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More Alike Than Different: What Generations Value and How the Values Affect Employee Workplace Perceptions

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The purpose of this study was to extend generations research by investigating similarities and differences regarding the importance generations place on the presence of various workplace characteristics. We hypothesized (1) that similarities in the importance of workplace factors between generations would be more prevalent than differences and (2) that the importance of the workplace factors would have consistently similar or different moderating effects among generations on the relationships between employee perceptions of the factors at their organizations and employee attitudes. As expected, results showed the generations were similar on 7 of the 10 work values examined. Findings also revealed similarities and differences between the generations for the factors as moderators, although more differences than similarities were present from these analyses. Implications of these findings as well as directions for future research are discussed.
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Journal of Leadership &
Organizational Studies
2014, Vol. 21(3) 257 –272
© The Authors 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/1548051814529825
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Article
Today’s multigenerational workforce presents a number of
opportunities and challenges for managers. With some
employees choosing to work into their late 60s and 70s, four
generational cohorts are currently working simultaneously.
Three of these generations (i.e., Baby Boomers, Generation
X, and Generation Y) have the opportunity to work with
each other for another decade or more. Although this diver-
sity of perspectives can assist companies in producing well
thought-out decisions and increased responsiveness to cus-
tomers, the diversity also presents complexities in the man-
agement of human resource policies and systems to meet
employee needs if generations desire different things from
their workplace environment.
In the past decade there has been much conjecture and
some empirical work on generational differences, however,
there is much left to learn (Parry & Urwin, 2011; Twenge,
2010). The current study seeks to replicate and expand upon
research on generational differences by addressing two
questions in particular: “Are the three prevalent generations
in today’s workforce actually more similar than different in
what they desire in their workplace?” and “How do the
similarities/differences in values influence the effects of
employee perceptions of these organizational characteris-
tics on attitudinal outcomes by generation?”
Researchers have expressed concern that little empirical
research supports generational stereotypes associated with
each cohort (e.g., Meriac, Woehr, & Banister, 2010; Macky,
Gardner, & Forsyth, 2008). Several studies have examined
proposed generational differences for which findings sup-
port generational similarities. For example, Hansen and
Leuty (2012) investigated various workplace values among
Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation
(also known as Traditionalists), finding only three statisti-
cally significant differences out of a possible 20 between
two or more generations. Similarly, Cennamo and Gardner
(2008) found only two differences between generations for
workplace values of the six values that were measured.
Other research has compared actual generational differ-
ences with perceived generational differences and found
that the number of actual generational differences was far
fewer than the number of perceived differences (Lester,
Standifer, Schultz, & Windsor, 2012). Given these findings,
the first objective of the current study is to replicate and
extend previous research findings that show similarities
for the three youngest generations in the workforce—
Generation Y, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers. The
529825JLOXXX10.1177/1548051814529825Journal of Leadership & Organizational StudiesMencl and Lester
research-article2014
1University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN, USA
2University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jennifer Mencl, Department of Management Studies, Labovitz School of
Business and Economics, University of Minnesota Duluth, 1318 Kirby
Drive, 365 LSBE, Duluth, MN 55812, USA.
Email: jmencl@d.umn.edu
More Alike Than Different: What
Generations Value and How the Values
Affect Employee Workplace Perceptions
Jennifer Mencl1 and Scott W. Lester2
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to extend generations research by investigating similarities and differences regarding the
importance generations place on the presence of various workplace characteristics. We hypothesized (1) that similarities
in the importance of workplace factors between generations would be more prevalent than differences and (2) that the
importance of the workplace factors would have consistently similar or different moderating effects among generations on
the relationships between employee perceptions of the factors at their organizations and employee attitudes. As expected,
results showed the generations were similar on 7 of the 10 work values examined. Findings also revealed similarities
and differences between the generations for the factors as moderators, although more differences than similarities were
present from these analyses. Implications of these findings as well as directions for future research are discussed.
Keywords
generations, work values, employee attitudes
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258 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
current study also extends previous work by examining
workplace characteristics associated with companies
appearing on lists of “best places to work” rather than items
that may be stereotypical by generation.
The second objective of the current study is to provide a
better understanding of what these actual generational dif-
ferences mean for employee outcomes. Previous research
examining the effects of generation on employee attitudes,
such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and
turnover intention has shown few differences (Benson &
Brown, 2011; Cennamo & Gardner, 2008; Costanza,
Badger, Fraser, Severt, & Gade, 2012; Deal, Stawiski,
Graves, Gentry, Weber, & Ruderman, 2013). We extend the
exploration of the ways in which generation influences atti-
tudinal outcomes through a person–organization (P-O) fit
perspective and principles of value–percept theory that
includes the moderating effect of each workplace value on
the relationship between perceptions of the characteristic
within the organization and each attitude. By examining the
role of generations in this manner, the study provides a
more complete perspective of managing employee attitudes
beyond the existing literature.
We begin our discussion with a brief review of the
generally accepted time periods associated with the three
prominent generations in today’s workforce. We then
provide rationale for which “best places to work” criteria
we would expect to see differences and which criteria we
would expect to see similarities across generations. After
testing whether generations had an influence on employee
attitudinal outcomes, we discuss the practical implica-
tions of the findings as well as directions for future
research.
Literature Review and Hypotheses
Although some discrepancy exists among researchers with
respect to generation cut-offs, Baby Boomers are generally
viewed as individuals who were born between the years of
1946 and 1964. Generation X was born between the years
of 1965 and 1978, and Generation Y was born between the
years of 1979 and 2000 (Smola & Sutton, 2002). The belief
is that the individuals who grow up during the same time
period are influenced by social and historic events and con-
texts (e.g., the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the end of
the Cold War, economic recessions) that shape their values
and attitudes in a way that differentiates one generational
cohort from another (Jurkiewicz & Brown, 1998; Parry &
Urwin, 2011; Sessa, Kabacoff, Deal, & Brown, 2007).
However, academic evidence regarding generational differ-
ences is mixed (Parry & Urwin, 2011), with much research
showing more similarities between generations than differ-
ences as previously described. As noted above, such gen-
erational differences are more likely to be perceived than
actual (Lester et al., 2012).
Characteristics of Interest (“Best Places to
Work”)
Previous studies investigating generational differences
have included a broad range of work-related items, such as
perceptions of workplace factors and work values. A study
by Benson and Brown (2011) examined nine organizational
and work variables including job security, pay-level satis-
faction, satisfaction with benefits, promotional opportuni-
ties, resource inadequacy, role ambiguity, role conflict,
coworker support, and supervisor support. The Work
Values Questionnaire and Work Values Scale were used by
Cennamo and Gardner (2008) to measure extrinsic, intrin-
sic, altruistic, status, freedom, and social factors in the
workplace. Hansen and Leuty (2012) used the Minnesota
Importance Questionnaire in their research that measured
20 value facets categorized into the overarching values of
achievement, comfort, status, altruism, safety, and auton-
omy. Smola and Sutton (2002) examined three work values
that included desirability of work outcomes, pride in crafts-
manship, and moral importance of work.
This study was designed with the intent of examining
similarities and differences between generations using char-
acteristics associated with “best places to work” lists (e.g.,
Fortune’s top 100 companies, HR Magazine’s 50 Best
Small and Medium Companies). These specific characteris-
tics were chosen for a data collection project being used to
identify organizations in a community that were considered
good places to work for “young professionals.” Although
the practitioners involved in the project expected to see dif-
ferences between generations for most factors, the project
provided an avenue to extend previous academic research
by showing actual differences versus similarities using
“best places to work” characteristics across generations.
The 10 workplace factors selected from the “best places
to work” lists included: teamwork and collaboration, flexi-
ble work arrangements, a challenging job, involvement in
decision making, a financially rewarding job, work–life
balance, a climate of diversity, continuous learning, career
advancement, and immediate feedback and recognition.
While the assumption is made that all of these characteris-
tics are desirable regardless of employee age, we propose
that the premium placed on a few of these characteristics
will vary by generation. Next, we discuss the four items
where we expect to see actual differences.
Actual Differences and Similarities Expected
Diversity Climate. Baby Boomers grew up in a time when the
male was often the sole or main breadwinner for the family
and when the workplace was more heavily weighted toward
a single race (Caucasians). In recent decades, we have seen
significant shifts in the demographic makeup of the work-
force. For example, with respect to women and minorities
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Mencl and Lester 259
in the workplace 50% of women aged 25 to 54 years were
in the U.S. workforce in 1970 compared with 75% in 2005,
and in 2005, 77% of African American women, 70% of
Asian women, and 65% of Hispanic women were in the
workforce in the United States (Mosisa & Hipple, 2006). In
addition to increased gender and racial/ethnic diversity,
globalization has affected the diversity of nationalities in
the workforce. Younger employees have also grown up dur-
ing a time in which gay, lesbian, and transgender issues
have received a great deal of attention with respect to work-
place diversity and gay marriage has been legalized. Fur-
thermore, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities
Act in 1990 is credited to have positively affected the num-
ber of individuals with disabilities in the workplace (Smola
& Sutton, 2002). These shifts over time that have led to a
greater diversification of the workforce have enabled Gen-
eration X and, even more so, Generation Y to interact and
collaborate with a more diverse workplace than their prede-
cessors. Research findings have shown Generation Y to be
considerably more comfortable with diversity (78% of sur-
vey respondents) compared with the Baby Boomers (27%
of respondents; Hewlett, Sherbin, & Sumberg, 2009). Thus,
we expect Generation Y to place a higher importance on a
diverse climate compared with other generations and the
Baby Boomer generation to report the lowest rating.
Continuous Learning. By being in an environment that sup-
ports and fosters ongoing learning, individuals are able to
pursue opportunities that ensure their continued employabil-
ity. Younger generations have grown up in a context where
job security was far from assured and downsizing became an
accepted management practice (Gowing, Kraft, & Quick,
1998). Therefore, to maintain marketability, younger
employees are more likely than older employees to partici-
pate in training programs to develop new skills. In addition,
a recent review presents research that suggests younger
employees are more motivated and willing to engage in con-
tinuous learning compared with older employees (Jain &
Martindale, 2012). One explanation is that training is less
important for the careers of Baby Boomers who have already
received promotions to levels in the organizational hierarchy
that have satisfied their need for growth. In contrast, mem-
bers of Generations X and Y are more likely to be seeking
promotions and value skill development, especially Genera-
tion Y (Wong, Gardiner, Lang, & Coulon, 2008). Another
reason that older employees are less motivated to learn is
that levels of cognitive processing naturally decline over
time and cause learning to occur more slowly. As learning
becomes more difficult, individuals are less likely to partici-
pate in training activities (Jain & Martindale, 2012). These
circumstances taken collectively suggest younger genera-
tions will place greater value on a workplace that allows
continuous learning compared with older generations, with
the greatest importance identified by Generation Y.
Career Advancement. Previous research findings have
shown that the number of promotions, as well as the speed
of promotions, contribute to career satisfaction for all gen-
erations, yet the statistical effect size for career advance-
ment was significantly greater for Generation Y compared
with the other generations studied (Dries, Pepermans, & De
Kerpel, 2008). Although perceptions of career success are
driven by promotions, the importance of promotions
becomes less important for employees as they near retire-
ment. For example, members of the Baby Boomer genera-
tion who are near retirement age are less likely to be seeking
career advancement opportunities compared to employees
with decades of working years ahead of them. In addition, a
stronger desire for growth arises in part from the perceived
expectation associated with Generation Y of finding a per-
fect job early in their careers as opposed to norms associ-
ated with older generations in which individuals should pay
their dues prior to any type of advancement (Arnett, 2004).
Therefore, we expect career advancement to differ across
generations, being valued most by Generation Y and least
by the Baby Boomer generation.
Immediate Feedback and Recognition. Generation Y is some-
times referred to as the “me-generation” based on their desire
for instant gratification and growing up in a culture in which
everyone received a trophy. In addition, Generation Y grew
up in a technologically driven environment that has made
them accustomed to immediate access to information and
instant communication with online connections (e.g., texting,
social media outlets; Steele & Gordon, 2006). At work, this
translates to a desire to receive detailed feedback from their
supervisors on a frequent basis (Crumpacker & Crumpacker,
2007; Herman & Eckel, 2002; Westerman & Yamamura,
2007). Generation X has also been noted to want immediate
feedback (Wong et al., 2008), although not as frequently as
Generation Y (Glass, 2007; Martin, 2005). In contrast to
younger generations, Baby Boomers do not generally share
the same need for constant feedback (Glass, 2007). Thus, we
expect Generation Y to value immediate feedback and recog-
nition the most among the three generations, followed by
Generation X, and then the Baby Boomers.
To summarize the four “best places to work” character-
istics for which differences across generations are expected,
we hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 1a: The extent to which employees value
diversity, continuous learning, career advancement, and
immediate feedback and recognition will vary by gener-
ation, with the greatest importance noted by Generation
Y and the least importance noted by Baby Boomers.
While we expect generational differences to exist on the
aforementioned characteristics, we anticipate a greater
number of similarities across the generations in terms of the
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260 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
value placed on other work factors. In the subsequent para-
graphs, we discuss the expectation of no differences exist-
ing between generations on the remaining six workplace
characteristics that are summarized into four categories.
Work–Life Balance and Flexible Work Arrangements. As orga-
nizations require employees to work more hours and main-
tain schedules that fall outside the traditional “9 to 5” realm,
flexible work arrangements have been a typical practice
associated with work–life balance initiatives (Eikhof, War-
hurst, & Haunschild, 2007). Generation X and Generation
Y have been noted to place a high value on work–life bal-
ance (Cennamo & Gardner, 2008; Glass, 2007). And,
although Baby Boomers are often known for their strong
work ethic and placing a priority on work (Fogg, 2009),
they also face nonwork demands such as elder-care respon-
sibilities that make work–life balance a desirable workplace
characteristic (Hill, Hawkins, Ferris, & Weitzman, 2001).
Recent research comparing Baby Boomers with Generation
Y shows similar results for the generations with respect to
the importance of work–life balance and flexible work
arrangements (Hewlett et al., 2009). Therefore, we expect
all three generations to place a similar level of importance
on the balance between work and nonwork aspects of their
lives regardless of what constitutes one’s need for “bal-
ance” (e.g., time for hobbies, time to attend children’s activ-
ities, time with grandchildren, time to take care of aging
parents). We also anticipate that the three generations will
place a similar level of importance on having flexible work
arrangements as a related aspect of achieving a good work–
life balance.
Involvement in Decision Making and a Challenging Job. Decen-
tralized decision-making practices in organizations are
associated with employee involvement practices that are
tied to high-performance work systems (Evans & Davis,
2005). Employee involvement programs, including man-
agement-driven initiatives, open-door policies, employee
surveys, participative management, employee task forces,
and self-managed work teams, all contribute to healthy
organizations that realize positive levels of job satisfaction
and low levels of turnover (Grawitch, Ledford, Ballard,
Barber, 2009; Grawitch, Trares, & Kohler, 2007). When
employees become increasingly involved in making deci-
sions that affect the work they do, employees are more
empowered (Butts, Vandenberg, DeJoy, Schaffer, & Wil-
son, 2009) and their jobs become more challenging and
more enriched (Luna-Arocas & Camps, 2008).
Job enrichment through autonomy is a well-known pre-
dictor in Hackman and Oldham’s (1976) job characteristics
model that has been empirically tested across generations
for several decades. Meta-analyses published in the 1980s
examining autonomy and participative decision-making,
which involved Baby Boomers as study participants,
showed autonomy was the characteristic most strongly cor-
related to job satisfaction (Loher, Noe, Moeller, &
Fitzgerald, 1985) and was significantly correlated to satis-
faction, commitment, and job involvement (Spector, 1986).
In recent research that includes Baby Boomers and
Generation X as participants (mean age 34 years), the pres-
ence of the job characteristics, including autonomy, was
positively related to intrinsic motivation and goal commit-
ment (Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006). A study specific to
Generation Y employees also showed autonomy contribut-
ing to the measure of job characteristics that significantly
predicted job satisfaction (Kim, Knight, & Crutsinger,
2009). Based on existing literature, we propose that
employees from all generations are likely to desire
employee involvement in decision making and, as such,
more challenging jobs.
Teamwork and Collaboration. Individuals, regardless of gen-
eration, hope to have colleagues who they can get along
with and who will support them. Cennamo and Gardner
(2008) found supporting evidence for this expectation as
their “social” category of work values, which related to
interactions with others at work, was the most strongly
endorsed by Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation
Y. Although the nature of experiences with teams may vary,
all generations are aware that team-based organizations are
a part of today’s work environment. Researchers attribute
teamwork as a core value of Baby Boomers (e.g., Zemke,
2001). They also recognize that Generation X experienced
the advent of widespread downsizing practices in their early
careers, and along with that, the realization that in order to
do more with less it would be important to function collab-
oratively. Generation Y employees have gone through
school completing projects that were often organized
around teams and knowing the value of being supported by
those around them as their careers advance (e.g., Tulgan,
2011).
Recent research that examined perceived and actual gen-
erational differences provides additional support for similar
ratings across generations for the importance of teamwork
and collaboration. Lester et al. (2012) found that while there
were significant perceived differences in the value each
generation placed on teamwork (i.e., generations tended to
underestimate the value that members of different genera-
tions placed on a workplace characterized by teamwork and
collaboration) there were no actual differences in the desire
for teamwork. We expect to replicate the finding in this pre-
vious study regarding the actual preferences for teamwork
that were similar across generations.
A Financially Rewarding Job. The final characteristic included
from the “best places to work” lists is the value placed on a
financially rewarding job. Generation-specific research that
examined the contribution of salary perceptions to career
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Mencl and Lester 261
success showed nearly identical effect sizes for Generation
Y ( ηp
274=.), Generation X ( ηp
271=.), and the Baby
Boomers ( ηp
271=.; Dries et al., 2008). Although employ-
ees may have different expectations regarding their abso-
lute compensation, employees in general want to feel as
though they are adequately rewarded by the organization
(Pfeffer & Veiga, 1999). As such, we expect that the impor-
tance placed on having a financially rewarding job will be
rated similarly across generations.
Collectively, we expect the workplace characteristics
examined in this study to demonstrate more similarities
than differences across the three generations with respect to
the perceived degree of importance. We offer the following
hypothesis regarding the proposed similarities:
Hypothesis 1b: The extent to which employees value
work–life balance, flexible work arrangements,
involvement in decision making, a challenging job,
teamwork, and a financially rewarding job will not vary
by generation.
The Role of Generational Differences on
Attitudinal Outcomes
P-O fit scholars would contend that employee perceptions
regarding the extent to which their workplace values are
met are more important than solely examining the impor-
tance placed on these various work factors. P-O fit refers to
the extent to which what a person values in the workplace is
consistent with the person’s perceptions of how well that
aspect is provided by the employer (Kristof, 1996). Research
shows that the level of congruency between what is valued
and what is provided is positively related to various
employee attitudes, including job satisfaction, organiza-
tional commitment, and turnover intention (Kristof-Brown,
Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005).
Although published findings regarding generations and
P-O fit are scarce, a study of organizations in New Zealand
showed similarities for the effects of values–supplies dis-
crepancies between generations on four work aspects:
intrinsic fit, altruism fit, social fit, and freedom fit (Cennamo
& Gardner, 2008). The same study revealed two differences
in the discrepancy scores between generations: one differ-
ence existed between Generation X and the Baby Boomers
for extrinsic fit, and the other difference was present
between Generation Y and Baby Boomers for status fit.
Drawing on these findings, the second purpose of this arti-
cle was to further explore values across generations by
investigating the effects of those values on employee per-
ceptions and attitudes. In doing so, we examine employee
attitudes that are common to both the P-O fit and genera-
tions literatures, which include job satisfaction, organiza-
tional commitment, and turnover intention.
To more fully understand the combined effects of values
and perceptions of workplace characteristics present in
employees’ organizations, we apply value–percept theory
(Locke, 1976). According to value–percept theory, the dis-
crepancy between what a person wants and what a person
receives influences job satisfaction, and this relationship is
moderated by the importance the person places on the par-
ticular item. Therefore, we propose that perceptions of
workplace factors will influence employee attitudes, and
the relationships will be moderated by the importance of the
related items. In addition, based on the generation research
summarized above and the previous hypotheses, we expect
the moderation effects to vary by generation for the impor-
tance items in which a statistically significant difference is
found. For all other items, the moderating effect of impor-
tance should be similar across generations:
Hypothesis 2: The relationship between the level of
work factor fulfillment from an organization and the
employee’s attitudinal responses will be greater when
the importance of that factor is high versus low. These
moderating effects will be consistent with the genera-
tional similarities and differences in the importance
items as specified in Hypotheses 1a and 1b.
Method
Procedure
A Midwestern community’s local Chamber of Commerce
members were contacted with a request to allow their
employees to participate in a data collection project for the
Chamber. The intent of the project was to identify organiza-
tions in the community that were considered good places to
work for “young professionals.” The project included an
employee survey involving a variety of questions regarding
work-related items that all the organizations’ employees
received. The eight Chamber members that agreed to the
request represented government, health care, manufactur-
ing, technology, real estate, and nonprofit organizations.
The current study’s lead author, who was referred to
throughout the project as the “data collection coordinator,”
designed the survey and managed the data collection pro-
cess. The organizational representatives responsible for the
survey communications distributed the participation request
to their respective employees. The project was designed to
draw inferences about young professionals in the commu-
nity, but all employees were encouraged to complete the
survey in order to provide complete comparative data for
organizational leaders.
Messages were sent internally so that the organizations
maintained control of employee contact information. The
initial message included a link to an online version of the
survey as well as information that a hard-copy version was
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262 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
available on request. In places where employees did not
have regular access to e-mail, messages with the hard-copy
survey version were distributed.
To ensure that employee responses were anonymous, the
data collection coordinator hosted the online survey, and all
completed hard copies of the survey were sent directly to
the coordinator in self-addressed postage-paid envelopes.
Employees were also informed that their responses would
be combined with responses of other employees in reports
so that no one would be singled out or identified.
In addition to the items asking subjects to assess the
importance they placed on each work-related factor, the
survey included a series of related questions about the
employees’ perceptions of the work factors in their organi-
zations. These questions were used to determine how well
the organizations provided study participants with each
work-related factor that was rated for its importance, which
is consistent with previous research (Cennamo & Gardner,
2008). Scales were selected from published organizational
research based on alignment with one or more importance
items and reliability statistics. The scales included diversity
climate (Pugh, Dietz, Brief, & Wiley, 2008), employee
involvement climate (Riordan, Vandenberg, & Richardson,
2005), work design (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006), work–
life balance (Hill et al., 2001; Virick, Lilly, & Casper,
2007), and pay and benefits satisfaction (Heneman &
Schwab, 1985). Finally, in order to establish the extent to
which the importance items and perceptions of the work-
related factors were related to employee attitudes, the sur-
vey included measures of job satisfaction (Mitchell,
Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, & Erez, 2001), organizational
commitment (Allen & Meyer, 1990), and turnover intention
(Dupre & Day, 2007).
Sample
In total, 653 employees aged 18 years or older responded to
the survey. Age was associated with the year born to clas-
sify respondents into generations using Smola and Sutton’s
(2002) categories. Of the total respondents, 135 were
deleted from the data set due to missing data for the “age”
demographic variable. An additional 13 cases representing
the Silent Generation (born in 1945 or before) were omitted
from the data set due to the small group sample size, result-
ing in a final sample size of 505 for data analysis. The
remaining three generations included Generation Y (born
1979-1994; n = 88, 17% of the sample), Generation X (born
1965-1978; n = 144, 29% of the sample), and Baby Boomers
(born 1946-1964; n = 273, 54% of the sample). Demographic
information by generation is provided in Table 1.
Measures
Importance of Work-Related Factors (Values). Respondents
were given a list of various work-related factors noted to be
important to Generations X and Y (Cennamo & Gardner,
2008; Smola & Sutton, 2002) as well as factors related to
best places to work (Fulmer, Gerhart, & Scott, 2003; Joo &
Mclean, 2006). The list included 10 items: (1) an organiza-
tion that values diversity, (2) teamwork in the workplace,
(3) flexible work arrangements, (4) getting immediate feed-
back and recognition from my supervisor, (5) work–life
balance, (6) having a job that challenges me, (7) a company
that provides continual training and development opportu-
nities, (8) that I am involved in decision-making processes
that affect my work, (9) being financially rewarded for the
work I do, and (10) career advancement opportunities
within the company. Participants were instructed to indicate
the degree to which each item was important on a scale
from 1 (not important at all) to 7 (a must have), regardless
of what the person’s organization currently offered.
Perceptions of Work Factors in the Organization. Eight mea-
sures were used as variables for participants’ perceptions
of various work factors in their current organizations:
diversity climate, social support, feedback and recogni-
tion, work–life balance, training and development, deci-
sion-making involvement, pay and raise satisfaction, and
promotion opportunity (perception measures for flexible
work arrangements and having a job that challenges me
were not included on the survey since these items were
closely related to work–life balance and decision-making
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics by Generation.
Generation Y Generation X Baby Boomers
N88 144 273
Gender (%)
Male 24 35 32
Female 76 65 69
Mean age in years (SD) 26.99 (3.03) 38.50 (3.88) 53.75 (4.53)
Mean tenure in years in the organization (SD) 3.01 (2.44) 7.68 (5.77) 15.94 (5.77)
Employment status (%)
Full-time 81 84 82
Part-time 19 16 18
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Mencl and Lester 263
involvement measures, respectively). Survey items were
selected based on face validity to create scales for the vari-
ables, and then the set of items for each variable was
entered into exploratory factor analyses to ensure that the
items loaded on a single factor. For example, five items of
diversity climate were selected for the workplace percep-
tion measure (related importance item: an organization
that values diversity); all five survey items loaded on one
factor. The complete listing of scales and items are pro-
vided in the appendix. Items were measured on 5-point
scales, and reliabilities ranged from α = .84 to .94.
Job Satisfaction. Three items from Mitchell et al. (2001)
were used to measure job satisfaction: “all in all, I am satis-
fied with my job,” “in general, I don’t like my job” (reverse
coded), and “in general, I like working here.” Responses
ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Reliability of the measure was α = .90.
Organizational Commitment. Affective, normative, and
continuance dimensions of organizational commitment
were measured using Allen and Meyer’s (1990) scales,
which consisted of eight items per variable measured on a
5-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 =
strongly agree). Sample items include “I would be very
happy to spend the rest of my career with this organiza-
tion” (affective), “if I got another offer for a better job
elsewhere I would not feel it was right to leave my organi-
zation” (normative), and “I am not afraid of what might
happen if I quit my job without having a another one lined
up” (continuance; reverse scored). Reliabilities of the
scales were affective α = .89, normative α = .80, and con-
tinuance α = .76.
Turnover Intention. Three items were used to measure turn-
over intention (Dupre & Day, 2007): “I will stay with this
company for as long as I can” (reverse scored), “I will leave
this company if I receive another job offer,” and “I plan to
leave this organization within the next year.” The items
were measured using a 5-point Likert-type scale (1 =
strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree), and high scores
indicate a greater likelihood to leave the organization com-
pared with low scores. Scale reliability was α = .79.
Results
The means and standard deviations for each of the impor-
tance items by generation are provided in Table 2. Table 3
shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations for
all variables measured.
A descriptive discriminant analysis (DDA) was con-
ducted to determine whether generational differences
among the importance items were present and to identify
the items where differences were present. Using DDA to
analyze the perceived importance items collectively mini-
mizes the risk for Type I error (Sherry, 2006). Since the
number of DDA functions is equivalent to the number of
groups minus one, the analysis resulted in two discriminant
functions. Function 1 explained 7.4% of the variance in the
data, which was statistically significant, Wilks’s λ = .926;
χ2(20) = 37.79; p < .01. Function 2 explained 3.2% of the
variance in the data, which was statistically significant at a
marginal level, Wilks’s λ = .968; χ2(9) = 16.08; p = .07. The
effect sizes showed that the importance items contributed to
group differences more strongly for Function 1 than
Function 2. Both functions were deemed sufficient for fur-
ther interpretation.
Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations for the Importance Items by Generation.
Variable
Generation Y
(n = 86)
Generation X
(n = 142)
Baby Boomers
(n = 270)
M SD M SD M SD
An organization that values diversity 5.69 1.17 5.04 1.51 5.43 1.27
Teamwork in the workplace 6.34 0.90 6.17 1.01 6.27 0.82
Flexible work arrangements (e.g., flextime, job
sharing, compressed work week)
6.00 1.27 5.88 1.06 5.82 1.04
Getting immediate feedback and recognition
from my supervisor
5.73 1.05 5.43 1.11 5.48 1.00
Work–life balance 6.30 1.03 6.17 0.93 6.14 0.88
Having a job that challenges me 6.08 0.83 5.95 0.91 5.97 0.92
A company that provides continual training and
development opportunities
6.18 0.97 5.95 1.02 5.95 0.95
That I am involved in decision-making processes
that affect my work
6.15 0.93 6.03 1.03 6.16 0.94
Being financially rewarded for the work I do 6.14 0.95 6.12 0.99 6.09 0.87
Career advancement opportunities within the
company
6.19 1.06 5.98 0.98 5.83 0.93
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264
Table 3. Variable Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations.
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
1. Generation 2.37 0.76
2. Gender 1.69 0.46 –.04
3. Imp: Diversity 5.36 1.34 –.02 .23**
4. Imp: Teamwork 6.25 0.89 –.01 .14** .51**
5. Imp: Flexible work
arrangements
5.88 1.09 –.06 .13** .37** .44**
6. Imp: Immediate
feedback and
recognition
5.51 1.04 –.07 .04 .38** .42** .35**
7. Imp: Work–life balance 6.18 0.92 –.06 .01 .34** .52** .49** .43**
8. Imp: Challenge 5.98 0.90 –.03 .07 .36** .51** .41** .45** .55**
9. Imp: Training and
development
5.97 0.97 –.06 .10* .37** .53** .44** .53** .49** .62**
10. Imp: Decision making 6.12 0.91 .03 .03 .33** .43** .42** .46** .48** .57** .58**
11. Imp: Financial rewards 6.11 0.92 –.02 –.06 .18** .39** .46** .40** .51** .42** .42** .43**
12. Imp: Career
advancement
5.93 0.98 –.14** –.04 .23** .38** .39** .48** .44** .52** .59** .53** .61**
13. Diversity climate 3.79 0.75 –.21** –.06 .18** .22** .15** .13** .15** .14** .13** .06 .05 .07
14. Social support 4.08 0.66 –.09* .05 .19** .18** .10* .02 .06 .08 .06 .04 .01 .00 .55**
15. Work–life balance 3.71 0.82 –.06 .10* .04 .11* .00 .07 –.04 .08 –.01 .01 –.04 –.02 .27** .29**
16. Feedback and
recognition
3.35 0.93 –.09* .07 .21** .17** .14** .12** .11* .13** .10 .06 .04 .03 .61** .61** .30**
17. Training and
development
3.68 0.94 –.15** .02 .19** .18** .16** .12** .07 .13** .09 .06 .10 .07 .53** .46** .30** .61**
18. Decision making
involvement
4.08 0.73 .02 –.03 .19** .19** .12** .06 .14 .17** .09 .17** .05 .03 .49** .54** .28** .58** .46**
19. Pay and raise
satisfaction
3.42 0.93 .12** .04 .08 .09 .05 .04 .04 .07 .01 .11* –.15** –.13** .23** .28** .18** .35** .27** .34**
20. Promotion
opportunities
2.79 1.16 –.17** –.08 .14** .15** .10* .14** .13** .16** .06 .11* .10 .08 .51** .40** .21** .65** .49** .46** .32**
21. Job satisfaction 4.18 0.75 .06 .11* .16** .18** .11* .11* .02 .12** .08 .09 .04 –.03 .42** .56** .44** .53** .47** .57** .36** .33**
22. Affective OC 3.55 0.76 .03 .09 .19** .18** .13** .09 .06 .13** .10* .14** –.02 .00 .50** .61** .30** .62** .53** .56** .42** .44** .73**
23. Normative OC 3.10 0.59 .07 .03 .03 .13** –.02 .10* –.07 .05 .04 .03 –.03 .01 .24** .24** .16** .21** .23** .14** .14** .15** .35** .42**
24. Continuance OC 3.48 0.69 .07 .12** –.05 .02 .00 .01 –.02 –.06 –.05 .05 .04 .04 –.11* –.12** –.06 –.18** –.18** –.17** –.02 –.14** –.07 –.09 .16**
25. Turnover intention 1.98 0.87 –.16** –.16** –.08 –.11* –.03 .00 .01 –.01 .01 –.05 .03 .11* –.32** –.40** –.40** –.36** –.34** –.36** –.44** –.19** –.65** –.59** –.44** –.08 —
Note. Imp: = importance item; OC = organizational commitment.
*p .05. **p .01.
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Mencl and Lester 265
The eigenvalues for each function indicate the extent to
which the function discriminated between groups. In the
current sample, the eigenvalues are relatively low (λ1 =
.045, λ2 = .033), indicating that neither function discrimi-
nated well between groups. However, further evaluation of
the results, including structure coefficients, standardized
function coefficients, and the group centroids, provides spe-
cific information regarding where differences exist. A
structure coefficient represents the bivariate correlation
between the item and the function. The squared structure
coefficient is the percent of variance the item accounts for
in the discriminant function score. The standardized func-
tion coefficients are akin to beta coefficients in regression,
providing the relative contribution of each item to the dis-
criminant variables created in DDA.
Examination of these values, which are summarized in
Table 4, reveals that career advancement opportunities was
the only item to considerably contribute to Function 1. The
standardized function coefficient of that I am involved in
decision-making processes that affect my work is high
whereas its structure coefficient is low. This inconsistency
indicates that the item is likely a suppressor variable that is
influencing the discriminant variable through another item.
Since the standardized function coefficient of career
advancement opportunities within the company is greater
than 1.0, these two items are closely related. The relation-
ship between the two items is not surprising given that indi-
viduals who want to be involved in decision making are
likely to desire career advancement opportunities as well.
However, in terms of the results, the overinflated contribu-
tion of the decision-making item to the variable indicates
that the only item for Function 1 in which group differences
exist is the importance of career advancement.
The items contributing to Function 2, listed in order of
importance, included an organization that values diversity,
getting immediate feedback and recognition from my super-
visor, and teamwork in the workplace. Function 2 statistics
show the standardized function coefficient for teamwork in
the workplace is close to zero, which indicates that the item
does not contribute sufficiently to the discriminant variable.
Therefore, although the item contributes somewhat to group
differences as determined by the variance explained by the
item, the effect of the item on the group centroids is
minimal.
Table 4. Standardized Discriminant Function and Structure Coefficients.
Scale Function coefficient Structure coefficient (rs) Variance (rs
2, %)
Function 1
An organization that values diversity –.227 –.131 1.72
Teamwork in the workplace –.208 –.042 .18
Flexible work arrangements (e.g., flextime, job sharing,
compressed work week)
.332 .247 .10
Getting immediate feedback and recognition from my supervisor .162 .212 4.49
Work–life balance .366 .243 5.90
Having a job that challenges me –.057 .113 1.28
A company that provides continual training and development
opportunities
.045 .203 4.12
That I am involved in decision-making processes that affect my
work
–.779 –.191 3.65
Being financially rewarded for the work I do –.511 .102 1.04
Career advancement opportunities within the company 1.099 .598 35.76
Function 2
An organization that values diversity .978 .920 84.64
Teamwork in the workplace –.092 .353 12.46
Flexible work arrangements (e.g., flextime, job sharing,
compressed work week)
–.177 .153 2.34
Getting immediate feedback and recognition from my supervisor .279 .492 24.21
Work–life balance .009 .217 4.71
Having a job that challenges me –.112 .244 5.95
A company that provides continual training and development
opportunities
–.105 .295 8.70
That I am involved in decision-making processes that affect my
work
.026 .283 8.01
Being financially rewarded for the work I do –.252 .020 .04
Career advancement opportunities within the company .285 .276 7.62
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266 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
The group centroids are the means of the discriminant
variables for each generation, which tell us the extent to
which the groups possess the characteristics that comprise
the functions. For Function 1, Generation Y had the highest
group centroid (M = .293), which is followed by Generation
X (M = .188) and the Baby Boomers (M = −.192). These
results indicate that career advancement is more important
for Generation Y than for Generation X, and there is an
even greater difference between Generation Y and the Baby
Boomers. On Function 2, Generation Y had the highest
group centroid (M = .309) whereas the Baby Boomers was
the next highest (M = .027) and Generation X had the low-
est (M = −.239). This finding suggests that Generation Y
values diversity and immediate feedback and recognition
the most, and Generation X values these work-related fac-
tors the least.
Taken together, the DDA results revealed significant
generational differences for the importance of career
advancement that contributed to Function 1 and marginally
significant generational differences for diversity and imme-
diate feedback and recognition that contributed to Function
2. Although Hypothesis 1a was supported for three of the
four criteria for which differences were expected, career
advancement was the only item that resulted in the expected
pattern of differences with Generation Y as the highest and
the Baby Boomers as the lowest. Therefore, Hypothesis 1a
received partial support. Hypothesis 1b was strongly sup-
ported in terms of the characteristics where there were no
generational differences.
Given the results of Hypothesis 1, we would expect to
see similar variations in the moderation effect of impor-
tance on the relationships between perceptions of work fac-
tors and attitudinal outcomes specified by Hypothesis 2.
Specifically, differences in the moderation effects by gen-
eration should be present for the career advancement, diver-
sity, and feedback and recognition importance items.
Moderation was investigated using stepwise hierarchical
regression analyses in which the continuous predictor vari-
ables were centered prior to creating the interaction terms
(Baron & Kenny, 1986), and gender was used as a control
in the first step of the model. The data set was also split by
group to make comparisons between the generations for
each moderating effect. The results from the third step of
the analyses in which the interaction term is entered into the
model are summarized in Table 5.
The results reveal different patterns between the genera-
tions regarding the ways in which perceptions of work fac-
tors in one’s workplace may influence attitudinal outcomes
regardless of generational differences of the importance
placed on the work-related items. First, for the items for
which we would expect to see generational differences,
only the importance of career advancement opportunities
within the company displayed meaningful differences
among moderating effects across generations. The impor-
tance item did not moderate the relationship between
promotion opportunity and the attitudinal outcomes for
Generation Y, two relationships were significantly moder-
ated for the Baby Boomers, and four relationships were sig-
nificantly moderated for Generation X. The diversity
importance item moderated one relationship between diver-
sity climate and an outcome variable for Generation Y (con-
tinuance organizational commitment) and one relationship
for the Baby Boomers (normative organizational commit-
ment, at a marginal level). No differences in the moderating
effects for the generations were found for the getting imme-
diate feedback and recognition from my supervisor impor-
tance item.
In contrast, we did not expect generational differences to
be present among moderating effects for the other impor-
tance items. However, different trends in the moderation
effects emerged for the importance item related to training
and development opportunities across the three generations
and being involved in decision-making processes that dif-
ferentiated the Baby Boomers from the other two genera-
tions. Findings also showed a different moderating effect
for the importance of work–life balance item. For Generation
Y, the item moderated the relationship between perceived
work–life balance within the organization and continuance
organizational commitment, and for the Baby Boomers the
item marginally moderated the effect on affective organiza-
tional commitment; no moderating effect was found for
Generation X. Given the results, we conclude Hypothesis 2
is somewhat supported, but we find as much meaningful-
ness in the nonsignificant findings as the statistically sig-
nificant findings. Our interpretations of the results are
discussed in greater detail in the next section.
Discussion
The current study contributes to organizational literature by
replicating and extending previous research concerning
generational values. Consistent with extant research, the
present study’s findings demonstrated that generations
share more similarities than differences regarding the extent
to which work factors are important (e.g., Cennamo &
Gardner, 2008; Hansen & Leuty, 2012; Lester et al., 2012).
The only three value differences found included career
advancement opportunities, diversity climate, and immedi-
ate recognition and feedback.
In addition, generational differences were found with
respect to the ways that values affected the relationships
between perceived fulfillment of work factors and attitudi-
nal outcomes. These differences were most evident with
respect to career advancement opportunities within the
company, training and development opportunities, and
being involved in decision-making processes affecting
one’s work. By examining relationships between the vari-
ables using value–percept theory and a P-O fit perspective,
the research provides a novel lens in which to extend orga-
nizational research on generations.
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Mencl and Lester 267
Overall, the findings suggest that the most significant
generational difference lies with career advancement oppor-
tunities that are more strongly valued by Generation Y com-
pared with Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation.
Career advancement was not only valued to a greater extent
by Generation Y, but the moderating effects of the career
advancement value item were different as well. Interestingly,
however, importance was not a moderator of the relationship
Table 5. Moderation Results from Hierarchical Regression Analyses for the Interaction of Perceived Work Factors and Importance
Items on Attitudinal Outcomes by Generation.
Workplace perception × Importance item Dependent variable Generation Y Generation X Baby Boomers
Diversity climate × JS –.01 .00 –.03
An organization that values diversity AOC .03 .02 –.03
NOC .07 –.11 .10
COC .33** –.02 –.03
T/O I –.16 .02 –.07
Social support × JS .16 –.08 .02
Teamwork in the workplace AOC .03 .00 .03
NOC –.22.04 –.11
COC –.01 –.06 –.03
T/O I –.16 .09 –.05
Feedback and recognition × JS .08 .04 .08
Getting immediate feedback and recognition
from my supervisor
AOC .05 –.02 .04
NOC .02 .05 –.06
COC –.07 –.05 .07
T/O I –.13 –.05 –.04
Work–life balance × JS .13 –.02 .05
Work–life balance AOC –.02 .06 .11
NOC .03 .12 –.05
COC .30* –.04 .03
T/O I –.05 .07 .06
Training and development × JS –.09 .16* .16**
A company that provides continual training
and development opportunities
AOC –.18.18* .15**
NOC –.07 .02 .10
COC .25.18* –.03
T/O I –.05 –.20* –.16**
Decision-making involvement × JS .03 .11 .16**
That I am involved in decision-making
processes that affect my work
AOC –.06 –.01 .14**
NOC –.09 .06 .09
COC .13 –.09 –.05
T/O I .02 –.06 –.18**
Pay and raise satisfaction × JS .01 –.05 –.01
Being financially rewarded for the work I do AOC –.02 .04 –.01
NOC –.22.13 –.02
COC –.13 –.01 –.06
T/O I .09 –.04 –.04
Promotion opportunity × JS .08 .22** .14*
Career advancement opportunities within
the company
AOC –.01 .14.13*
NOC .00 .10 .05
COC .13 .22* .00
T/O I –.03 –.26** –.06
Note. Values are beta coefficients for Step 3 of each regression model (moderation effect). JS = job satisfaction; AOC = affective organizational
commitment; NOC = normative organizational commitment; COC = continuance organizational commitment; T/O I = turnover intention.
p .10. *p .05. **p .01.
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268 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
between employee perceptions of promotion opportunities
and any of the attitudinal outcomes for Generation Y.
Instead, statistically significant moderating effects were
found for the career advancement value for Generation X
and the Baby Boomer generation.
Furthermore, the training and development value and the
decision-making value were statistically significant moder-
ators of the respective measures of the employee percep-
tions and their attitudes for Generation X (training and
development item) and Baby Boomers (both value items)
whereas no moderating effect was found for Generation Y
for these values. These findings suggest that even when no
differences are found with respect to the degree of impor-
tance placed on work factors, employee perceptions of the
factors present in the workplace may still affect how
employees think and feel about their jobs and organizations.
Importantly, the differences remain less apparent than the
similarities between the generations across the items, which
further confirms the basic premise of the research.
In addition to supporting the notion that generational
similarities may outnumber generational differences, this
investigation extended the generational literature in two
important ways. First, although similarities did outnumber
differences, this study provided additional insight on where
generational differences do exist. Specifically, this study
builds on Lester et al. (2012) by examining additional and
sometimes more narrowly defined characteristics associ-
ated with “best places to work.” Extensions from the cur-
rent study include the finding of generational differences on
two characteristics not previously examined (i.e., diversity
climate and career advancement) and using a narrowly
defined characteristic of immediate feedback and recogni-
tion rather than recognition more broadly. Previously,
Lester et al. (2012) found no actual generational differences
on the value attributed to recognition, whereas immediate
feedback and recognition did prove to be different across
generations and most valued by Generation Y in the current
investigation. Furthermore, although Generation Y and the
Baby Boomers differed in the value they placed on continu-
ous learning in Lester et al.’s (2012) sample, our sample did
not demonstrate significant differences in the value placed
on continuous learning. These mixed results on continuous
learning highlight the need to further examine contextual
variables that may enhance or diminish the presence of
actual generational differences.
The second important extension of the generations lit-
erature provided by this study is the examination of how
the importance placed on workplace characteristics by gen-
erations moderates the relationship between perceived ful-
fillment of these desired characteristics (by the organization)
and the employee’s attitudinal outcomes. Previous research
has examined generational differences on work values
(e.g., Smola & Sutton, 2002), on perceptions of workplace
factors (e.g., Lester et al., 2012), and on employee attitudes
(e.g., Benson & Brown, 2011), but combining these items
using value–percept theory had not yet been explored. The
moderation results suggest that generational differences
and similarities may be complex and may warrant the
investigation of interactions between predictor variables.
Strengths and Limitations
Several strengths are present in the research. First, the
hypotheses were examined using a large sample size (N =
505), which increased the statistical power to detect the
present effects. Second, because participants worked in
various types of organizations the results are generalizable
across organizations. Third, all scale measures had high
levels of reliabilities, which increases the accuracy of the
results. Fourth, we controlled for gender in the regression
analyses, to be consistent with previous research and
remove any effects of gender on the outcomes (Cennamo &
Gardner, 2008). Although controls are not options in DDA,
we conducted multivariate analysis of variance tests with
and without gender as a covariate to check for any potential
effects of gender on values; the results were not affected by
the inclusion of gender as a covariate. Finally, participants
were informed that the survey measured perceptions of
their organizations and did not know that classifications
would be made based on generation. Therefore, the poten-
tial for bias with respect to generational differences was
minimized.
The limitations of the research include unequal group
sizes and organizational climate/perception measures that
may not have aligned perfectly with an importance item
(e.g., perceived social support was related to the teamwork
value). Because unequal sample sizes may affect the results
of the DDA, we reviewed the normality of the distribution
of the discriminant functions by group (Sherry, 2006).
Normality was determined by values within the range of −2
to 2. Function 1 displayed slight nonnormality because of a
relatively high-kurtotic distribution (4.14) for Generation
Y, and Function 2 displayed nonnormality because of
slightly high-kurtotic distributions for Generation Y (2.29)
and Generation X (2.64). Therefore, findings should be
interpreted with caution, and we recommend that future
research use group sample sizes that are more equal and
considerably large. Researchers examining the role of gen-
erational differences on workplace outcomes are also
encouraged to include measures that directly relate to
importance items.
Implications for Management and Directions for
Future Research
One important implication of the current findings is that
managers need be educated about and inform their direct
reports about actual generational differences as well as
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Mencl and Lester 269
generational similarities rather than making assumptions
about differences. Our research results showed differences
in career advancement, diversity, and immediate feedback
and recognition importance items. Notably, although we
had expected a generational difference in continuous learn-
ing, we found no difference. This result may be due in part
to the recent recession that has caused employees to post-
pone retirement. In addition, Hewlett et al. (2009) reported
that 47% of Baby Boomers they surveyed felt they were in
mid-career stages, presumably seeking additional advance-
ment opportunities. Therefore, managers should be careful
not to discount the importance of training and development
as a work characteristic for Baby Boomers because con-
tinuous learning is similarly important to the Baby Boomer
generation as it is for Generations Y and X.
In addition, managers should seek to gain insight into
what constitutes the importance of similarly rated “best
places to work” factors in order to design effective related
workplace practices to meet employee needs. For example,
preferences for training and development methods will
likely vary across the generations, as younger employees
grew up using fast-paced technology and older employees
are accustomed to face-to-face learning settings.
Furthermore, the findings suggest that managers should
also seek to understand how well the organization provides
important work-related factors from the employees’ per-
spectives. We strongly recommend to organizational leaders
and managers that they use tools such as employee surveys
to collect information from their employees on a regular and
ongoing basis in order to tailor their human resource man-
agement practices more specifically to their existing employ-
ees. Gaining this type of insight will allow organizations to
provide resources to managers and other employees to sup-
port employees on the factors noted to be important to them
(e.g., training on how to provide immediate feedback or to
mentor younger employees). Organizations can also bench-
mark other organizations’ practices that may have demon-
strated success such as Ernst & Young’s “Feedback Zone,”
an online system that allows employees to submit and
request feedback at any time, which is tailored to the desire
of their Generation Y employees to receive immediate feed-
back (Hite, 2008).
Taking proactive steps to communicate academic
research findings to managers and employees can help
eliminate unfounded generational stereotypes and can assist
a multigenerational workforce in its efforts to collaborate
and build synergies. In the case of the current research, each
organization that participated in the research project
received tailored report showing the similarities and differ-
ences between generations within the organization for the
importance items measured. The research findings were
also presented in the community in which the data were
collected; the study’s data collection coordinator gave
presentations to two practitioner-oriented professional
organizations, and an academic colleague referenced the
study in a Chamber of Commerce panel discussion.
Another suggestion for managers is to make sure that
they do not assume all employees within a generational
cohort value the same things. Managers still need to pay
attention to individual difference variables such as gender,
personality, and motivational needs when determining the
best way to respond in interpersonal situations.
The current research findings support previous research
suggesting that the importance placed on a variety of work-
place characteristics may be more similar across genera-
tions than different, although generations may differ on
their workplace attitudes. The findings provide additional
support for researchers to further examine the ways that
generations are similar in order to facilitate connections
between members of generations that have traditionally
been perceived as quite different (e.g., Hewlett et al., 2009).
Future research on generations needs to further investi-
gate the “So What?” question in order to determine if and to
what extent values and related variables affect workplace
outcomes of interest. This study looked at attitudinal out-
comes, and future research could better provide additional
insights by investigating behavioral outcomes. Other work-
place values or more specific aspects of the workplace char-
acteristics should also be examined. For example, future
research could explore specific aspects of diversity that are
important to reveal more discrete differences and similari-
ties across generations. Finally, although the three genera-
tions examined in this study are most prominently
represented in today’s workplace, it is important to recog-
nize that a new generation will soon be joining the work-
force. This next generation, initially labeled as “Generation
Z” may bring new intricacies to managing a multigenera-
tional workforce and should be included in future research
samples. Our hope is that the findings of this study will spark
continued study of an ever-changing work population.
Appendix
Variables Measuring Perceptions of Work
Factors in the Organizations
Diversity Climate: α = .84
1. My organization makes it easy for people from
diverse backgrounds to fit in and be accepted.
2. Where I work, employees are developed and
advanced without regard to the gender or the racial,
religious, or cultural background of the individuals.
3. Managers demonstrate through their actions that
they want to hire and retain and diverse workforce.
4. I feel that my immediate manager does a good job of
managing people with diverse backgrounds (in
terms of age, sex, race, religion, or culture).
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270 Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 21(3)
Social Support: α = .87
Items from the work design measure.
1. I have the opportunity to develop close friendships in
my job.
2. I have the chance in my job to get to know other
people.
3. I have the opportunity to meet with others in my
work.
4. My supervisor is concerned about the welfare of the
people that work for him/her.
5. People I work with take a personal interest in me.
6. People I work with are friendly.
Feedback and Recognition: α = .90
Items 1 to 3 from work design measure, and items 4 to 6
from employee involvement climate measure.
1. I receive a great deal of information from my man-
ager and coworkers about my job performance.
2. Other people in the organization, such as managers and
coworkers, provide information about the effectiveness
(e.g., quality and quantity) of my job performance.
3. I receive feedback on my performance from other
people in my organization (such as my manager or
coworkers).
4. I am satisfied with the amount of recognition I receive
when I do a good job.
5. Generally, I feel this company rewards employees
who make an extra effort.
6. There is a strong link between how well I perform my
job and the likelihood of receiving high-performance
appraisal ratings.
Work–Life Balance: α = .86
1. I am easily able to balance the demands of my work
and personal/family life.
2. I have sufficient time away from my job to maintain
adequate work and personal/family life balance.
3. When I take a vacation, I am able to separate myself
from my work and enjoy myself.
4. All in all, I am successful in balancing my work and
personal/family life.
5. I often feel drained when I go home from work because
of work pressures and problems. (reverse scored).
Training and Development: α = .88
Items from the employee involvement climate measure.
1. I receive sufficient training to do my job.
2. Education and training are integral parts of this com-
pany’s culture.
3. I have had sufficient/adequate job-related training.
4. If I felt that I needed more job-related training, the
company would provide it.
Decision-Making Involvement: α = .94
Items 1 to 3 from the employee involvement climate mea-
sure, and items 4 to 9 from the work design measure.
1. I have sufficient authority to fulfill my job
responsibilities.
2. I have enough input in deciding how to accomplish
my work.
3. I have enough freedom over how I do my job.
4. My job gives me a chance to use my personal initia-
tive or judgment in carrying out the work.
5. My job allows me to make a lot of decisions on my
own.
6. My job provides me with significant autonomy in
making decisions.
7. My job allows me to make decisions about what
methods I use to complete my work.
8. My job gives me considerable opportunity for inde-
pendence and freedom in how I do the work.
9. My job allows me to decide on my own how to go
about doing my work.
Pay and Raise Satisfaction: α = .94
Items from the pay and benefits satisfaction measure.
1. My take-home pay
2. My most recent raise
3. My current salary
4. The raises I have typically received in the past
5. My overall level of pay
6. The size of my current salary
Promotion Opportunities
Item from the employee involvement climate measure.
1. If I perform well, I am more likely to be promoted.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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Author Biographies
Jennifer Mencl is an Associate Professor of Organizational
Behavior at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her research
interests include learning and development, empathy, and ethical
decision-making. She has published in journals such as the
International Journal of Selection and Assessment, Journal of
Human Resources Education, and Journal of Business Ethics.
Scott W. Lester is a Professor of Management at University of
Wisconsin – Eau Claire. His research interests include dyadic
trust, the multi-generational workforce, and work-life balance.
Scott has published in journals such as the Academy of Management
Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management,
and Journal of Organizational Behavior.
at UNIV OF MINNESOTA DULUTH on February 9, 2016jlo.sagepub.comDownloaded from
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Purpose Differences among generations on a wide variety of outcomes are of increasing interest to organizations, practitioners, and researchers alike. The goal of this study was to quantitatively assess the research on generational differences in work-related attitudes and to provide guidance for future research and practice. Design/Methodology/Approach We conducted a meta-analysis of generational differences on three work-related criteria: job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intent to turnover. Our review of published and unpublished research found 20 studies allowing for 18 generational pairwise comparisons across four generations (Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials) on these outcomes using 19,961 total subjects. Findings Corrected mean differences for job satisfaction ranged from .02 to .25, for organizational commitment they ranged from −.22 to .46, and for intent to turnover the range was −.62 to .05. The pattern of results indicates that the relationships between generational membership and work-related outcomes are moderate to small, essentially zero in many cases. Implications The findings suggest that meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist on the work-related variables we examined and that the differences that appear to exist are likely attributable to factors other than generational membership. Given these results, targeted organizational interventions addressing generational differences may not be effective. Originality/Value This is the first known quantitative review of research on generational differences in the workplace.
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether generations differ in level of work motivation and whether differences in work motivation are better explained by managerial level than by generation. Data were collected from 3,440 working participants by using an online survey. Results indicate that managerial level better explains work motivation than does generation. Although Gen Xers, Late Boomers, and Early Boomers did differ in external and introjected work motivation, there was substantially more variance in work motivation explained by managerial level. Individuals at lower managerial levels had higher levels of external motivation than did those at higher managerial levels, whereas individuals at higher managerial levels had higher levels of intrinsic, identified, and introjected motivation. Understanding that work motivation appears to be more related to managerial level than it is to generation advances our knowledge of both generational differences and motivation at work. This knowledge assists practitioners by providing evidence that organizations should look to factors of level more than generation when acting to understand and improve employee motivation. Our study shows that in the current managerial working population work motivation is related to managerial level more than it is to generation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
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