12 Mistakes Baby Boomers Make When It Comes to Workplace Conflict

Navigate office tensions with ease by avoiding these 12 common missteps.

Colleagues arguing in office
Updated May 28, 2024
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The workplace is constantly evolving, and with it, communication styles and working habits.

As veterans in the field, Baby Boomers have a wealth of experience but also need to learn new ways to connect and collaborate with younger generations trying to get ahead financially.

Let's explore some common workplace habits that could be causing friction with younger colleagues.

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You talk down to younger co-workers

Malik E/peopleimages.com/Adobe angry businessman finger pointing

There is a way to interact with your co-workers that can be productive and get projects finished successfully.

Talk to your younger co-workers like you would to co-workers the same age as you. Making your co-workers feel small or childishly talking to them won’t help you accomplish your goals.

You treat all younger workers the same

Mangostar/Adobe multiethnic colleagues arguing

Everyone is different. Your younger co-workers want to be recognized for their individuality, just as you may want to. 

It’s important to view each person on your team as someone who has unique talents or wants to have their work judged on its own and not as part of the work of others.

Respect each younger person in your office for who they are instead of just treating everyone the same using the same assumptions for all of them.

You use outdated language

Bangkok Click Studio/Adobe blaming young employee with anger

It may have been acceptable to call your co-workers by outdated nicknames or use inappropriate language in the workplace, but those days are gone.

Instead, choose your words more carefully and consider using language more common in offices today. Treat everyone with respect.

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You use “reply all” on emails

TeacherPhoto/Adobe reply all button on the keyboard

Hitting “replying all” on emails is not proper workplace etiquette at any age, but it can be particularly frustrating for younger employees who see their older co-workers continuing to do it.

It also may show co-workers that you don’t understand modern technology, which could set you back with all co-workers, not just younger ones.

You blame others for your mistakes

motortion/Adobe businessman apologizing to female boss

You’ve been working with your company or in your industry for decades as a baby boomer, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t make mistakes.

It’s important to own up to any mistakes you make instead of trying to blame others, especially younger employees who you may think can be easier targets to blame.

You don’t have time limits

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe businessman threatening his colleague

Younger workers value their time outside the workplace and emphasize not being contacted about work outside of work hours.

Respect employees' boundaries if they don’t want to answer emails after a particular time or can’t be reached on weekends.

This is also a good way to reevaluate your own boundaries outside of work time and find ways to step away from your work email to enjoy more personal time.

You schedule too many phone calls

opolja/Adobe senior businessman working on laptop

Sometimes, it’s easier to have a phone conversation or a conference call to work through a particular issue.

But younger people would rather not talk on the phone, and constant conference calls can get frustrating, especially if they interrupt work.

Instead, consider talking less and texting (Slack is great!) or emailing more to get questions answered or get the point across to give everyone more time to complete their work.

You watch the clock

H_Ko/Adobe manager shows alarm clock to subordinate

You may think a nine-to-five job means everyone has to clock in, with the number of hours worked being the most important metric. But it may be a good idea to stop watching the clock and start reviewing the work. 

Instead of measuring a worker’s success on how many hours they clocked in, review progress and set goals that need to be met within a more general frame to get the best out of younger employees.

You ask questions instead of looking up the answers

lightpoet/Adobe senior man using a laptop

One of the things that may be harder for baby boomers compared to younger workers is the changes in technology.

It can be confusing to deal with new computer programs or trying to figure out how something works. 

But younger workers would prefer you to Google an answer before complaining about it and asking them or dumping your work on them to complete if you’re struggling with the technology involved.

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You waste paper

poco_bw/Adobe old man in the office

You may not think it’s a big deal to print out a bunch of documents or pass around printed pages of information for everyone to have instead of working from computer files.

Younger workers, however, may find your printing habits wasteful. See if you can distribute that file in an email instead of printing pages that will just go in their trash cans.

You care too much about your title

fizkes/Adobe colleagues arguing in the office

You’ve worked hard to get that important title along with your corner office, and you expect respect for those things.

So, it can be frustrating if younger workers aren’t as impressed with meetings in your corner office or put as much weight behind your title or power when it comes to work dynamics.

Instead, try sitting down with your employees at their level rather than trying to impress them with your power in the office. At the end of the day, you’re all on the same team.

You want everyone in the office every day

sodawhiskey/Adobe frustrated intern receiving unfair reprimand

The pandemic changed the working dynamic in an office, and younger workers are looking for more flexibility to work from home, even if it’s only part-time.

Consider adjusting your view of the importance of being in person every day and perhaps try more flexible scheduling or work hours that can be done remotely.

Bottom line

Andrey Popov/Adobe businesspeople arguing in meeting

Finding common ground with younger workers can be challenging, but there are ways to work together to be successful and make money for everyone.

You may want to sit down and talk to your co-workers about things they may find annoying or problems they may see in the office and possible solutions.

Communication is key. Do what you can to open a dialogue between you and younger workers to avoid workplace conflict.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.