Generational differences in work
values, outcomes and
person-organisation values ﬁt
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy – Perfumes and Cosmetics, London, UK, and
School of Psychology, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate differences between three generational groups
currently in the workforce (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y), in work values, job
satisfaction, affective organisational commitment and intentions to leave. The study also seeks to
examine generational differences in person-organisation values ﬁt.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 504 Auckland employees representing a range of
industries completed an online questionnaire. Generation X (57 per cent) was deﬁned as those born
between 1962-1979, Baby Boomers (23 per cent) were born 1946-1961 and Generation Y (17 per cent)
were born 1980-2000. The remainder (3 per cent) were born 1925-1945.
Findings – The youngest groups placed more importance on status and freedom work values than
the oldest group. Baby Boomers reported better person-organisation values ﬁt with extrinsic values
and status values than Generation X and Generation Y but there were no other generational
differences in ﬁt. Where individual and organisational values showed poor ﬁt there were reduced job
satisfaction and organisational commitment, and increased intentions to turnover across all three
Research limitations/implications – The study was cross-sectional and based on self-report data,
limiting the generalisability of ﬁndings.
Practical implications – Values are important in guiding behaviour and enhancing work
motivation. Organisational values must be able to meet the needs of different employees, and
organisations need to clarify their work values and expectations with staff.
Originality/value – The paper presents evidence that person-organisation values ﬁt is important for
all generational groups and popular notions about generational differences should not be
Keywords Age groups, Employees, Job satisfaction, New Zealand
Paper type Research paper
Increasingly human resource specialists, managers and researchers are becoming
interested in how to manage and work with people from different generations in the
workplace. Much of this interest is based on the assumption that generations differ
signiﬁcantly in their goals, expectations and work values. While this assumption is
widely reﬂected in the popular press, it has been subjected to relatively little empirical
evaluation. The aim of this paper was to investigate generational differences in work
values and possible discrepancies between the values held by individuals and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received September 2007
Revised February 2008
Accepted March 2008
Journal of Managerial Psychology
Vol. 23 No. 8, 2008
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
A generation can be deﬁned as an “identiﬁable group that shares birth years, age
location, and signiﬁcant life events at critical developmental stages” (Kupperschmidt,
2000, p. 66). Deﬁnitions of generation boundaries are problematic. To date most
research into generational differences has been conducted in the US, UK and Canada.
New Zealand has followed similar demographic patterns to those countries, including
participation in World War II and the social and economic changes of this era, and
increasing levels of technological change especially the continuing rapid growth of
information and communications technology (Statistics New Zealand, 2007). The two
generational groups prevalent in today’s workforce are often called the Baby Boomers
and Generation X. The generational boundaries for Boomers are generally set between
1945 and the mid-1960s with the decline in birth rates that signalled the end of the
Baby Boom. The generation now entering the work force corresponds with the rise in
birth rates in the early 1980s when Baby Boomers began to have children and this has
been referred to as the Baby Boom Echo, Generation Y or Generation Next (Loughlin
and Barling, 2001; Lyons, 2004; Zemke et al., 2000). For the present study the
classiﬁcation offered by Lyons (2004) has been adopted as it is compatible with data
from Statistics New Zealand. This classiﬁcation and the names used for the groups of
relevance to this research are Baby Boomers (born 1946-1961); Generation X (born
1962-1979) and Generation Y (born 1980 onwards).
Differences between generations are confounded with changes due to ageing,
experience, life stage and career stage. Even so, changes to work and the fact that each
generation was introduced to work at differing points in time suggest that work value
differences may exist between generations. Numerous approaches to classifying work
values exist. One of the most widely used distinguishes between work values that are
extrinsic, or a consequence of work (e.g. job security, salary) or intrinsic, occurring
through the process of work (e.g. intellectual simulation, challenge) (Elizur, 1984).
Subsequent research has added altruistic values (e.g. making a contribution to society)
(Borg, 1990), status-related values (e.g. inﬂuence, recognition, advancement) (Ros et al.,
1999), freedom-related values (e.g. work-life balance, working hours) and social values
(e.g. good relationships with supervisors or peers) (Lyons, 2004). Generational
differences in work values have been linked to changes in the meaning of work, to
increasing numbers of dual-career and single parent families’ expectations for
work/life balance and to the increased use of electronic media and continuous learning
of new skills (Bernstein, 1997; Harding and Hikspoors, 1995; Ruiz-Quintanilla and
Named after the post-war boom in birth rates, Baby Boomers grew up in optimistic
and positive times (Kupperschmidt, 2000). According to the most recent census, in 2006
Baby Boomers made up 36 per cent of the labour force in New Zealand (Statistics New
Zealand, 2007). Baby Boomers have been found to rate the chance to learn new skills,
personal improvement and creativity at work as important (Jurkiewicz, 2000; Lyons,
2004). A strong focus on hard work and achievement may mean that this group values
status and extrinsic rewards as recognition for loyalty and commitment (Collins, 1998)
and may have difﬁculty balancing work and family (Lancaster and Stillman, 2002;
Smola and Sutton, 2002; Zemke et al., 2000). Good supervisor relations and positive
interactions with co-workers have also been found to be important (Karp et al., 2001).
In 2006 Generation X made up 41 per cent of the New Zealand workforce (Statistics
New Zealand, 2007). This generation grew up during rapid technological and social
change representing ﬁnancial, family and social insecurity and has entered the
workforce without expecting job security. Overall the portrait of Generation X painted
by the media is often negative but what may be viewed as “selﬁshness” can also be
seen as independence and autonomy (Jurkiewicz, 2000). Generation X members may
have more commitment to their own careers than to their organisations (Lyons, 2004;
Miller and Yu, 2003) and may prefer organisations which value skills development,
productivity and work-life balance rather than status and tenure (Smola and Sutton,
The most recent generation beginning to feature in the workplace is Generation
Y. The most deﬁning experience for this group is the growth of the Internet and
technology (Lyons, 2004). As members are just entering adulthood (in 2006, 17 per cent
of the NZ labour market) (Statistics New Zealand, 2007), there has been little
opportunity to study their work values but anecdotal information characterises
Generation Y as valuing work/life balance, life styles, career development and overseas
travel more than other generations (Zemke et al., 2000). This generation may be the
most adaptable yet in terms of technological skills and has been said to value intrinsic
aspects of work such as mentoring and training in order to remain marketable
(Loughlin and Barling, 2001; Lyons, 2004).
To explore generational differences in work values in NZ, the following hypotheses
will be tested:
H1a. Baby Boomers will show higher levels of extrinsic, status, altruism and social
work values than Generation X and Generation Y.
H1b. Generation X and Generation Y will show higher levels of intrinsic and
freedom work values than Baby Boomers.
H1c. Generation Y will show higher levels of intrinsic and freedom work values
than Generation X.
While generations may hold particular sets of work values, organisations also possess
and communicate values (Miller and Yu, 2003). Person-organisation (P-O) values ﬁt
involves the match between an individual’s values and the values of their organisation.
Kristof (1996) distinguished between four types of ﬁt: person-organisation ﬁt,
person-vocation ﬁt, person-group ﬁt and person-job ﬁt. Although the last three make a
substantial contribution to work outcomes, the focus of the present study is on
person-organisation (P-O) ﬁt. A common way to assess P-O values ﬁt is from a
“supplies-values” (S-V) perspective in which ﬁt is assumed to occur when the supplies
provided by the organisation satisfy an individual’s values (Edwards, 1996; Kristof,
1996; Taris and Feij, 2001). This type of ﬁt is classed as “supplementary” in the sense
that the person and the organisation possess fundamentally similar values (Muchinsky
and Monahan, 1987). The present study aims to examine P-O values ﬁt from a
supplies-values perspective and how it may vary across generations.
Generational differences in P-O values ﬁt have received little attention. Theoretical
views suggest that the values of an organisation’s inﬂuential members tend to
represent the culture of the organisation (Schein, 1992). The generations currently
holding the most senior positions are the older groups, introducing the potential for
younger employees to experience less ﬁt if they hold differing values. The study
examined the degree of discrepancy between individual and perceived organisational
values for each generation. As there has been little, if any, previous research into this, a
single broad hypothesis was tested.
H2. Baby boomers will show higher levels of person-organisation ﬁt than
Generation X and Generation Y for extrinsic values, intrinsic values, status
values, social values, altruism values and freedom values.
P-O values ﬁt is related to organisationally relevant outcomes (Cooper-Thomas et al.,
2004; Dawis and Lofquist, 1984; Westerman and Cyr, 2004). Generational differences in
P-O ﬁt are expected to have an impact on outcomes such that groups with better ﬁt will
show higher levels of job satisfaction and organisational commitment and lower
intentions to leave.
H3. Generation group will moderate the relationship between person-organisation
values ﬁt and job satisfaction, organisational commitment and intention to
A total of 1,422 employees from eight organisations based in New Zealand were invited
to participate in the present study. Organisations were identiﬁed through personal
contacts of the researchers. Data were collected by means of a web-based questionnaire,
which took approximately 20 minutes to complete. Following ethical approval, the
manager from each participating organisation was sent an email to distribute to staff.
The email contained the link to the secure data collection site. The online questionnaire
was developed in accordance with the guidelines for creating computerised tests and
questionnaires provided by Green et al. (1984), and Kyllonen (1991).
A total 597 people (42 per cent) responded and 504 (35 per cent) returned usable
questionnaires. Thirty percent were from law ﬁrms, 27 per cent were from media
corporations, 18 per cent were from the construction industry, 12 per cent were from
pharmaceutical distribution and 4 per cent were from information technology ﬁrms.
Nine percent (44) were classed as “other”, predominantly from the recruitment
industry. The majority of respondents (57 per cent) were born between 1962-1979
(Generation X), followed by Baby Boomers (23 per cent) and Generation Y (17 per cent).
Only 14 respondents were born between 1925 and 1945 so this group was not included
in further analyses (Table I).
Not surprisingly, Baby Boomers had longer tenure than younger groups,
Fð2;488Þ¼32:28, p,0:01). There was a higher proportion of female respondents
in the Generation Y group than in the other two groups (
2¼18:70, df ¼2,
p,0:01). Compared to Baby Boomers, higher proportions of Generation X and
Generation Y respondents had completed undergraduate education while Baby
Boomers were more likely to have secondary school or trade/technical training as
their highest level of education (
2¼42:97, df ¼6, p,0:01) and job level
2¼50:38, df ¼12, p,0:01).
Work values. A measure of work values was required that was appropriate for NZ
organisations, measured relevant dimensions and allowed comparison of individual
and organisational values. Two scales were considered most appropriate: the Work
Values Questionnaire (WVQ) (Elizur, 1984) and the Work Values Scale (WVS), (Lyons,
2004). Both included extrinsic, altruistic, intrinsic and status factors and the WVS
added freedom and social factors. The 24 items from the WVQ were included with
non-redundant WVS items and items were added to cover other work values suggested
to differ between generations. These were “pride in craftsmanship” (Smola and Sutton,
2002); “technology” (Thomas, 2002), “working as part of a team” and “communicating
optimism” (Zemke et al., 2000). The ﬁnal Generational Work Values Scale consisted of
40 items. For each value respondents were asked to rate:
(1) “To what extent is each item a top priority for you in your work?” (to provide
individual values, Ivalues).
(2) “To what extent do you feel your organisation provides you with each item?”
(a measure of perceived organisational values, Ovalues).
Responses were on the same ﬁve-point scale. P-O values ﬁt was measured indirectly
and at the individual level (Kristof, 1996). Ovalues were subtracted from Ivalues to
create discrepancy scores. A positive difference indicated that organisational supplies
did not meet individual values, while a negative score indicated that values supplied by
the organisation exceeded individual values (Verquer et al., 2003).
Job satisfaction. The 15-item “job satisfaction scale” (JSS) (Warr et al., 1979) was
used to measure facet satisfaction (e.g. “The way the organisation is managed”)
Responses were on a ﬁve-point scale from “1 ¼Very Dissatisﬁed” to “5 ¼Very
Affective organisational commitment. The nine-item “Organisational Commitment
Questionnaire” (OCQ) was included (Mowday et al., 1979). A sample item is: “I am
proud to tell others that I am part of this organisation”. Responses ranged from
“1 ¼Strongly disagree” to “5 ¼Strongly agree”.
GenY % GenX % Boomer %
Female 63 76 168 58 53 45
Male 20 24 120 42 64 55
Highest level of education (n¼501)
Secondary 32 39 60 21 48 41
Trade/technical 9 11 72 25 39 33
Undergraduate degree 32 39 103 36 16 14
Postgraduate degree 10 12 52 18 14 12
Current role (n¼504)
Senior manager 0 0 19 7 11 9
Middle manager 2 2 47 16 15 13
Supervisor/team leader 2 2 29 10 13 11
Salaried, no direct reports 58 70 131 45 42 36
Waged 19 23 49 17 36 31
Other 2 2 14 5 1 1
Tenure with organisation (months) (M, SD) 17.49 17.02 44.59 48.83 78.21 77.67
Intention to leave. A three-item measure was included:
(1) “Thoughts about quitting this job cross my mind” (“1 ¼Never” to “6 ¼All the
(2) “I plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months” (“1 ¼Strongly disagree” to
“6 ¼Strongly agree”); and
(3) “How likely is it that, over the next year, you will actively look for a new job
outside of this organisation?” (“1 ¼Very Unlikely” to “6 ¼Very likely”)
(O’Driscoll and Beehr, 1994).
Demographics. Additional items asked for participants’ gender, age (representing
generational groups), education level, tenure in organisation and job level. Tenure was
strongly negatively skewed and so a log transformation was applied.
A total 93 respondents with more than 15 per cent missing data were omitted from
further analyses (Schafer, 1997). This left 504 cases. One item on the work values scales
(“teamwork”) still had more than 9 per cent missing data and was not included in
future analyses. All remaining cases had less than 5 per cent missing data and these
scores were missing randomly. The expectation maximization method was used for
missing data (Tabachnick and Fidell, 2001). This technique has been praised for its
realistic estimates of variance (Little and Rubin, 1987). No univariate outliers were
found and the normality and kurtosis statistics for all variables were acceptable.
Conﬁrmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to examine scale structure. The
39-item work values measurement model was analysed with 6 factors speciﬁed:
extrinsic, intrinsic, status, social, altruism and freedom. Several items had moderate to
low factor loadings with their latent variables and were removed. These were: “travel”,
“work alone”, “company”, and “meet people”. This resulted in a 35-item model with
good ﬁt to the data (
2¼2329:76, p,0:001; df ¼545; TLI ¼0:966; CFI ¼0:971;
RMSEA ¼0:081). Tabachnick and Fidell (2001) recommend that
$0:65 shows good
reliability for scale items. All scales showed good internal reliability except individual
freedom work values with
¼0:63 (Table II). This scale was included in hypothesis
testing but results may have to be treated with caution.
The six-factor, 35-item measurement model was analysed for the organisational
work values items. This measurement model showed adequate ﬁt (
p,0:001; df ¼545; TLI ¼0:957; CFI ¼0:963; RMSEA ¼0:086) and all scales
showed acceptable reliability (Table II).
A one-factor solution for the JSS showed good ﬁt to the data:
p,0:001; df ¼38; TLI ¼0:988; CFI ¼0:992; RMSEA ¼0:081. Items were averaged
to produce a mean job satisfaction score (
The OCQ measured a single factor. The measurement model produced satisfactory
2¼118:39, p,0:001; df ¼27; TLI ¼0:956; CFI ¼0:967; RMSEA ¼0:082).
Items were averaged to produce a mean score (
Analysis of intention to leave was problematic as the latent variable only had three
indicators (items). Exploratory factor analysis indicated a single factor accounting for
83.3 per cent of the variance. Items were averaged to produce a mean score (
Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) and, where applicable, MANCOVA,
were used to examine group differences in work values. If these tests yielded
signiﬁcance then univariate ANOVAs or ANCOVAs were used to examine differences.
Where appropriate Tukey’s Honestly Signiﬁcant Difference post-hoc tests were used.
Levene’s test established that the assumption of homogeneity of variances had not
Discrepancy scores as a measure of P-O ﬁt should not be used to relate ﬁt to outcomes
as they can mask the contribution of each component and cannot explain more variance
than both components considered separately. In accordance with Edwards (1994, 1996)
polynomial regression was used to examine linear and curvilinear effects of individual
and organisational values on outcomes. Job satisfaction, affective organisational
commitment and intentions to leave were the dependent variables with the relevant
person and organisation values as independent variables, supplemented by the
higher-order terms necessary to test each model. Independent variables were centred
around their respective means to address multicollinearity among product scores and
their components (Aiken and West, 1991). Tolerance scores were examined and did not
suggest concerns with multicollinearity. Moderated regression was used to establish
whether generational differences moderated the relationships of values to outcomes, with
dummy codes created for generation groups (Aiken and West, 1991; Cohen et al.,2003).
Clark-Carter’s (1997) classiﬁcation of effect size was employed where partial
was considered small, 0.01 to 0.10 was considered medium, and over 0.10 was considered
to be a large effect size.
Scale No. of items Mean SD Cronbach’s
Work values – individual
Extrinsic 6 3.81 0.66 0.78
Intrinsic 12 3.97 0.59 0.91
Status 8 3.65 0.65 0.86
Altruism 3 3.74 0.70 0.69
Social 3 4.18 0.64 0.63
Freedom 3 3.92 0.71 0.65
Work values – organisational
Extrinsic 6 3.19 0.69 0.78
Intrinsic 12 3.27 0.75 0.94
Status 8 3.08 0.78 0.90
Altruism 3 3.17 0.76 0.74
Social 3 3.61 0.78 0.71
Freedom 3 3.39 0.83 0.74
Extrinsic ﬁt 6 0.62 0.82 –
Intrinsic ﬁt 12 0.70 0.74 –
Status ﬁt 8 0.57 0.81 –
Altruism ﬁt 3 0.58 0.87 –
Social ﬁt 3 0.57 0.87 –
Freedom ﬁt 3 0.53 0.90 –
Job satisfaction 10 3.64 0.63 0.87
Affective organisational commitment 9 3.63 0.74 0.91
Intention to leave 3 2.90 1.49 0.89
Notes: Reliabilities are not provided for the discrepancy scale scores as they are difference scores
Descriptive statistics for
the study variables
Overall, social work values (e.g. having a fair and considerate supervisor, pleasant
co-workers) were most strongly valued by individuals and seen as offered by
organisations (Table II). Status-related values (e.g. having inﬂuence and responsibility)
were least valued and also perceived as least supplied. With regard to discrepancies
between individual and organisational values, intrinsic (e.g. meaningful work) and
extrinsic values (e.g. salary) had the highest discrepancy while freedom-related values
(e.g. work/life balance) had the lowest mean discrepancies.
Most of the work values were positively intercorrelated (Tables III and IV). Job
satisfaction and affective organisational commitment were positively related to most
values. Signiﬁcant negative relationships were found between “organisational” work
values and intentions to leave. All discrepancy scores showed negative relationships
with job satisfaction and organisational commitment and positive relationships with
intention to leave.
Table V provides the means and standard deviations for each of the six work value
scales for each generational group. All work values were valued or highly valued by all
H1 investigated differences between generational groups. The personal values
literature has identiﬁed that gender may be important in values orientations (Meglino
and Ravlin, 1998) so gender and generation category were entered as ﬁxed factors.
MANOVA revealed signiﬁcant multivariate main effects between generational groups
(Wilks’s L¼0:94, F12, 954 ¼2:49, p,0:01, partial
2¼0:03). There were also
signiﬁcant main effects for gender (Wilks’s L¼0:95, F6, 477 ¼4:0, p,0:01, partial
2¼0:05) but no signiﬁcant gender by generation interactions. Generational groups
differed on status values (F2, 465 ¼5:53, p,0:001, partial
2¼0:03) and freedom
work values (F2, 465 ¼3:54, p,0:05, partial
2¼0:02). No signiﬁcant differences
were found on extrinsic, intrinsic, altruism or social values. H1a was not supported.
Contrary to expectations, Boomers showed lower levels of status values than
Generation X and Generation Y, and Boomers and Generation X showed lower values
for freedom than Generation Y. It is possible that higher status and longer tenure mean
that these requirements have been met and these work values are no longer as salient
for older groups, whereas younger respondents are still striving for status and
autonomy at work. H1b and H1c were not supported as there were no differences
between groups on intrinsic and social values. There were no differences between
groups in perceived organisational values.
To test H2, inter-group differences in the discrepancies between individual and
organisational values were examined. Once again gender was entered as a ﬁxed factor.
Tenure can be inﬂuential in regard to person-organisation ﬁt (Meglino and Ravlin, 1998)
therefore the log transformed tenure variable was entered as a covariate. MANCOVA
supported H2 (Wilks’s L¼0:95, F12, 950 ¼2:22, p,0:01, partial
Signiﬁcant differences were found for extrinsic work values (F2, 465 ¼4:40, p,0:05,
2¼0:018) and status work values (F2, 465 ¼5:46, p,0:01, partial
2¼0:022), with the oldest group reporting smaller discrepancies than the younger
groups. Older respondents, who may be more inﬂuential within their organisations, may
be more likely than younger respondents to perceive that their organisations’ status and
reward systems are aligned with their own work values. No signiﬁcant differences were
found on intrinsic, altruism, social and freedom values (Table VI).
Variables 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1. Extrinsic IWV 1
2. Intrinsic IWV 0.65 *1
3. Status IWV 0.63 *0.79 *1
4. Altruism IWV 0.55 *0.63 *0.52 *1
5. Social IWV 0.54 *0.59 *0.49 *0.52 *1
6. Freedom IWV 0.51 *0.46 *0.38 *0.53 *0.51 *1
7. Extrinsic OWV 0.27 *0.27 *0.27 *0.21 *0.18 *0.16 *1
8. Intrinsic OWV 0.15 *0.43 *0.34 *0.19 *0.19 *0.08 0.68 *1
9. Status OWV 0.14 *0.33 *0.38 *0.18 *0.15 *0.08 0.72 *0.86 *1
10. Altruism OWV 0.18 *0.30 *0.29 *0.30 *0.17 *0.18 *0.68 *0.68 *0.73 *1
11. Social OWV 0.10 0.24 *0.17 *0.17 *0.27 *0.16 *0.61 *0.64 *0.67 *0.63 *1
12. Freedom OWV 0.10 0.21 *0.17 *0.22 *0.25 *0.33 *0.56 *0.52 *0.54 *0.58 *0.66 *1
13. Job satisfaction 0.12 0.21 *0.18 *0.14 *0.18 *0.09 *0.66 *0.69 *0.73 *0.68 *0.72 *0.54 *1
14. OC 0.16 *0.24 *0.25 *0.16 *0.11 *0.04 0.59 *0.58 *0.59 *0.61 *0.54 *0.46 *0.63 *1
15. ITL 20.06 20.07 20.05 20.06 20.03 0.03 20.49 *20.51 *20.47 *20.43 *20.45 *20.36 *20.58 *20.61 *
Notes: *p,0:01; IWV (individual work values), OWV (organisational work values); OC (organisational commitment); ITL (intentions to leave)
individual and perceived
values with outcomes
The next stage was to establish whether individual and organisational work values
were related to job satisfaction, organisational commitment and turnover intentions
(Table VII). The work values of interest here were extrinsic and status values, i.e. those
for which generational differences in ﬁt or discrepancy scores had been shown.
Higher-order terms did not predict outcomes. Perceptions of organisational extrinsic
and status values predicted job satisfaction, organisational commitment and
(negatively) intentions to leave. Individual status values negatively predicted job
satisfaction and positively predicted intentions to leave. The interactions between
generation and organisational extrinsic values, and between generation and
1 Extrinsic 20.46 *20.38 *0.38 *
2 Intrinsic 20.54 *20.41 *0.47 *
3 Status 20.56 *20.38 *0.42 *
4 Altruism 20.48 *20.41 *0.32 *
5 Social 20.52 *20.41 *0.38 *
6 Freedom 20.42 *20.39 *0.36 *
and organisational value
Boomer Generation X Generation Y
Discrepancy scores Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Extrinsic ﬁt 0.45
0.85 0.64 0.75
Intrinsic ﬁt 0.61 0.69 0.71 0.77 0.80 0.72
Status ﬁt 0.43
0.81 0.57 0.81 0.74
Altruism ﬁt 0.56 0.77 0.56 0.93 0.68 0.78
Social ﬁt 0.54 0.92 0.56 0.83 0.66 0.95
Freedom ﬁt 0.48 0.81 0.55 0.96 0.54 0.82
Notes: Within each row, means with different superscripts are signiﬁcantly different at p,0:05
Mean differences in P-O
values discrepancy scores
Boomers Generation X Generation Y
Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Extrinsic work values 3.68 0.74 3.84 0.63 3.90 0.61
Intrinsic work values 3.85 0.63 4.00 0.57 4.07 0.60
Status-related work values 3.47
Altruism work values 3.75 0.71 3.70 0.73 3.87 0.59
Social work values 4.05 0.67 4.19 0.63 4.36 0.60
Freedom-related work values 3.88
Intention to leave 2.53
Job satisfaction 3.67 0.68 3.67 0.62 3.55 0.59
Affective organisational commitment 3.72 0.71 3.60 0.75 3.60 0.74
Note: Within each row, means with different superscripts are signiﬁcantly different at p,0.05
Means and standard
deviations of individual
work values and outcome
variables for generation
organisational status values, explained signiﬁcant variance in organisational
¼0:11, p,0:05 and
¼0:10, p,0:05, respectively). Participants
who perceived higher levels of status and extrinsic values in their organisations
showed higher commitment and this was most pronounced for Baby Boomers
(Figures 1 and 2). The interaction between generation and organisational status values
explained signiﬁcant variance in intentions to leave. Participants who perceived higher
levels of status values in their organisations showed lower intentions to leave, and this
was most pronounced for Baby Boomers (
¼20:12, p,0:01 for Generation X
compared to Baby Boomers and
¼20:13, p,0:05 for Generation Y compared to
Baby Boomers; see Figure 3).
commitment Intentions to turnover
Extrinsic values b
0.44 0.36 0.26
Ind. values (I-values) 20.06 2006 0.04 0.03 0.141 0.06
Org. values (O-values) 0.63 0.69 ** 0.65 0.61 ** 21.118 20.52 **
I-values2 0.04 0.04 0.14 0.12 20.08 20.04
I-values £O-values 20.06 20.05 20.002 20.001 20.06 20.02
O-values2 20.03 20.03 20.001 20.001 0.14 0.06
Status values 0.55 0.37 0.25
Ind. values (I-values) 20.09 20.09 *0.08 0.07 0.34 0.15*
Org. values (O-values) 0.62 0.77 ** 0.56 0.60 ** 20.98 20.52 **
I-values2 20.01 20.01 0.11 0.10 0.12 0.06
I-values £O-values 0.02 0.02 0.01 0.01 20.16 20.07
O-values2 20.04 20.04 20.01 20.01 20.04 20.02
Notes: *p,0:01; ** p,0:001
organisational values ﬁt
Previous research and social commentary has suggested that generations can be
deﬁned by certain work values. The purpose of the research was to investigate this
issue as well as differences in P-O values ﬁt between generational groups in the New
Signiﬁcant generational differences were found for individual work values
involving status and freedom but not for extrinsic, intrinsic, social and altruism-related
values, and there were no generation differences in perceived organisational values.
Younger generations placed more importance on status than the older group. The
career stage of the older group may provide status so they no longer feel the need to
earn this while the younger groups may feel that status is a priority as it provides
visibility, which aids progression and marketability (Riordan et al., 2003). Generation Y
valued freedom-related items more than Generation X and Baby Boomers, supporting
Intentions to leave and
ﬁndings from past research. Baby Boomers have been said to focus on traditional work
models that involve dedication and hard work. In contrast, Generation Y is known to
place high importance on autonomy and work-life balance (Smola and Sutton, 2002;
Zemke et al., 2000). The younger groups may tend to seek out work opportunities that
supply freedom and autonomy and may be prepared to leave the organisation if these
needs are not met.
Schein (1992) postulated that the values of the organisation’s inﬂuential members
tend to represent the culture of the organisation. Baby Boomers are the group currently
holding the majority of these inﬂuential positions, a trend, which was conﬁrmed in the
present study. This introduces the potential for conﬂict between the values of
generations. The present study found differences between generations on individual
and perceived organisational values but only for two of the six values. The effect sizes
were medium, suggesting that while work values are relevant, other factors also play
an important role in organisational outcomes. Baby Boomers reported better ﬁt for
extrinsic work values (such as pay and beneﬁts) and status than the younger groups.
Given their career stage, Boomers may receive higher salaries, more beneﬁts and
higher status than younger employees, thus reporting better ﬁt. Younger employees
may rate pay and status highly but due to their career stage they are unlikely to be
receiving these as quickly as anticipated (Riordan et al., 2003). There were no
signiﬁcant differences for the other work values.
A lack of P-O values ﬁt may lead to reduced job satisfaction and commitment and
increased leaving intentions. In the present analysis the values held by individuals
were less important for outcomes than perceptions of what organisations supplied, at
least for extrinsic and status values. These were the values of interest here as they
differed between groups. Respondents with high P-O ﬁt for status or extrinsic values
were generally more committed with lower intentions to leave, but younger
respondents were more likely to experience a lack of ﬁt and, when this occurred, were
less committed to their organisations than Baby Boomers and were more likely to
intend to leave. Overall however, group differences in relationships between ﬁt and
outcomes were slight.
Implications for research
The cross-sectional design did not make it possible to determine whether differences
between groups were linked to career stage, life stage or genuine generational
differences. Those born earlier not only belong to a different generation to those born
later, but have been living (and working) for longer, with all the associated changes
that may result from experience. To separate the effects of generation, age and other
variables, longitudinal research is required. True generational differences can only be
identiﬁed by studying groups over time. As person-organisation ﬁt is an ongoing
process of mutual adjustment (Dawis and Lofquist, 1984), longitudinal designs also
make it possible to study changes in ﬁt over time. The relationships among values, ﬁt
and outcomes would also beneﬁt from closer examination using objective outcome
indicators such as productivity data and turnover information in addition to self-report
data to help overcome problems that may arise from common-method variance.
Overall, all groups experienced similar levels of P-O ﬁt for most of the work values,
which may be a reﬂection on the mostly professional, white-collar sample and so
research into other occupational groups is required.
The Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y had some differences in work
values but fewer than expected. Younger employees may prefer a psychological
contract with the organisation, which emphasises freedom, status and social
involvement. P-O values ﬁt was related to satisfaction, commitment and intentions to
leave across all generational groups. Discussing values and expectations with staff
may help to avoid disappointment and conﬂict and help manage expectations from the
outset. Developing and communicating a strong organisational values statement, and
combining this with good recruiting and assessment techniques, may help to reduce
employee turnover and recruitment costs for the company.
By understanding the differences and similarities between generational groups, human
resource professionals, psychologists and managers can develop policies, which aid
communication, improve satisfaction, commitment, and retention, and increase
organisational knowledge management and productivity. It is important for
organisations to clearly communicate values and priorities so that an assessment of
ﬁt can be made. Understanding differences between generations at work is a useful
ﬁrst step in meeting diverse employee needs. It is important to continue the
examination of generations in the workplace but it is also important to acknowledge
commonalities between employees of different ages and experience. This knowledge
can be applied to managerial practices so that communication and understanding can
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About the authors
Lucy Cennamo holds Master of Arts and Postgraduate Diploma qualiﬁcations in
industrial/organizational psychology from Massey University. She has worked in a wide
range of I/O Psychology positions in Auckland and in the UK.
Dianne Gardner is a senior lecturer in industrial/organizational psychology at Massey
University in New Zealand. Previously she served on the faculty of the University of New South
Wales in Sydney where she worked on occupational health, safety and wellness issues. Now in
Auckland she continues to teach and research in areas related to occupational stress and
well-being, work-life balance, work-related challenge and coping with workplace demands. She
holds a PhD in management from the Australian Graduate School of Management/University of
Sydney and has published research on a wide range of topics concerning workplace health,
safety and well-being. Dianne Gardner is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
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