IO Psychology – Talking about my generation: Exploration of the impact of generation on motivation

Topic(s): motivation
Publication: Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research (2013)
Article: Motivation at work: Which matters more, generation or managerial level?
Authors: Jennifer J. Deal, Sarah Stawiski, Laura Graves, William A. Gentry, Todd J. Weber, & Marian Ruderman
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

At my graduate school, the ages of my peers range from 24 to 64, and I myself am 28. Do you think that people from different generations differ in personality characteristics such as motivation? In other words, am I, a Millennial and representative of Generation Y, more or less motivated than the 60-year-old Boomer? According to Deal, Stawiski, Graves, Gentry, Weber, & Ruderman, the answer is no.

In their study, 3,440 participants completed an online survey that assessed the participants’ generation, motivation, and managerial level. Birthdate determined the generation of the participants, and since the average age was 46 years old, the majority of the participants were classified as Early Boomers (born 1946 to 1954), Late Boomers (born 1955 to 1963), and Generation Xers (from 1964 – 1980). Next, participants indicated their levels of external motivation, introjected motivation, identified motivation, and intrinsic motivation. Sample items such as “I do this job because it allows me to make a lot of money” assessed external motivation; sample items such as “I do this job because my work is my life and I don’t want to fail” assessed introjected motivation; sample items such as “I do this job because it fits my personal values” assessed identified motivation; and sample items such as “I do this job because I enjoy this work very much” assessed intrinsic motivation. Lastly, participants indicated if their managerial level was top (e.g., president), executive (e.g., vice president), upper middle (e.g., department executive), or middle (e.g., office manager). From the analysis of this data, results indicated that the relationship between generation and type of motivation was weak, whereas the relationship between managerial level and type of motivation was much stronger.