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Generational Differences

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Keith Macky
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Purpose – This introduction seeks to provide a brief background to the notion that there are generational differences at work and to introduce the papers included in this special issue of the Journal of Managerial Psychology. Design/methodology/approach – The current context concerning generational differences at work is briefly outlined followed by a description of the core theory underpinning the notion of generational cohorts. Criticisms of this theoretical premise are provided before a brief outline is given to each article in the special issue. Findings – There is evidence for changes in personality profiles across generations, and for differences in attitudes towards work and careers. However, effect sizes tend not to be large, and some findings are inconsistent with popular stereotypes regarding generational differences. Little support was found for differences in work values or motivation. Practical implications – Contrary to popular hype concerning generational differences at work, managerial time may be better spent considering employee needs relating to age (maturity), life-cycle and career stage differences than developing generationally specific management policies and practices. Significant methodological problems remain in generational research. Originality/value – The papers facilitate a critical understanding of the challenges facing generational research and its limitations, and provide a litmus test against which popular stereotypes can be compared.