Human resources specialists suggest that workplace conflict is rising as younger generations enter the workforce. In the article, Identifying strategies to minimize workplace conflict due to generational differences, Deyoe and Fox’s research examines HR consulting literature to determine if there are current strategies regarding generational conflict within the workplace. Interestingly, Deyoe and Fox conclude there is “little evidence of proven strategies that companies are using to mitigate generational conflict” (p. 1).

Their article suggests that many organizations currently employ up to four generations. It is estimated that there are 50 million employees from the Silent Generation still working; 85 million employees from the Baby Boomer Generation working; 50 million employees from Generation X working; and 76 million employees from Generation Y entering the workforce (Please note that these are American statistics). As a result the potential for generational conflict may be on the rise, this is because there are significant differences in regards to each generation. That being said, it is important for human resources specialists to be cognisant of the fact that each generation has very distinct characteristics, work ethics and values. The following table shows some of the different traits between the Veterans, the Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X and Generation Y:

Veterans(prior to 1945) Baby Boomer(1945-1964) Generation X(1965-1979) Generation Y(1980-1999)
  • Grew up following the Great Depression


  • Self-sacrificing


  • Loyal, disciplined and knowledgeable


  • Live to work


  • Competitive and hardworking


  • High expectations of subordinates
  • Independent and adaptable
  • Less committed to one employer


  • Work to live (work life balance)


  • Masters of technology


  • Self-confident

According to Deyoe and Fox, “managers will be at a disadvantage when communicating, assigning teams, training, and setting company policies with workers from the newest generation to enter the workforce” (p. 2). Deyoe and Fox speculate this disadvantage is created because members of Generation Y think and behave in a very different way than older generations.

It is important to note that generational conflict may result in “lower productivity, higher turnover, and frustrated employees” (Deyoe & Fox, p. 6). One HR solution to resolve and or prevent generational conflict within an organization is to recognize what each generation wants and needs. As stated above, it is important that human resources specialists be aware of each generation’s traits because it allows them to better understand why that particular generation thinks and acts as they do, diminishing the potential for conflict in the workplace. If we use human resources programs like training as an example, it would not be beneficial to a trainee from Generation X to be given a manual and asked to read it front to back, as it would not be beneficial to a trainee from the Baby Boomer Generation to be given a computer program. However, it would be effective to use a combination of these approaches in order maximize each generation’s learning preferences as well as eliminate the potential for generational conflict.


Chelsea Maccan / HR Administrator / PEO Canada