Managing Generational Conflict

For the first time in the history of restaurants, there are four distinct generations represented in workplace demographics. This presents challenges and opportunities for foodservice operations. by Amber Brown

Each generational cohort group brings different skill sets and attitudes towards work ethic, workplace motivators and job loyalty. These differences can cause disruptive change within the restaurant environment as the industry catches up to technology. Restaurant managers need to juggle the differences of each generation to have a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Although the millennial generation makes up the majority of the workforce growth, it is important for managers to understand that there are at least 3 or 4 other generations still represented in the workforce. To best understand the conflict that can occur within these generational groups, managers must understand the common characteristics of the separate generations while avoiding common stereotyping.

Workforce generations are commonly separated into four groups: The Silent generation, the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X and Generation Y or Millennial generation. Members of the Silent and Baby Boomer generations did not have the same access to technology, which the latter two generations were exposed. However, managers should not assume that the older generations are not tech savvy. Many members of these two generational groups have embraced new technologies and have remained relevant in the workforce. Many people are entering retirement later than in previous years, and adaptation has been a key skill set that the previous cohort groups have learned to hone.

Much of the conflict that occurs in foodservice industry employees revolves around perceived respect levels. Many older workers feel that younger workers disregard their ability to pick up on new technologies introduced into the workplace environment.

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Managers must be sensitive to the fact that while there is more technology implemented in foodservice job functions, it does not mean that older generations are obsolete. Training programs that cover the basics of technology may be a good way to integrate technology for older generations, while allowing the younger generation to learn at a quicker pace. Workers who pick up on technology faster than others can be placed into the training program that moves at a quicker pace.
Another common source of conflict occurs with the expectation of work ethic and work performance. Millennials and Gen Xers value balance between work function and socialization, however Boomers and Silent generation workers believe that work comes first. Younger workers feel that older workers are condescending, not taking the younger workers seriously.

One way to combat this is to pair an older worker with a younger worker in a mentorship program. Many organizations find that this type of a program is beneficial for both employees. The older employee is able to identify where they can employ more balance, and the younger employee prioritizes the work functions before socializing with other co-workers.

By understanding all generational cohort groups and their workplace motivators, foodservice managers can create a symbiotic workplace that capitalizes on all generational strengths.