Introduction Generational differences have been the cause of many conflicts in today’s work environment. A generation is a group of persons that share roughly the same age, location, and life events during the developmental stages of their lives. For the first time ever, four generations occupy today’s workplace; they consist of the Silent Generation, known as Traditionalists (1925
– 1945), Baby Boomers (19461964), Generation X (1965 – 1981), and Generation Y, or
Millennials, (1982 – 1999). People of each generation have different cultural values and have experienced different world events that have shaped their views and behaviors. Before we can develop an understanding of how the different generations cause conflict in the workplace, it is important to first understand the characteristics of each generation. Traditionalists are those born roughly between 1992 and 1945, although most are now retired. According to one study, they emphasize values on conformity and sacrifice; they also tend to be risk averse and resistant to change (Clarke 2009). Members of this generation typically value loyalty, respect for authority, and discipline. They believe in putting in their fair share of the work and are accustomed to a seniority based system, or a topdown management style.
Much of their life experiences have been shaped by events such as the Great Depression, the construction of the Empire State Building, World War II, and the Korean War. Baby Boomers, a generation of individuals born between 1946 and 1964, were given this name they were part of the postWorld War II baby boom. Baby boomers now occupy many management positions within developed organizations. They believe in organizational commitment and loyalty, and believe in sacrifice in order to become successful. They are very individualistic and desire recognition for their contribution towards their organizations
(Jorgensen 2003). Boomers were raised to respect authority figures, have equated work with selfworth and selffulfillment ( Yang & Guy, 2006). Their experiences were shaped by events such as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedy assassination, and the United
States moon landing. Generation X include those born between 1965 and 1979. They are recognized at
“latchkey” kids who found themselves home alone, taking care of themselves and their siblings, and learning to become independent at a young age. This was the result of growing up during a period of economic turmoil with a stagnant job market, corporate downsizing, and low wage growth (Karp et al., 2002). Individual of Generation X value a balance between work and life, have a lesser regard for authority, tend to be more independent and less loyal to employers, and have strong technical skills. Some major events that shaped their lives include MTV, the AIDS
Crisis, the Challenger disaster, and the LA riots. Generation Y is the newest generation to have joined the workforce and were born between 1980 and 1990. They are viewed as the most confident generation, as they are highly optimistic and demand instant feedback for their work. They are more willing to job hop until
they find a job that well suits them. They have been immersed in technology and social networking, which has changed their thoughts and behaviors, as compared to prior generations.
(Macon & Artley, 2006). Table 1 in the appendix below provides a visual representation of the differences among work ethic, attitudes, expectations, and preferences of each generation with regards to the work environment. Conflicts
A survey conducted by Ernst & Young, a reputable professional services firm, found that professionals from each generation show significant cultural and behavioral differences.
Respondents of the survey agree that Babyboomers are not slacking off as they age, but are seen as hardworking and productive. Generation Xers are viewed as the best team