency.

Develop For Results International is a boutique Employee Relations and Human Resources Advisory firm dedicated to providing resolution to all manner of employee problems in the workplace, specializing in handling conflicts so managers can focus on core tasks.







Lisa Scholfield

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