‘New age’ working driving wedge between generations

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60% of professionals have reported a rise in ‘new challenges’ post-pandemic when working with colleagues from different generations – with 40% reportedly ‘not on the same page’ as their teammates when it comes to workplace values.

According to an annual survey from professional services recruiter Robert Walters, intergenerational conflict in the workplace has taken a sharp and unexpected rise in the workplace – with 33% of managers unaware of the arising fractions within their team.

The research identified the primary sources of inter-generational conflict in the workplace post-pandemic: attitudes toward technology, and a shift in work-related values.

Opposing Values

40% of professionals have reported feeling ‘annoyed’ at their colleague’s workplace values post pandemic – with many describing feeling on different pages to their teammates regarding wider outlook.

Results from the Robert Walters survey revealed the following priorities different generations place on their employer:

  • Gen Z (18-24 yrs): seek a workplace culture built on purpose (33%), strong social values (27%), and mental health & wellness (42%) – with older generations feeling that this cohort should focus on ‘the job at hand’ first and foremost (62%).
  • Millennials (25-39 yrs): or the mid-management generation – are pushing hard for more flexibility and remote working (55%) – with other generations feeling this cohort are playing the ‘family or long commute card’ too much post pandemic (37%).
  • Gen X (40 – 55 yrs) & Baby Boomers (55 – 74 yrs): value a work-life balance (37%), but remain highly autonomous, self-sufficient, resourceful, and adaptable – with younger generations feeling that that this cohort are disconnected socially & politically and have too much of a ‘get on with it’ attitude (25%).

Technology Causing a Glitch 

Technology continues to be a reoccurring theme when it comes to inter-generational conflict in the workplace – with the pandemic only heightening frustrations.

In fact, a third of workers under the age of 30 continue to have issues with the use of outdated technology – with slow computer systems, and clunky data portals being the leading reasons for frustration.

  • Gen Z (18-24 yrs): 24% would like to swap ‘admin heavy’ work-in-progress reports or virtual catchups in favour of project-tracking apps such as Trello or Monday – with a large proportion of older workers (55+) feeling this will dilute in-person collaboration
  • Millennials (25-39 yrs): 37% would like to move away from the reliance on emails as the primary form of communication – preferring instant chat portals such as Teams for casual questions. However, a large proportion of over 50s prefer email chains – describing it as a ‘record of their work.’

Toby Fowlston, Global CEO at Robert Walters comments: “Whilst this isn’t the first time our research has identified sources of inter-generational conflict in the workplace, it is clear there are some significantly different opinions between age groups that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Previous surveys have highlighted differences in perceived output, as well as differing attitudes toward social activities & teambuilding. However, what our 2022 data reveals is the stark impact of the pandemic, and how the long periods of remote working have fragmented workplace culture and the values which colleagues once upon a time may have shared.

“As companies continue to return to the office, identifying the common sources of conflict and addressing them head on will be essential to creating and retaining cohesive teams of professionals from varied generations and diversity of opinions.”

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  • AUTHOR

    Lisa Carter

    All stories by: Lisa Carter