Tensions within organizations: View from intergenerational relationships

Diversity is a reality that is becoming more and more important in modern businesses. One of the factors contributing to this diversity is the age gap between generations. It is hard for the different generations to work with each others, since each of them has its own work-attitudes and characteristics, which may result in various intergenerational conflicts. These conflicts can occur within organizations and have a negative impact on individual performances, and therefore, on the global performance of the company.

It is important to understand each of the generations operating in the workplace, and the consequences of their interactions. Our research tasks are first, to identify the organizational conflicts between employees, then to briefly expose the different characteristics of the generations X and Y, and finally to elucidate the nature of the relationship between these two generations within the company.

Within companies, different types of conflicts can occur. We have differentiated first between cognitive conflicts (work-related conflicts) that are supposed to be positive for companies, since they promote innovation, and relational conflicts (when feelings are involved) that have a negative impact on individual and global performance. Then, we differentiated between conflicts according to people involved, which are intra-personal, interpersonal, inter-group, intra-group, and intra-organizational conflicts.

After that, we tried to understand different characteristics of generations, especially generation Y (Millenials) and generation X. Gen-X, those born between 1968 and 1979 according to the US Census Bureau, are known to be independents, pessimistic, faithful to their careers and employers, looking for a work-life balance, evolve slowly and require to be a part of decision making. While the Millenials, born between 1980 and 1995, are known to be optimistic, connected, multitask, innovative, evolve quickly, demand constant feedback and prefer working in a group. These differences between the two generations can make their relationship conflictual and therefore, impact negatively the company and the work climate.