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Ok Boomer. Ok Gen Z. Lets Talk

KUALA LUMPUR: The COVID-19 pandemic may be one of the most unprecedented occurrences of the 21st century, but along with its fatal blows to the world’s economy it has also brought attention to a seemingly trifling issue: workplace bullying.

In a 2019 article by BMC Public Health, it is found that at least one in three employees in Malaysia have reported having experienced workplace bullying due to the different styles and workplace culture between these four generations: Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z.

 The 2020-30 decade also marks the first time four generations with exceedingly contrasting outlooks will work alongside each other.

According to the article co-authored by Dr Jesrina Ann Xavier, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director at the Faculty of Business and Law, Taylor’s University and Anna Matthew, Senior Lecturer and Head of the School of Business & Management at Advance Tertiary College, workplace bullying is an unreasonable behaviour that carried out due power imbalance, whether it’s due to unresolved workplace conflicts or an attempt to maintain social hierarchy. 

Due to normalized bullying in workplace culture, Malaysia is recorded as having the highest difference in power distance among 76 countries and regions in a 2014 IBM study. Employees are pressured into accepting bullying as it is viewed as a representation of power and authority within business organizations.

Researchers have clinched that among all stressors, workplace bullying is considered to have a far more crippling effect for employees compared to other work-related stresses put together. This could be due to the generational diversity in the workplace, where there is a variance in core values, behaviour and work paradigms among the four different generations.  

In order to bridge the generational gap, it is important for employers to proactively create an environment that deters workplace bullying. This is to boost workplace productivity to its fullest potential, along with a chance for employees to understand and respect each other’s contrasting values regardless of generation.

Organizations grappling with how to bridge this generation gap can reach out to professional coaches as the vast knowledge, skill and expertise offered by professional coaches is beneficial to employees of all generations. Research shows that 60 to 90 minutes of consistent coaching sessions can help employees of different generations in dealing with workplace bullying.

Additionally, professional coaching enables diverse generations in the workplace in building trust, empathy and adaptability with respect towards each other. 

All generations believe teamwork is the key to overcome diversity. Hence, it is imperative to remember that employers that succeed in this decade will be those who leverage on the multi-generational differences in values and attitudes.