An aging U.S. workforce has raised a number of important organizational issues, including the association between employee age and attitudes about work. Employees’ job attitudes are particularly important from an organization’s perspective because of their link to engagement and performance on the job.
Despite the common stereotype that older employees are less motivated and productive than younger employees, researchers (Ng & Feldman, 2010) argue that older employees should have more favorable job attitudes because they are more likely to settle into jobs that they are satisfied with and fit well into. The results of their recent meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many past studies) generally support this hypothesis.
THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
Results of the study that older workers tend to report higher job satisfaction, pay satisfaction, and involvement in work. They also tend to have higher levels of commitment to their organizations and identify more with their organizations than younger workers. Older employees also tend to have better attitudes toward others in the workplace compared to younger employees and are thus slightly less likely to report experiencing interpersonal conflict at work. Additionally, compared to younger employees, older employees report less burnout and emotional exhaustion at work. However, older employees do report a lower “sense of accomplishment” and lower satisfaction with promotions compared to younger employees. Importantly, the researchers were able to rule out the potential influence of tenure within the organization on the relationships mentioned above, suggesting that the relationship between age and job attitudes is not solely due to how long employees have worked in an organization.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With an aging workforce, managers and researchers have sought out ways to maintain the performance of employees as they age, often seeking to focus on skills training for older employees. Still, negative stereotypes about older workers may have emerged. Results of this study show that older employees report higher motivation at work and more involvement with their jobs, which clearly do not support the negative stereotypes.
Ng, T.W.H., & Feldman, D.C. (2010). The relationships of age with job attitudes: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 63(3), 677-718.