Generational Conflict

Do you have a hard time with older or younger co-workers? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast Dear HBR:, co-hosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Jennifer Deal, an expert on generational issues at the Center for Creative Leadership and the co-author of What Millennials Want from Work. They talk through what to do when you’re struggling with an older colleague, when you’re managing a much older worker, and how to motivate younger employees who seem lax on the job.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: What Facebook Knows About Engaging Millennial Employees by Lori Goler — “Millennials want to do meaningful work and be a part of something that will have a positive impact on the world. Some might characterize this attitude as demanding and self-centered — asking for too much from a job. But our data indicates that at Facebook — and probably many other organizations — people of all generations have begun to redefine fulfillment in this way.”

HBR: What Younger Workers Can Learn from Older Workers, and Vice Versa by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott — “As life and working life expands, everyone will go through more changes and transitions. Having the skills and transformational assets to support this change tends to be something that is strongest in the young. However, as people live longer, they need to display this skill throughout their lives. Juvenescence, the art of aging young, is important, and this naturally opens up an avenue for inverse mentoring of the young by the old.”

HBR: The Four Biggest Reasons for Generational Conflict in Teams by Tammy Erickson — “The crux of most technology-based team misunderstandings is not the technology per se – it is how team members interpret each others’ intentions based on communication approaches. Younger members are accustomed to rapid responses from peers; they are likely to feel frustrated and, at times, rejected if they don’t hear from older colleagues for a day or so. Team members from older generations may not only be uncomfortable with digital communication, they may even feel offended by a lack of face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice interaction, or left out of the loop.”

Book: What Millennials Want from Work by Jennifer Deal and Alec Levenson — “Our research revealed that, fundamentally, Millennials want what older generations have always wanted: an interesting job that pays well, where they work with people they like and trust, have access to development and the opportunity to advance, are shown appreciation on a regular basis, and don’t have to leave.”


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