Generations of conflict

FORTY per cent of HR professionals have witnessed conflict among employees as a result of generational differences, while a further 58 per cent have observed conflict between younger and older workers, largely due to differing perceptions of work ethic and work/life balance

FORTY per cent of HR professionals have witnessed conflict among employees as a result of generational differences, while a further 58 per cent have observed conflict between younger and older workers, largely due to differing perceptions of work ethic and work/life balance.

A recent study of 258 American HR professionals found that nearly a quarter believe differences over acceptable work hours are the primary sources of conflict, which reflects different perceptions of work ethic and benefits such as telecommuting and flextime.

Frequently, these complaints came from older workers about younger employees’ willingness to work longer hours. Work/life balance is among the most important job satisfaction factors for younger employees and is typically not as important among older workers, according to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which conducted the study.

While HR professionals were generally positive about relationships between the generations, with half saying they work effectively together, 27 per cent said the quality of work frequently improves with a variety of generational perspectives.

However, 28 per cent of HR professionals said conflict among generations had increased over the last five years and 33 per cent expected it to increase over the next five.

“Organisations recognise that the expertise and unique perspectives of a diverse workforce can contribute to the success of a company,” according to Susan Meisinger, CEO of SHRM.

“HR professionals can help managers and employees use communication and training to remove generational barriers to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of their diverse workforce and improve the overall success of the organisation.”

The 2004 Generational Differences Survey identified four generations: veterans (those born before 1945); baby boomers (born from 1945 to 1964); Generation X (born from 1965 to 1980); and Generation Y (aka Nexters or Millennials, born after 1980).

It found that 42 per cent of HR professionals said their organisation had lost GenXers and Nexter employees who believed they could not advance in their careers because veterans and baby boomers held top positions. HR professionals reported implementing succession planning programs, offering training or increasing compensation in order to retain younger workers.

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