Could understanding millennials reduce workplace conflict?

Lucy Heskins

Marketing Director


In less than five years’ time, 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials, according to Gallup. If you’re not investing in ways to engage this cohort and their unique attitude to work, then let me share with you a trend we’re seeing.

Look at your workforce. In one corner, you’ve got this enthusiastic group of talent who’ve just joined. They’re fresh-faced, they’re brimming with ideas. Yes, they’re not quite accustomed to how to act in the workplace - yet. There’s the one who signs off client emails with an emoji, and there’s others who are questioning why you still haven’t rolled out Slack. But they’re enthusiastic; they’re your future leaders.

Then, in the other corner, you’ve got the experienced employees: those who’ve been with the organisation for years. They helped to build the foundation of the business, they’re experts in their areas. Yes, they are precious about their work, and yes, they take a dim view to new employees because “they’ll only move on after a year” - but these are the people who you need to keep business going.

But it’s this group who will have an impact on the new hire’s experience at the business.

“Why are they challenging me?” “Why do they want a laptop?” “That’s not how we do things around here”.

“Why can’t I work remotely?” “These systems are so archaic” “But if we did it this way it’d be faster”.

Getting these generations to work together is a challenge. Their differences in opinion, approaches to work, and how they form relationships is often the source of conflict.


And, of course it falls on you to put out the fires. All the while you can see the wider impact this is having: retention is dipping, recruitment spend is increasing, and don't get started on those awful Glassdoor reviews.

At Careercake, we speak to those in the first decade of their careers to help them to take on and beat the firsts. We feed this back into teams who then use it to improve their employee experience and development programmes. Download our guide on engaging with millennials in the workplace here.

Millennials are not at fault for this conflict, but it’s those businesses who understand their needs and deliver learning solutions see better engagement, better relationships and better clarity within roles.

Getting started with understanding areas of conflict for younger workers:

What’s actually holding them back?

We found that 49% of those between 24-39 years old, suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s what’s stopping them from putting their hand up in meetings; it’s what’s making them on edge at work.

1 in 5 believe they don’t have a good relationship with their line manager. Their time in education didn’t train them on conflict resolution, they don’t get professional etiquette and how to communicate with their boss if they don’t agree with something. So, when you’ve got an older worker talking to them in a way that doesn’t resonate or take heed of their unique needs you’re forcing them to work in an environment they can’t feel awesome in.


Share content that answers the “EEK!” friction moments.

Today, you’re expected to provide more support than ever, in areas you may not be trained in or comfortable navigating through. And knowing what those areas are is difficult to anticipate.

We mapped out the common questions millennials have when entering the workplace, with the aim of understanding potential sources of conflict

Here are some examples:

Q: Will they take me seriously? They’ve worked there so long. I’m just a graduate.

Q: No one ‘looks’ like me; who can I ask to be a mentor?

Q: I’ve never phoned a client before, why won’t they just let me send an email?

We found those businesses who address these questions at key moments, via online learning content that extends far wider than ‘traditional’ learning, saw it impact and improve their employee experience.

People didn’t have to wait as long to get their answer (they were directed to a video instead of waiting for a course to be created) and this was fed back into performance reviews which opened up new conversations.

Check out our downloadable guide on millennials in the workplace to get a better understanding of how they need to feel seen, heard and valued.



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