Workplace Conflict – Generational Difference

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 in Communication,Conflict Resolution,HR,Latest Articles,Workplace Behaviours . 0 Comments.

Do we really need to mind the gap?

Generations. We know they are different and we know those differences can clash (as well as compliment!). You know the story – 45 year old Gen Xer at loggerheads with a 26 year old Gen Y because, amongst other things, he is “so disrespectful” when he texts rather than just coming to talk. Or the 30 year old Gen Y applying for internal jobs all over the place just to get away from their 62 year old Baby Boomer manager who keeps “telling me what to do” and expecting “me to do it his way, just because he’s the boss”.  Yes, the differences in generational work ethic, communication etiquette and work assignment clash often in the workplace and are well known.
But what is less well understood (and researched) is the difference in generational ‘responses to conflict’. This is a crucial piece that further complicates constructive resolution.  Drawing on our conflict resolution experience and some great research by Linda Gravett & Robin Throckmorton (and more research by Deyoe & Fox) here’s a summary of what we see in practice.

workforce % data was obtained here

The pieces of the generational puzzle

Understanding generational aspects is important as the more we understand the big picture the more effective our conflict conversations will be. It’s like looking at a puzzle, you need to see the picture on the box before you even know where to start. The more big-picture knowledge you have about generational differences, the more likely it is you will be heard and that you will understand and appreciate the others’ perspective.

BUT, and it’s a big BUT, to truly resolve the conflict I want you to ignore the generational aspects. Yes you are correct I am completely contradicting my last point. But, generational differences are the big picture, you know involving millions of people, yet your conflict involves two people or a Team. So to resolve the local level conflict you need to focus on the individual pieces of the puzzle and those pieces are cut in their own unique shape and require an individual response to put them together. Looking at the big picture on the box will just give you the intergeneration stereotypes and not the detail that you require.

Understand generational aspects of the conflict. Then ignore them and resolve the conflict

It’s too easy to box or diagnose the conflict as a “generational thing”, like Baby Boomers’ think Gen Y have terrible work ethics and Gen Y’s prefer to text than talk. Don’t settle for “this is just the way it is”. There is no ‘magic’ piece to the puzzle when it comes to dealing with conflict in the workplace and no single thing like “generational clash” will explain and resolve the tensions. Facing these issues please give us a call.

If you would like more information on this topic feel free to be in touch and request The ZALT Group’s White Paper on Workplace Conflict – The impact of generational differences. In Septmeber Zandy will be presenting on this topic at the National Mediation Conference coming up in September 2014.  She would love to see you there.

To investigate or not to investigate, that is the Q
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