Are There Generational Differences in Work Attitudes?

Topic(s): job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (2012)
Article: Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A Meta-analysis
Authors: D.P. Costanza, J.M. Badger, R.L. Fraswer, J.B. Severt, P.A. Gade
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Do generational differences predict work-related attitudes, like job satisfaction and commitment? Although many organizations base training programs and interventions on the belief that there are generational differences, research has found mixed results. Researchers (Costanza et al., 2012) recently conducted a meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many past studies) to determine if there really are generational differences in work-related attitudes.


Contrary to popular belief, there were not meaningful differences in work-related attitudes (like job satisfaction or organizational commitment) due to the generation of the worker. Older workers were slightly more satisfied than younger workers, but this result was likely due to the difference in age or tenure of the employees and not due to generational differences. Also, older workers were less likely to leave their jobs; but again, this result is best explained by factors other than generational differences.


So what’s the takeaway message from this study? Organizations should not just assume that there are generational differences that they have to deal with; The research doesn’t support the idea that worker attitudes are affected by their generation. So before implementing any interventions or programs based on mitigating generational differences, organizations should conduct a needs assessment of their employees. They should find out if there are any differences that need to be addressed before just assuming that they need to develop an intervention.


Costanza, D. P., Badger, J. M., Fraser, R. L., Severt, J. B., & Gade, P. A. (2012). Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 27, 375–394.