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For millennials, a promotion can trump a workplace friendship

Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Faced with a choice, younger employees would rather sacrifice the friendship of a workplace colleague than forgo a promotion, according to a recent survey.

A new LinkedIn study released Tuesday on relationships in the workplace shows seven in 10 millennials said they would forsake a friendship with a co-worker in favour of climbing the corporate ladder. By contrast, three out of five baby boomers surveyed said they would never consider such a thing.

"There are really vast differences between ages when it comes to motivating factors in the workplace," says Kathleen Kahlon, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn in Toronto. "We all work differently, and millennials value relationships differently at work."

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The study highlights the long-acknowledged generation gap between how Gen Y and boomers approach their life at work, a gap that Ms. Kahlon says is most apparent in how the two groups communicate and the role they see communication playing in the workplace.

The results show that although Generation Y is more likely to give up a good work relationship, more than three out of four millennials believed socializing with co-workers made their work environments better. Half of Gen Ys were also comfortable with sharing relationship advice with colleagues and were 10 per cent more likely than baby boomers to discuss their salary.

Unsurprisingly, less than a quarter of baby boomers would discuss their love lives, and half of workers aged 55 to 65 said that their friendships with colleagues had no bearing on their work performance.

"There's kind of a blurred line for millennials with work-life balance, whereas for boomers it's more of a solid line," she said. "But it's important to make an effort at building relationships at work. That doesn't mean you have to reveal every little thing about yourself."

Just chatting for a few minutes about personal matters can help to foster teamwork and camaraderie, she said, especially for employers who manage a team with a large generational difference.

"Don't limit your communication to just e-mail and team meetings. Some employees might prefer to take a walk and chat personally with a team manager," she said, stressing that employers needed to take more of an interest in their employees' personal lives, especially as workplaces continue to evolve.

Communication, she said, doesn't have to take place in a "bricks-and-mortar setting."

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