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How to resolve intergenerational conflicts in 6 steps

Traditionals (1925–1945), Baby Boomers (1946–1964), Gen X (1965–1980), Millennials (1981–2000), Gen Z (2001–2021)

1. Understand work styles

Traditionals and baby boomers don’t like to be micromanaged, while millennials and Gen Z’ers crave specific, detailed instructions about how to do things and are used to hovering authorities.

2. Consider generational values

Each generation is protecting a distinct set of values, and conflict may threaten these values. For example, baby boomers value teamwork, cooperation, and buy-in, while Gen X’ers prefer to make a unilateral decision and move on—preferably solo.

3. Share perceptions

When employees of two or more generations are involved in a workplace conflict, they can learn a great deal by sharing their perceptions. A traditional may find the lack of formality and manners of a millennial offensive, while a millennial may feel “dissed” when this older employee fails to respect his or her opinions and input.

4. Find a generationally appropriate fix

You can’t change people’s life experiences, but you can work with the set of workplace attitudes and expectations that result. If there is a knowledgeable boomer who is frustrated by the lack of experience of a millennial, coupled with his or her sense of entitlement, turn the boomer into a mentor.

5. Find commonality

Traditionals and millennial employees tend to value security and stability. Traditionals and boomers resist change. But both crave training and development. Gen X and millennial employees place a high value on workplace flexibility and work-life balance. Boomers and Gen Z’ers are most comfortable with diversity and alternative lifestyles. Millenials and Gen Z are technologically adept and committed to socially responsible policies.

6. Learn from each other

Each generation has valuable lessons to teach the next. Traditionals and boomers have a wealth of knowledge and tricks of the trade that younger workers need. Generation X employees are widely known for their fairness and mediation abilities. Millennials are technology wizards. And Gen Z’ers hold clues to future workplace, marketing, and business trends.

Source: Larry & Meagan Johnson, Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters-Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work