Conflict between younger and older workers: An identity-based approach

Chun Yip Henry HO, Dannii Y. YEUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

Abstract

Purpose: With age diversity in the workplace becoming increasingly prevalent, the conflict between younger and older workers can be pervasive because of their increased interpersonal tensions from heterogeneous interactions. Adopting an identity-based approach, this study aims to examine the causes, underlying mechanisms and specific strategies used to manage such conflict. It was hypothesized that there is an interaction effect between age-group identification and organizational identification on conflict strategies and that this relationship can be explained by the mediating role of motivational goal orientation.

Design/methodology/approach
: A total of 380 clerical workers in Hong Kong, aged 19–65, responded to two hypothetical scenarios about conflict with a younger and an older worker using a structured questionnaire on social identity, motivational goal orientation and conflict strategies. Moderated mediation analyzes were performed to test the hypothesized conditional indirect effects.

Findings: Results showed that workers who identified with the organization emphasized less on independent goals (with a younger opposing party) and more on cooperative goals (with an older opposing party) when they did not perceive an age-group differentiation, and thus, they were more likely to respond in a way that de-escalates the conflict, including the use of integrating, obliging and compromising strategies.

Originality/value
: Extending age-related conflict research beyond identifying generational differences, this study highlights the role of social identity and suggests that employers and managers should strengthen employees' organizational identification and build a fair work environment that facilitates positive interaction between younger and older workers. Copyright © 2020 Emerald Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Early online dateJul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jul 2020

Citation

Ho, H. C. Y., & Yeung, D. Y. (2020). Conflict between younger and older workers: An identity-based approach. International Journal of Conflict Management. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1108/IJCMA-08-2019-0124

Keywords

  • Goal orientation
  • Organizational identification
  • Social identity
  • Conflict strategies
  • Age-group identification

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