Intergenerational conflict marring workplace relations

Younger and older employees are clashing at work, according to research.

Two thirds (65%) of UK employees are experiencing intergenerational conflict at work, according to new research by ADP®. For the first time in history, five generations of employees are working side by side, with consultants in their eighties serving alongside fresh talent in their teens. However, the pan-European study of 11,000 working adults reveals that the 65-year age gap can lead to conflict in the workplace.

Generational conflict is primarily caused by younger and older employees having differing views on how things should be done (19 per cent), older workers working for longer leaving less room for new talent (18 per cent), and differing approaches to organisational values and corporate responsibility (18 per cent).

Younger workers seem to be finding it more difficult to cope with age diversity. While 16 per cent of younger employees feel that their ageing management is out of touch with modern trends, a further 15 per cent think older workers are resistant to change.

However, 94 per cent of older UK workers feel that younger generations are armed with the skills to be successful in their role. Similarly, only 12 per cent of employees say that older workers perceive younger talent entering leadership positions as a threat.

Despite their differences, 39 per cent of employees are anxious about losing talent and knowledge as older workers retire. Nevertheless, only one in ten businesses plan to employ retired employees as consultants.

Fueled by the aging population across Europe, differences in generational values, working styles and skills are becoming more evident. The issues are particularly prominent in Italy (77 per cent), Spain (73 per cent) and Poland (73 per cent), compared to 67 per cent of employees across Europe.

Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK says, ‘Diversity is one of the greatest assets to a business. While millennials bring new ways of working and a fresh set of skills to the workplace, older workers have rich and invaluable experience.

‘It is concerning to see how much conflict the age gap can cause in UK businesses. Organisations must consider how they can mitigate these issues to enable them to engage with, and harness the full potential of each age group.’

Leon Vergnes, senior vice president EMEA at ADP adds, ‘Employees need to be aware of, and respond to, potential differences when working with their colleagues and clients. This is particularly important for multinational businesses, as they need to be mindful of age diversity in addition to issues such as cultural differences or language barriers.

‘Organisations must help their employees address concerns in order to benefit from the value that diversity brings to the workplace.’

Further reading about older employees

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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