Generation wars: age based conflict harming productivity
20 February 2014
Conflict between workers of different ages has always been a major detriment to staff morale, but a new study shows it can also kill your employees’ productivity.
According to a recent survey of over 1,000 workers by the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) Workforce Development Community, generational conflict is still rife in workplaces today, with Baby Boomers (those aged between 49 and 67) and Millennials (13 to 33 years old) the two age groups most in disharmony with each other.
While there are many reasons behind the disagreement between these two cohorts, the survey revealed that a lack of respect and resistance to change were some of the main factors driving this conflict.
It is not just limited to these two age groups, however – workers from Generation X (34 to 38 years old) also found it difficult to work with them, accusing Baby Boomers of “dogmatic thinking” and “[lacking] creativity” and calling Millennials “arrogant”.
This widespread unrest is sure to take a toll on numerous aspects of staff wellbeing, and the survey found that one in three workers spend five or more hours – or 12 per cent – of each week negotiating “chronic, unaddressed conflict between colleagues from different generations”.
“We were struck by the irony in the stories we collected,” Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of the study, said in a February 5 statement.
“Some insisted that ‘She’s lazy because she’s old’ while others said ‘She’s lazy because she’s young!'”
Whether or not this problem is successfully tackled largely depends on the actions leaders take, the authors of the study suggested. For example, it is important to “invite dialogue” among conflicting employees to share their perspectives and be more open about addressing the conflict. Further actions may also include providing all employees with relevant workplace training, particularly as generational conflict has the potential to escalate to workplace bullying or age discrimination in the worst case scenarios. Workplace mediation could also be necessary to restore working relationships, this may be conducted in house by an appropriately trained staff member or by an external workplace mediation provider.
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