ChapterPDF Available
The SAGE Handbook of
Aging, Work
and Society
John Field,
Ronald J. Burke
and Cary L. Cooper
00-Filed-Hbk-Prelims.indd 3 13/06/2013 8:05:39 PM
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Chapter 1 Ron J. Burke, Cary L. Cooper and John Field, 2013
Chapter 2 Tommy Bengtsson and Kirk Scott, 2013
Chapter 3 Florian Kunze and Stephan A. Boehm, 2013
Chapter 4 Anne-Marie Guillemard, 2013
Chapter 5 John Field, 2013
Chapter 6 Margaret E. Beier and Ruth Kanfer, 2013
Chapter 7 Cort W. Rudolph, Boris B. Baltes and Keith L. Zabel, 2013
Chapter 8 Kerr Inkson, Margaret Richardson and Carla Houkamau,
Chapter 9 Celia Roberts, Maggie Mort and Christine Milligan, 2013
Chapter 10 Penny Vera-Sanso, 2013
Chapter 11 Paul Fairlie, 2013
Chapter 12 Stephan A. Boehm, Heike S. Schröder, and Florian Kunze,
Chapter 13 Birgit Verworn, Christiane Hipp and Doreen Weber, 2013
Chapter 14 Richard A. Posthuma and Laura Guerrero, 2013
Chapter 15 Gary A. Adams, Sarah DeArmond, Steve M. Jex and
Jennica R. Webster, 2013
Chapter 16 Yu-Shan Hsu, 2013
Chapter 17 Tara Fenwick, 2013
Chapter 18 Johannes Siegrist and Morten Wahrendorf, 2013
Chapter 19 Margaret B. Neal, Leslie B. Hammer, Ayala Malach Pines,
Todd E. Bodner and Melissa L. Cannon, 2013
Chapter 20 Martin Kohli and Harald Künemund, 2013
Chapter 21 Stina Johanssen, 2013
Chapter 22 Franz Kolland and Anna Wanka, 2013
Chapter 23 Yunan Chen, Jing Wen and Bo Xie, 2013
Chapter 24 Elissa L. Perry, Apivat Hanvongse and Danut A. Casoinic,
Chapter 25 Chris Phillipson, 2013
Chapter 26 Marvin Formosa, 2013
Chapter 27 Jacquelyn Boone James, Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Jennifer
Kane Coplon, and Betty Eckhaus Cohen, 2013
Chapter 28 Bram Vanhoutte, 2013
Chapter 29 Malcolm Sargeant, 2013
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ISBN 978-1-4462-0782-6
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About the Editors viii
Notes on Contributors ix
Acknowledgements xx
1 The Aging Workforce: Individual, Organizational and Societal
Opportunities and Challenges 1
Ronald J. Burke, Cary Cooper and John Field
2 World Population in Historical Perspective 23
Tommy Bengtsson and Kirk Scott
3 Research on Age Diversity in the Workforce: Current Trends
and Future Research Directions 41
Florian Kunze and Stephan A. Boehm
4 Prolonging Working Life in an Aging World: A Cross-national
Perspective on Labor Market and Welfare Policies Toward Active Aging 60
Anne-Marie Guillemard
5 Migration and Workforce Aging 75
John Field
6 Work Performance and the Older Worker 97
Margaret E. Beier and Ruth Kanfer
7 Age and Work Motives 118
Cort W. Rudolph, Boris B. Baltes and Keith L. Zabel
8 New Patterns of Late-Career Employment 141
Kerr Inkson, Margaret Richardson and Carla Houkamau
9 Care Work and New Technologies of Care for Older People Living at Home 157
Celia Roberts, Maggie Mort and Christine Milligan
10 Aging, Work and the Demographic Dividend in South Asia’ 170
Penny Vera-Sanso
11 Age and Generational Differences in Work Psychology: Facts,
Fictions, and Meaningful Work 186
Paul Fairlie
00-Filed-Hbk-Prelims.indd 5 13/06/2013 8:05:39 PM
For the past two decades, demographers and
social scientists have noted a plethora of new
challenges associated with workforce aging
in the US, Europe, and newly developed
countries around the globe. As population
and workforce aging trends up, the US and
European countries have begun to re-evalu-
ate and modify long-standing social policies
and legislation regarding mandatory retire-
ment age and the age at which benefits to
older persons, such as Social Security, are
provided. Workforce aging has also had an
important influence in organizations, where
anticipated retirements and shortages of
replacement workers have led to increased
adoption of changes in work design and work
conditions. Flexible work policies and bridge
employment opportunities represent just two
of the many programs that organizations
have adopted in the past 15 years or so to
encourage valued older workers to remain in
the job. At the individual level, recent eco-
nomic turbulence, norms among workers in
the Baby Boomer cohort (born 1946 to
1964), and growing scientific evidence for
the role that work plays in physical and men-
tal health have led more older workers to
think about post-retirement employment and
non-traditional work options, such as self-
employment, part-time work, and volunteer
work (Weckerle and Schultz, 1999). In the
US where mandatory retirement age laws
were repealed in the late 20th century, these
factors have encouraged many people to
work past their planned retirement age. In
summary, the impact of demographic trends
toward greater longevity, economic condi-
tions, and uneven birth cohorts through the
mid-to-late 20th century are having a pro-
found effect on how nations, organizations,
and individuals think about the role of work
in mid- and late-life.
Evidence for workforce aging in the US
and European countries is unequivocal. In
the US, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
reports that workers over age 55 represent
the fastest growing segment of the US work-
force. The number of workers in this segment
Work Performance
and the Older Worker
Margaret E. Beier and Ruth Kanfer
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 97 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
is expected to increase by 33% from 2010 to
2020. For a subset of this group, workers
aged 65 to 74 (i.e., years regularly slated for
retirement), participation is expected to grow
by 76% over this same period (Toossi, 2012).
The increased prevalence of older workers is
a new reality in organizations and necessi-
tates consideration of how to motivate and
engage older workers to remain productive
at work.
A coincident shift in the types of jobs
available in industrialized countries has also
occurred over the past few decades. In the
US, jobs in the agrarian and manufacturing
sectors have steadily declined as job growth
increases in the service and professional/
technical industry sectors (Johnson, 2004).
These shifts in occupational sector job avail-
ability have complex effects on older worker
employment. On the one hand, the decline in
jobs that demand high levels of physical
exertion affords older workers, who may
experience age-related decline in physical
skills, a potential advantage (Capelli, 2009).
On the other hand, the growth of jobs in
technical sectors that demand knowledge
and skills related to new technologies (e.g.,
engineering processes) implies that older
workers must engage in new skill learning in
order to remain marketable. Age-related
changes in cognitive abilities related to new
skill learning and the dominance of skill
training formats that capitalize on these
same abilities have been argued to reduce
older worker motivation for developing mar-
ketable new job skills. The problem of new
skill learning among older workers is further
exacerbated by changes in career patterns
that necessitate continuous learning, as
career histories move away from a model of
life-long employment within a single organ-
ization toward a protean model of sequential
career activities in different organizations
across the work lifespan (Cappelli, 2009;
Hall and Mirvis, 1995).
The purpose of this chapter is to examine
the relationship between age and job perfor-
mance within the context of age-related
changes in abilities and motivation, changes
in job characteristics, and broad workplace
and cohort influences (such as organiza-
tional culture). We frame our discussion
around two important questions: (a) what is
the relationship between age and job perfor-
mance? And (b) what are the individual dif-
ferences and situational factors that play a
role in understanding this relationship?
Working from theory and research on adult
development, we examine how normative,
age- and cohort-related changes over the
life course (intra-individual differences)
may affect work motivation, workplace
behaviors, and job performance. We also
explore how inter-individual differences in
cognitive and non-cognitive worker attrib-
utes, socio-cultural, and socio-technical fac-
tors interact with adult development and
affect worker and organization outcomes.
The chapter is organized into five sections.
In the first section, we examine definitional
issues of age and performance and provide
the context for investigations of age- and
cohort-influences on work outcomes.
Included in this section is a review of the
state of the research on the relationship
between age and job performance. In the
second section we provide a brief review of
age-related changes associated with adult
development and their impact on work out-
comes, including performance. In the third
section, we discuss job and work-role
demands and their influence on perceptions
of fit with the organization and job and
important outcomes such as motivation and
performance. In the fourth section, we con-
sider contextual influences, namely age-
related bias and its impact and the age–job
performance relationship. In the final sec-
tion, we summarize findings to date, impli-
cations for practice, and identify promising
areas for future research.
Our review and analysis of age- and
cohort-related influences on work outcomes
stems from a multi-disciplinary perspective
in which worker attributes and job demands
represent the proximal determinants of job
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Work Performance and the older Worker 99
performance, but occur in, and are influ-
enced by, a broader set of contextual vari-
ables including the work climate for age,
and non-work influences. The model fram-
ing our discussion attempts to convey the
complexity of the relationships between
these factors (Figure 6.1). As shown in the
figure, performance is influenced by the fit
between age- and cohort-sensitive worker
attributes, including knowledge, skills,
abilities, and non-cognitive attributes (e.g.,
personality, motives) and economic- and
technology-sensitive job/work role
demands. Although these factors reflect
the proximal determinants of work-related
outcomes, they operate within the larger
context of age-sensitive workplace factors
such as organizational culture (including
perceptions of ageism or age-related bias)
and non-work influences (e.g., health,
family demands). These broader contex-
tual factors can be expected to exert
indirect influence on work performance
through their impact on person–job
demand fit. In this chapter we examine
the effects of the organizational context on
work performance (e.g., age-related bias and
organizational culture), but do not address
non-work contextual factors directly. Rather,
their influence is discussed in the context of
age-related changes in worker attributes
(including motivation and values) and
perceptions of fit with job/work role
demands. For extensive reviews of age-
related cohort influences on non-work
performance see Baltes and Young (2007)
and Cleveland (2008).
Age is a chronological variable that indexes
life since birth. As such, it is an objective
variable that can generally be reported by
individuals with little error. From a psycho-
logical perspective, however, age is often
used as a proxy for identifying an individual’s
development along one or more dimensions,
Work Role
Social and Task
Abilities, Attitudes, Motives
Family Demands
Figure 6.1 Influences on the age and job performance relationship including within-person
age-related changes in KSAs, job characteristics such as task demands and motivational and
social aspects of work and contextual influences such as cohort effects and workplace
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including physical, cognitive, and affective.
Theories and research in cognitive aging and
development, such as those by Erikson
(1963), Baltes and Baltes (1990), Heck-
hausen, Wrosch, and Schulz (2010), and
Kanfer and Ackerman (2004) provide broad
frameworks for understanding normative
adult development in different dimensions.
To investigate these normative processes,
researchers typically use chronological age
as a means by which to compare develop-
ment at different life stages. Nonetheless, it
is important to note that these theories
address normative development, and do not
address or refute the importance of inter-
individual differences: the differences among
individuals in development trajectories. Con-
sideration of inter-individual differences in
aging research is vital because people age at
different rates: one person at age 50 may
behave more like a 35 year old across many
measured outcomes (e.g., level of activity,
cognitive ability, memory), and another may
behave more like a 60 year old (Hertzog,
Kramer, Wilson, and Lindenberger, 2008).
Similarly, people may exhibit different rates
of development in different domains, such
that an older person may show a less pro-
nounced decline in memory processes than
persons of a similar chronological age, but a
higher level of physical decline than persons
of a similar age.
Although age-related changes in cognitive
and physical abilities are driven in large part
by biological changes that can be usefully
tracked in terms of chronological age, a
growing body of research indicates that
chronological age may be a less useful metric
for evaluating development in terms of fac-
tors in which an individual’s experiences,
motives, and life tasks play a significant role
in action and adjustment. In the context of
work, several researchers have examined the
construct of psychological age as an alterna-
tive to chronological age for predicting work
outcomes (e.g., Barnes-Farrell, Rumery, and
Swody, 2002; Cleveland and Lim, 2007;
Kooij, de Lange, Jansen, and Dikkers, 2008).
Barnes-Farrell et al. (2002), for example,
argue that psychological age may be opera-
tionalized in four dimensions: the extent to
which a person reports (a) feeling older than
his/her chronological age, (b) looking older
than his/her chronological age, (c) acting
older, and (d) holding a preference for an age
older than his or her chronological age. Stud-
ies investigating the incremental validity of
psychological age variables have shown that
psychological age is negatively related to
career development intentions and positively
related to early retirement intentions after
controlling for chronological age (Desmette
and Gaillard, 2008). Job stress and its effects
have also been examined vis-à-vis psycho-
logical and chronological age across five
different countries (Barnes-Farrell et al.,
2002). Chronological age was positively
related to self-perceptions of competence
and negatively related to work-related con-
cerns (i.e., stressors). Psychological age
was also important after controlling for
chronological age. Workers who reported
feeling younger than they are were less
likely to report work and non-work related
stresses and strain. Although this study
found that the majority of workers would
prefer to be younger than they are, these
results suggest that older workers who feel
relatively younger continue to see them-
selves as competent, want to continue to
grow and develop in their work, and deal
well with daily stressors.
Another formulation defines age along five
dimensions (Kooij et al., 2008): (a) chrono-
logical age, (b) functional performance-based
age (recognizing that cognitive and physical
abilities may change in ways that affect per-
formance), (c) psychosocial or subjective age
(how old the person feels, looks, and acts
and the age cohort with which a person
identifies – most similar to the conceptual-
ization of age examined by Barnes-Farrell
et al., 2002 described above), (d) organiza-
tional age (consideration of tenure/seniority
within an organization), and (e) life-span age
(the lifespan stage/family status of a person).
A qualitative review of the literature conducted
by Kooij et al. suggests that the different
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Work Performance and the older Worker 101
conceptualizations of age matter. For instance,
psychosocial age was negatively related to
motivation for work, presumably because
feeling older is negatively related to the
desire to exert maximum effort and to try new
things. Lifespan age was also negatively
associated with motivation for work because
of the desire for more leisure/family time in
later life stages.
The recent interest in the incremental
validity of psychological age measures over
chronological age in predicting work out-
comes reflects growing recognition of the
complexity involved in delineating the role
that an individual’s experiences and context
play in work motivation and job perfor-
mance. Although chronological age clearly
continues to provide value in capturing the
impact of pervasive, biologically-driven pro-
cesses that may impact work, psychological
age appears useful in accounting for non-
biological experience-based processes, such
as tenure in an organization, on worker moti-
vation and performance. Future research
investigating these alternative, contextual-
ized conceptions of development for work
outcomes appears to be an important direc-
tion for future research.
Job performance
Similar to definitional issues related to age,
the construct of job performance is an intui-
tively simple construct that is notoriously
difficult to define and operationalize (Austin
and Villanova, 1992; Campbell, McCloy,
Oppler, and Sager, 1993). At the broadest
level, job performance refers to ‘the total
expected value to the organization of the
discrete behavioral episodes that an individ-
ual carries out over a standard period of time’
(Motowidlo, 2003, p. 39). Over the past few
decades, progress in understanding the struc-
ture of job performance has provided a more
precise formulation of the nature of activities
that contribute to organizationally-valued
behaviors and outcomes. In the early 1990s,
Motowidlo and his colleagues (Borman and
Motowidlo, 1993) argued for a distinction
between behaviors directed toward perform-
ing tasks that contribute to the technical core
of the organization (task performance), and
activities that are valuable to the organization
through their influence on the psychological,
social, and organizational context of work
(contextual performance). Task performance
varies based on the requirements of the job,
but is generally measured in either subjective
(i.e., supervisor ratings) or objective (e.g.,
sales or production numbers) ways. Contex-
tual performance includes behaviors that
positively influence work environments; for
example, volunteering for extra work, help-
ing others, and following organizational rules
even when they are inconvenient (i.e., organ-
izational citizenship behaviors, OCBs).
Behaviors at the opposite end of the contex-
tual-performance spectrum include those that
negatively influence work environments; for
example, ignoring rules and procedures, sab-
otaging the work of others, and rebelling
against supervision (i.e., counterproductive
work behaviors, CWBs).
Numerous studies provide support for a
multidimensional structure of job perfor-
mance, with many showing a major distinc-
tion between worker activities directed toward
accomplishment of formal, technical task
work and worker activities directed toward
accomplishment of informal, socially-oriented
teamwork. In the context of age relationships,
the more precise delineation of job perfor-
mance components permits examination of
the pathways and mechanisms by which age-
related variables affect job performance, as
well as the conditions under which age might
be positively, negatively, or unrelated to dif-
ferent measures of job performance.
Research on age and job
The notion that older workers perform more
poorly than younger workers is arguably one
of the most widely-held beliefs in developed
countries around the world. Indeed, laws
about mandatory retirement age and comple-
mentary long-standing socio-cultural norms
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 101 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
about older worker roles in society give sup-
port to the notion of a negative impact of age
on work performance. Common sayings
such as ‘you can’t teach an old dog new
tricks,’ reinforce stereotypes that older
workers are less able to learn new skills.
Nonetheless, substantial empirical evidence
on the relationship between chronological
age and job performance provides little evi-
dence for the idea that older workers in
general are less valuable to organizations
because of poor performance.
To date, four meta-analyses have examined
the relationship between age and job perfor-
mance (McEvoy and Cascio, 1989; Ng and
Feldman, 2008; Sturman, 2003; Waldman and
Avolio, 1986). The aims of these meta-analyses
have varied from investigating the influence
of bias on supervisor ratings to examining a
broad range of performance criteria (i.e., task
and contextual performance). Overall, the
results of these studies show no support for a
meaningfully significant relationship between
age and task performance in either a positive
or a negative direction. Nonetheless, there is
evidence that age is related to contextual per-
formance in the positive direction. Ng and
Feldman (2008) found a significant positive
relationship between age and contextual
measures in terms of OCBs, and a significant
negative relationship between age and unde-
sirable CWBs, such as stealing.
Although prior meta-analyses suggest that
there is no reliable relationship between age
and task performance, the range of correla-
tions reported in these studies is great (e.g.,
in one meta-analysis the correlations ranged
from r = –.36 to +.39; Sturman, 2003), sug-
gesting the existence of moderators. Poten-
tial moderators examined to date include
rating type (i.e., subjective supervisor ratings
versus objective ratings), job status (i.e., pro-
fessional versus non-professional), and job
complexity (McEvoy and Cascio, 1989; Ng
and Feldman, 2008; Sturman, 2003; Wald-
man and Avolio, 1986). Although there has
been no compelling evidence that rating type
or job status moderate the relationship
between age and task performance, there is
some evidence to support job complexity as
a moderator (Sturman, 2003).
In addition to the empirical support pro-
vided by Sturman’s (2003) meta-analysis,
there are theoretical reasons to expect that
job complexity would moderate the age–job
performance relationship. Because cognitive
ability is related to job performance, espe-
cially in complex jobs (Schmidt and Hunter,
1998) and because cognitive abilities change
with age (Cattell, 1987), the relationship
between age and job performance should,
theoretically, depend on job complexity.
Indeed, Sturman found a significant interac-
tion between sample mean age and job com-
plexity such that the correlation between age
and task performance increased as the mean
age of the sample increased and the level of
job complexity increased. This finding is
somewhat surprising in that one might expect
that the correlation between age and job per-
formance would decrease as job complexity
increased due to declines in some cognitive
abilities with age. One explanation for this
finding is that job complexity as operational-
ized in this study (i.e., the data dimension on
the Dictionary of Occupational Titles; US
Department of Labor, 1991) was more related
to knowledge gained through experience
over time, which is positively related to age,
rather than memory type abilities, which are
negatively related (Cattell, 1987). Perhaps a
refined measure of job complexity would
further elucidate the relationship between
age and job performance while considering
the ability demands of the job.
Taken together, the results of these meta-
analyses suggest that older workers should
be expected to perform job tasks at the same
level as younger workers, and to contribute
positively to the work environment. The research
reviewed above also points to the probable
existence of moderators of the age and job
performance relationship; although to date
the analysis of moderating variables has
yielded inconsistent results. In the following
section, we review age-related changes in
worker attributes that may help in under-
standing the conditions in which age might
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Work Performance and the older Worker 103
be meaningfully related to work outcomes
and performance.
Although people vary considerably in the
rate at which their abilities grow, stabilize, or
decline with age (Hedge, Borman, and
Lammlein, 2005; Hertzog et al., 2008; Kan-
fer and Ackerman, 2004), there are important
trends in average trajectories of knowledge,
skills, and abilities with age that may impact
the age and job performance relation. Below
we review changes in individual differences
in abilities, personality, and motivational
traits that occur through the lifespan and their
impact on work outcomes.
Cognitive abilities and knowledge
Much research and theory has examined the
underlying structure of cognitive abilities and
a review of this literature is beyond the scope
of this chapter (see Carroll, 1993). One organ-
izational scheme that has gained widespread
acceptance is Carroll’s (1993) hierarchy of
cognitive abilities. In Carroll’s hierarchy, g
stands at the apex, with narrower abilities at
the second level. The abilities in the hierarchy
most relevant to aging are fluid ability (Gf),
and crystallized ability (Gc). Gf abilities are
associated with novel problem solving, learn-
ing new information, and working memory
abilities (working memory broadly defined as
the ability to simultaneously store and pro-
cess/manipulate information; Baddeley and
Hitch, 1974; Cattell, 1987; Horn and Cattell,
1966). By contrast, Gc abilities are associated
with the knowledge acquired through experi-
ence and education (Cattell, 1987; Horn and
Cattell, 1966). Gf and Gc abilities are signifi-
cantly positively correlated in samples of
children and adults, and the correlations are
substantial in magnitude – usually larger than
.50 (Carroll, 1993). Nevertheless, these abili-
ties show differential trajectories with age.
Cross-sectional studies have shown a decline
in mean Gf scores starting in late adolescence
or early adulthood and continuing at a gradual
rate throughout the lifespan; these same stud-
ies also show that Gc remains relatively stable
and often increases with age (Beier and
Ackerman, 2001, 2005; Jones and Conrad,
1933; Miles and Miles, 1932). A similar pat-
tern of trajectories for Gf and Gc have been
obtained in longitudinal studies, although
evidence for declines in Gf often appear to
have a later onset in longitudinal research
(Hultsch, Hertzog, Dixon, and Small, 1998;
Schaie, 1996).
In the context of daily life, researchers
have often explained the trajectories of Gf
and Gc as a reflection of the relative neces-
sity of these abilities at different life stages.
During youth and early adulthood, for exam-
ple, individuals encounter many novel tasks
and allocate substantial time and effort to the
development of knowledge and skills that
have value for social and occupational adjust-
ment. As people age and acquire experiences
across a wide variety of situations (e.g.,
work, social, educational), they are less
likely to encounter situations or problems
that are completely novel. As such, older
adults may employ acquired knowledge and
experiences (e.g., Gc and job knowledge) to
solve problems more efficiently. The increas-
ing use of knowledge places less demand on
the use of age-sensitive Gf abilities and
allows older adults to continue to attain high
levels of performance. In support of the criti-
cal importance of Gc (i.e., knowledge) for
performance, Hunter (1983) and others (e.g.,
Schmidt, Hunter, and Outerbridge, 1986)
found that job knowledge was the most direct
and best predictor of job performance, and
that the relationship between cognitive abil-
ity and job performance is mediated by job
The trajectories of Gf and Gc throughout
the lifespan can help explain the range of cor-
relations found in the meta-analytic studies
discussed above. In general, the decline of Gf
with age may not impact job performance as
people age because workers are more likely
to rely on their accumulated knowledge and
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 103 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
experience (i.e., Gc) for daily performance in
most jobs (Charness, 2000). Although indi-
vidual differences in Gf-type abilities con-
tinue to play a role in some aspects of many
jobs, increasing job knowledge associated
with age and job tenure may compensate for
declines in these abilities. Thus, the compen-
satory role of Gc and job knowledge on job
performance among older workers impor-
tantly depends on job demands. In jobs that
demand high levels of Gf for daily perfor-
mance, such as air traffic controller (e.g.,
Ackerman and Kanfer, 1993), increasing job
knowledge may only partially compensate for
age-related declines in memory and reason-
ing speed. By contrast, in jobs that demand
high levels of Gc, such as tax accountants,
years of job experience and greater job
knowledge may sustain performance despite
declines in Gf. Given the changes in abilities
with age, we would expect that age would be
negatively related to jobs that place extensive
demands on Gf, but would be unrelated or
even positively related to performance in jobs
that make high demands on Gc or job knowl-
edge. Although this makes theoretical sense,
this explanation has yet to be fully supported
empirically due to the current lack of a relia-
ble means for evaluating the ability demands
of jobs. It is also important to note that the
ability demands of a job may influence job
choice as workers craft their work roles in
ways that reduce demands on age-sensitive
Speed, physical, and sensory
In addition to changes in Gf and Gc, the rate
of cognitive processing (perceptual speed)
slows with age, which affects people’s abil-
ity to carry out relatively simple tasks with
speed and accuracy (e.g., checking ledgers
for accuracy; Schaie and Willis, 1993).
Gross physical abilities such as static
strength, psychomotor abilities (e.g., track-
ing and manual dexterity), and sensory
abilities such as hearing and sight also
decline with age (Hedge et al., 2005; Warr,
2001). Although there is evidence that
workers can and do develop strategies to
compensate for losses in speed and psycho-
motor abilities with age (e.g., by looking
ahead to anticipate upcoming words when
typing; Salthouse, 1984), compensating for
declines in gross physical strength is not as
feasible (Hedge et al., 2005). In terms of
sensory abilities, declines in visual acuity
occur between the ages of 40 and 50 (Forteza
and Prieto, 1994) and hearing loss occurs
more gradually. Most age-related declines
in vision and hearing can be corrected rela-
tively easily. Nonetheless, these declines
may still affect job performance when jobs
rely heavily on the senses (e.g., pilot, driver,
security guard; Hedge et al., 2005).
In sum, research on age-related changes
in abilities paints a complex picture of how
changes in cognitive and physical capacities
may affect work performance in mid- and
late-life. Although declines in Gf abilities
are apparent starting in early adulthood, Gc
abilities remain stable or even increase
throughout the lifespan. Gc ability repre-
sents the knowledge acquired through expe-
rience, and is therefore a critical predictor
of effective work performance. Physical
abilities decline with increased age, as do
sensory, speed, and psychomotor abilities,
although many of these losses can be miti-
gated by technology-based corrections and
strategy use.
Non-ability factors
Age-related changes in cognitive abilities
have been studied for decades, but research
investigating adult development in work-
related attitudes and motives has a much
shorter history. During the past decade,
cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have
focused on mean-level changes and intra-
individual stability of the five major personality
trait dimensions (i.e., extraversion, openness,
agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscien-
tiousness; Roberts and DelVecchio, 2000;
Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer, 2006).
Results of this work provide support for the
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Work Performance and the older Worker 105
notion that although mean trait scores change
over the lifespan, there is relative stability in
individuals’ rank order. Specifically, mean
levels of conscientiousness and agreeable-
ness show slight increases as a function of
chronological age, while extraversion, open-
ness to experience, and neuroticism show
slight declines in mean levels over the lifes-
pan (Roberts et al., 2006). In the context of
work, these patterns suggest that, all other
things being equal, older workers can be
expected to compare favorably to younger
workers in jobs that place emphasis on
behavioral reliability, emotional stability, and
strong social skills.
Recent research examining the relation-
ship between age, attitudes, and motivation
specific to work has been couched in lifespan
theories of development, one of the most
prevalent being Carstensen’s socio-emotional
selectivity theory (Carstensen, Isaacowitz,
and Charles, 1999; see Kanfer and Acker-
man, 2004). Socio-emotional selectivity the-
ory (SST; Carstensen, 1993) posits that peo-
ple transition from goals related to achieve-
ment and knowledge acquisition when they
are younger to goals related to emotional
fulfillment during mid-life and beyond.
According to SST, age-related differences in
goal orientation yield different patterns and
purpose of social interaction. Among young
adults, social interactions are motivated by
their value for providing the individual with
information instrumental for increasing
work-related skill learning and opportunities
for advancement. Among midlife and older
adults, the shift toward ‘time left to live’
yields goals that focus on the utilization of
skills and social interactions for purposes of
promoting emotional satisfaction and sup-
porting positive self-concept.
SST also provides a framework for under-
standing often observed age-related differ-
ences in affective responses and attitudes.
Among older adults, the emphasis placed on
pursuit of socio-emotional goals is associ-
ated with higher levels of emotion regulation
(Isaacowitz and Blanchard-Fields, 2012) and
age-related decreases in social conflict
(Blanchard-Fields, 2007). According to SST,
older individuals learn how to effectively
regulate their emotions and develop emo-
tional resiliency in stressful encounters
(Carstensen and Mikels, 2005). Investigations
of this regulatory process further indicate
age-related differences in information-
processing, with older adults focusing more
frequently on positive rather than negative
information (i.e., the positivity effect; e.g.
Mather and Carstensen, 2005).
Selective Optimization and Compensation
is another theory that has been used to under-
stand age-related changes in attitudes and
motivation (SOC; Baltes and Baltes, 1990).
SOC applies to the process of adapting
throughout the lifespan, and is especially
relevant in the context of aging because of
cognitive and biological changes with age. In
this theory, selection refers to the adaptive
task of prioritizing the domains in which
people operate to those that are most aligned
with their skills, abilities, and goals. Optimi-
zation refers to the idea that people make
efforts to augment their resources (e.g. cog-
nitive and social) and thus engage in those
behaviors that will maximize their chosen
life-course. Compensation refers to the use
of strategies and/or technology to compen-
sate for losses in abilities (e.g., use of mne-
monic devices or hearing aids would be
forms of compensation). SOC theory would
predict, for instance, that workers who are
more embedded in an organization (e.g., due
to the opportunity costs associated with
turnover and job search late in life) would
employ selection strategies to align their
work with their skills and interests, optimiza-
tion strategies directed toward improving
work roles, and compensation strategies to
adjust to work demands rather than to leave
their current situation. Together SST and
SOC theories describe aging as a lifelong
process where people strive to maximize
their social and emotional gains and mini-
mize their losses. One positive byproduct of
healthy aging according to these theories is
that older people will gravitate toward jobs
that are a good fit for their skills and personal
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 105 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
characteristics over the course of their career,
which will serve to increase positive attitudes
about work.
In sum, advances in aging research and
theory indicate an age-related shift from
achievement-related to emotionally-relevant
goals and a shift in priorities to opportunities
that will optimize worker fit. Evidence asso-
ciated with this developmental shift includes
increased skill in emotion regulation,
increased focus on positive information rela-
tive to negative, and increased resiliency to
stress-inducing environments. In other words,
research findings to date are consistent with
widely-held beliefs that as people age, they
align themselves with opportunities that sup-
port their values and needs and develop a
sense of perspective that helps them to ‘not
sweat the small stuff.’ Next, we discuss this
research in the context of aging and work.
An array of work attitudes have been exam-
ined in I/O psychology, although attitudes
have only infrequently been explicitly exam-
ined in the context of aging until recently. Ng
and Feldman (2010) meta-analyzed the rela-
tionship between chronological age and 35
job attitudes broadly classified into three
categories: task-based attitudes (e.g., job
satisfaction, intrinsic work satisfaction, satis-
faction with work and pay), organization-
based attitudes (e.g., affective, continuance,
and normative commitment, perceptions of
justice), and people-based attitudes (e.g.,
satisfaction with co-workers and supervisors,
co-worker and supervisor support). In this
study, chronological age was positively
related to the majority of attitudes assessed
indicating that attitudes toward work become
more positive with age (i.e., 27 of 35 differ-
ent job attitudes overall). Age was positively
related to most organizationally-based atti-
tudes (e.g., organizational commitment, loy-
alty, perceptions of justice) although effect
sizes (sample-weighted corrected correlations)
were somewhat small (i.e., between .10 and
.24). The relationships between age and
people-based attitudes were also relatively
weak but in a positive direction (e.g., sam-
ple-weighted corrected correlation .12 and
.10 for satisfaction with co-workers and
supervisors respectively). For task-related
attitudes, the sample-weighted corrected cor-
relation between age and satisfaction with
the work itself was .22, and the magnitude of
the correlation was about the same, .18, for
overall job satisfaction. There were some
negative relationships between age and task-
related outcomes. For instance, the relation-
ship between age and satisfaction with
promotion opportunities was –.31, and the
relationship between age and role overload
was –.30. These effects remained significant
(although attenuated) after controlling for
organizational tenure. In total, these results
point to older workers who are relatively
satisfied with most aspects of their work, but
who feel somewhat overwhelmed and lim-
ited in their opportunities for growth.
Although Ng and Feldman (2010) did not
find evidence for a general curvilinear rela-
tionship between age and attitudes in their
study, there may be reason to believe that one
exists, at least in terms of the value placed on
having satisfying work. Individual studies
investigating this phenomenon, for example,
have found that workers place less emphasis
on job satisfaction in early and late stages of
their careers – although satisfaction is highly
valued by mid-career workers (Li, Liu, and
Wan, 2008). In sum, the most recent work on
age and job attitudes generally supports SOC
and SST theories in that older workers have
positive attitudes toward most aspects of
their jobs, presumably because they are
likely to focus on the positive aspects of their
environments, or because they gravitate
toward and select into jobs that optimize
their unique KSAOs over time.
Age and motivation
Theory and research on work-motivation and
age has also been relatively scarce until
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 106 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
Work Performance and the older Worker 107
recently (Carstensen et al., 1999; Kanfer and
Ackerman, 2004). Similar to expectancy
models of motivation (Vroom, 1964), Kanfer
and Ackerman’s theory of age, adult devel-
opment, and work motivation posits that
motivation is a joint function of age-related
changes in worker competencies relative to
work demands and age-related changes in the
value attached to work outcomes. Kanfer and
Ackerman suggest that the impact of age-
related changes in abilities, knowledge, and
skills on work motivation can only be under-
stood in the context of the worker’s job
demands. Job characteristics, work design,
and organizational responsiveness to modify-
ing older worker roles in light of age-related
changes in competencies thus play a critical
role in determining work motivation. A sec-
ond major influence on work motivation
pertains to age-related changes in the value
attached to workplace outcomes (e.g., social
friendships) and organizationally-controlled
work outcomes (e.g. pay and recognition).
As discussed below, changes in the relative
value accorded compensation over the lifes-
pan may importantly affect work motivation
and willingness to remain on the job. In this
section we address these two major influ-
ences on older worker motivation.
Job characteristics refer to the objective
demands that a work role places on cognitive
and physical abilities and non-cognitive
resources, such as temperament, social skills,
and time. During the mid-to-late 20th cen-
tury, interest in understanding the impact of
job characteristics on work motivation and
job performance has been studied using mod-
els such as Karasek’s (1979) decision latitude
theory and Hackman and Oldham’s (1975)
job characteristics theory. According to these
models, work demands such as task variety
and decision latitude are proposed to influ-
ence psychological factors (e.g., psychologi-
cal meaningfulness of work) that in turn
affect work motivation and job effort.
Although most research on job and work
design has focused on the relationship
between work demands and work motivation
without regard to age, there are many recent
studies documenting age-related differences
in work condition preferences (Boumans, De
Jong, and Janssen, 2011; Sanders, Doren-
bosch, Gründemann, and Blonk, 2011;
Zacher and Frese, 2009). This research sug-
gests that job characteristics are important
for older workers. For example, researchers
have found that jobs rated high on autonomy
and co-worker support contributed to percep-
tions of successful aging including a personal
sense of control and generativity (Sanders
and McCready, 2010). Researchers have also
found more generally that age moderates the
relationship between a job’s motivating
potential score (i.e., a summed index of an
assessment of the autonomy, skill variety,
feedback, task identity, and task significance
of the job), and motivation such that older
workers benefit more than younger workers
from jobs that are intrinsically challenging
and fulfilling (Boumans et al., 2011).
Kooij and her colleagues (2011) have also
recently pursued a motive-based approach to
understanding the features of work that pro-
mote or hinder work motivation as a function
of adult development. In contrast to job char-
acteristics models, which focus on the moti-
vating potential of the job, the motive-based
approach focuses on age-related change in
broad motive classes and their relationship to
the value or importance attached to different
work-related outcomes. Kooij et al. exam-
ined age-related differences in work-related
motives organized in terms of a 2 (intrinsic
or extrinsic focus) × 3 (growth, security, or
affiliation target) framework. They found
significant age-related differences in both
focus and target motive importance, with age
negatively related to growth motives such as
advancement or promotion, but positively
related to the importance of intrinsic work-
related motives.
Consistent with SST and Kanfer and
Ackerman’s theory of age and work motivation
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 107 13/06/2013 6:43:31 PM
(2004), these results indicate high levels of
intrinsic work motives among older workers,
but lower levels of extrinsic motive strength.
For instance, these results suggest that worker
motives for advancement and pay decline
with age, but that older worker motive
strength is stronger than that of younger
workers for fulfilling work, skill utilization,
and autonomous work. These findings are
further consistent with a large-scale cross-
cultural longitudinal study conducted by
Warr (2008) that showed older and younger
workers similarly valued having a responsi-
ble and respectable job aligned with one’s
abilities, but older workers were more likely
than younger workers to value having a job
that contributes to society.
Results of research investigating the value
of interpersonal relationships for older work-
ers have also been intriguing. Kooij et al.’s
(2011) meta-analysis on age and work
motives found that age was positively related
to motivation to help people and contribute
to society, but it was negatively associated
with working directly with other people.
These findings are aligned with SST
(Carstensen et al., 1999) in that not all rela-
tionships are created equal for older workers.
Specifically, the networking/advancement
opportunities that working with others pro-
vide seem to be devalued by older workers
relative to having meaningful experiences
with others (e.g., through mentoring or vol-
unteering), which facilitate deeper emotional
Person–environment fit perspectives offer
a second, less fine-grained approach to
understanding the impact of aging on work
motivation and performance. Fit refers
broadly to the congruence of a person’s
KSAOs, values, and goals to those of the
organization (Kristof, 1996). Multiple-levels
of fit have been examined including: person–
job (PJ) fit (congruence between a person’s
characteristics and the specific characteris-
tics associated with the job and its tasks),
person–organization (PO) fit (congruence
between the employee and the entire organi-
zation), person–group (PG) fit (congruence
between the person and the work group or
team they are working directly with) and
person–supervisor (PS) fit (congruence in
the dyadic relationship of supervisor–
employee; Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, and
Johnson, 2005). SOC theory (Baltes and
Baltes, 1990) suggests that workers are likely
to strive to improve their fit with the work
environment and job throughout their careers.
Indeed, older workers report more congru-
ence between what they want from a job in
terms of opportunity, values, and goals and
what the organization provides, suggesting
that their experience is relatively good com-
pared to younger workers. Furthermore,
these perceptions of fit have been found to be
one of the underlying drivers of the relation-
ship between age and job satisfaction (White
and Spector, 1987).
On the person side of the person–environ-
ment fit equation are traits, many of which are
expected to change with age. Age would
therefore be expected to influence percep-
tions of fit, but little research has specifically
examined this relationship. The research that
has been done suggests that a worker’s per-
ceptions of fit matter. For instance, fit relative
to growth support was significantly predic-
tive of job satisfaction and intentions to leave
an organization for younger, but not older,
workers. Furthermore, perceptions of fit rela-
tive to social interaction/cohesion were sig-
nificantly predictive of satisfaction for older
but not for younger workers (Westerman and
Yamamura, 2007). These findings suggest
that the shift in goals suggested by SST will
influence perceptions of fit differently for
older and younger workers such that percep-
tion of fit will be more influenced by growth
opportunities for younger workers and more
influenced by social factors for older work-
ers. Interestingly, perceptions of fit were not
associated with intentions to leave an organi-
zation for older workers, but were related to
intentions to leave for younger workers. This
is perhaps a function of limited mobility in
terms of job change for older versus younger
workers. That is, factors such as perceived
effort in attaining new employment, loyalty
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Work Performance and the older Worker 109
to the organization, work becoming less cen-
tral to one’s identity may diminish the value
placed on job change for older workers.
In sum, research to date on person–envi-
ronment fit suggests that changes in KSOs
through the lifespan importantly influence
perceptions of fit. Job characteristics include
the task demands of available jobs and there-
fore, the market shift from physically
demanding to knowledge work over the last
30 years should benefit older workers, espe-
cially when jobs do not tax abilities that are
likely to decline with age (i.e., Gf abilities).
Although older workers can depend largely
on the knowledge and experiences they have
accumulated throughout their careers, this
may not be possible in some types of jobs.
From a motivational perspective, however,
intrinsic motivation for performing routine
tasks may decline over the lifespan, thus
reducing motivation to remain in a job that
affords few opportunities for full skill utiliza-
tion. For workers in these jobs, work redesign
that permits greater skill utilization can be
expected to increase work motivation through
its satisfaction of motives related to genera-
tivity and opportunities for new achieve-
ments. For example, aircraft pilots perform
tasks that are age-sensitive and they may,
with experience, maintain their performance
using compensatory strategies. Over time,
however, aircraft pilots may want to further
develop their skill set and move toward alter-
native roles such as aircraft testing or pilot
It is notable that with very few exceptions
(e.g., see Warr, 2008) research on aging,
motivation, job attitudes, and PJ fit is cross-
sectional in nature. Cross-sectional research
is valuable, efficient, and a good place to start
to understand how age differences affect
work attitudes and motivation. Nevertheless,
these studies are somewhat limited because
cohort effects cannot be ruled out. A cohort
effect is the influence of shared attributes of a
generation of people who came of age within
a socio-cultural context that potentially
affects attitudes, values, and perspectives. It
may be, for example, that people who grew
up in the Baby Boomer generation (i.e., born
1946–1964) will have different work-related
values than GenX (born 1965–1981) or Mil-
lennials (a.k.a., Generation Y and Generation
ME, born 1982–1999). A specific example is
the finding that older adults are more satisfied
with their current jobs because they select
opportunities throughout their career that
optimize their KSAOs (i.e., SOC theory; Bal-
tes and Baltes, 1990). An alternative explana-
tion owing to cohort effects would be that
older generations are simply easier to please
than younger. Because this research is cross-
sectional in nature, this alternative explana-
tion cannot be ruled out.
Research does indeed show that both
cohort and age influence work-related values
(e.g., Smola and Sutton, 2002). A recent
study by Twenge, Campbell, Hoffman, and
Lance (2010) addressed the cohort versus
age question by comparing the self-reported
work values of graduating high school sen-
iors in 1976 (Baby Boomers), those graduat-
ing in 1991 (GenX), and those graduating in
2006 (Millennials). Although this study is
not longitudinal per se, it does address cohort
issues in that each of the samples was at the
same developmental age (i.e., early adult-
hood) when surveyed. Results showed evi-
dence of cohort effects in values: Leisure
activity as opposed to work, for example,
was most valued by Millennials followed by
GenX and then Baby Boomers. And although
there was no difference between GenX and
Baby Boomers in their value of interesting
and meaningful work, Millennials were less
likely to value work-related intrinsic rewards.
Furthermore, both Millennials and GenX
were more likely than Baby Boomers to
value extrinsic rewards such as pay and pro-
motion. In sum, these findings paint a picture
of younger generations that are more likely
than older generations to value non-work
activities, status, and monetary rewards.
Moreover, these findings generally suggest
that longitudinal or cohort sequential designs
are warranted to separate the effects of
cohort from age in the study of workplace
attitudes and motivation.
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 109 13/06/2013 6:43:32 PM
In sum, research on work demands and fit
suggests that adult development selectively
affects worker competencies and motives.
Findings to date suggest that changes in work
motivation pertain to changes in person–job
fit, rather than as a consequence of an intrin-
sic change in motivation per se. Because
coming of age within a socio-cultural milieu
does influence attitudes about and motives
for work, it is important for future research to
disentangle cohort from aging effects. Future
research is also needed to examine the impact
of different components in work redesign
efforts on older worker motivation in jobs
where person–job fit may be affected by age-
related changes in person competencies.
To this point, we have discussed the impact
of age on work performance in terms of age-
related changes in the worker. A second,
powerful impact of age on work performance
pertains to the socio-cultural milieu in which
the individual works. The views that others
hold about a worker’s competencies and per-
formance can exert direct and indirect effects
on worker performance. Research to exam-
ine these issues has occurred in the context of
studies investigating the effects of age stere-
otypes. Age-related stereotypes are beliefs
and expectations about people based on their
age. These stereotypes are pervasive and can
affect attitudes and perceptions about older
workers that, in turn, impact organizational
culture, performance ratings, opportunities
for advancement, and worker withdrawal
from the organization (Cheung, Kam, and
Ngan, 2011). Age-related stereotypes are
both positive and negative, and are thought
to operate on a more subconscious level than
stereotypes about race and sex, which may
ultimately make them more insidious (Post-
huma and Campion, 2009). On the positive
side, older workers are considered to be more
reliable, loyal, and productive than younger
workers. At the same time, however, they are
considered to be costly, inflexible, hard to
train, and unable to keep up with technology.
Age-related bias is defined more broadly
than stereotypes and encompasses a range of
perceptions and behaviors that could affect
the work environment. There are three com-
ponents to Finkelstein and Farrell’s (2007)
view of age-related bias: stereotypes are the
cognitive component, prejudice is the affec-
tive component, and discrimination is the
behavioral component.
Although most organizations report that
the benefits of employing older workers
outweigh the costs, many also indicate a
preference for hiring younger over older job
applicants (Johnson, 2007). Ageism research
does not generally point to overt discrimina-
tion against older workers per se, but sug-
gests that age-related bias can affect job
performance both directly, through overt
bias influencing subjective performance rat-
ings, and indirectly, through the organiza-
tional culture. For instance, subjective per-
formance ratings of older workers will be
affected by stereotypes of doddering older
workers who may be dependable but slow
and inflexible, regardless of the worker’s
abilities. Rater age relative to the worker
being rated will also affect performance rat-
ings. Shore, Cleveland, and Goldberg (2003)
found, for example, that a mismatch between
worker and supervisor age tended to disad-
vantage older workers, who were less likely
to be thought of as having ‘potential’ by
younger raters, whereas older raters showed
no difference in their ratings of the potential
of older and younger workers. Surprisingly,
this study also reported that older raters were
likely to rate older workers less favorably
overall than younger workers. Younger
raters, by contrast, were actually likely to
rate older workers more favorably than the
older raters were. These puzzling findings
suggest that older raters may internalize age-
related stereotypes relative to poor perfor-
mance. They also highlight the importance
of examining both the age of the worker and
the age of the rater in research on age-related
bias in performance ratings.
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Work Performance and the older Worker 111
Whereas the direct impact of age-related
bias on subjective performance ratings is
straightforward, research suggests that it may
not be pervasive. A recent review of age-
related stereotypes in the workplace identi-
fied 24 articles or book chapters that reported
that performance ratings were directly
affected by age-related bias (Posthuma and
Campion, 2009), but roughly the same num-
ber of articles or book chapters that found
little or no support for bias affecting ratings.
Indeed the meta-analyses on the age and job
performance relationship discussed earlier
found no reliable support that rating type
(i.e., subjective/supervisor rating versus
objective) affected the age and job perfor-
mance relationship (Ng and Feldman, 2008;
Waldman and Avolio, 1986). If age-related
bias were pervasive, one would expect that
subjective ratings would be systematically
lower for older workers than more objective
ratings of job performance.
Nonetheless, the indirect effect of age-related
bias on the age–job performance relationship
is seen in its influence on the organizational
culture, which in turn affects the behavior of
older workers themselves (Greller and Stroh,
1995). Field research has shown that both
younger and older people are likely to hold
negative age-related stereotypes about the
competence of older workers (Kite, Stock-
dale, Whitley, and Johnson, 2005; Posthuma
and Campion, 2009). For instance, older
workers’ own perceptions of declining abili-
ties and motivation with age influence their
attitudes toward their own retirement and
participation in development activities at
work (Maurer, Barbeite, Weiss, and Lipp-
streu, 2008). The antecedents of these percep-
tions include both the older workers’ personal
observations of changes in their own abilities
and the promulgation of age-related stereo-
types that influence the organizational culture
and are internalized by older employees.
Recent research, including large-scale field
studies further suggests that perceptions of an
organizational climate of age-discrimination
negatively impact affective commitment
toward the organization, which in turn, will
negatively affect organization performance
(Kunze, Boehm, and Bruch, 2011). Percep-
tions of discrimination are also negatively
related to motivation and perceptions of
organizational support, and positively related
to fear of failure (Rabl, 2010).
Recent research has examined moderators
of the relationship between age-related bias
and work-related outcomes; specifically,
causal attributions that are made regarding
performance. For instance, this work has
examined whether performance errors are
attributed to stable causes that are outside of
the employee’s control or to unstable and
changeable causes (Erber and Long, 2006;
Rupp, Vodanovich, and Credé, 2006). The
results of this research show that people
make age-related attributions that influence
work-related outcomes. Rupp et al. found,
for example, that raters gave harsher penal-
ties to older targets based on bad perfor-
mance because they were likely to attribute
this poor performance to stable causes (i.e.,
age-related memory lapses). Although this
research suffers from limited generalizability
because it has largely been conducted with
‘paper people’ in a lab setting, it is an impor-
tant step in further dissecting ageist attitudes
that may affect the job performance of older
Indeed, much of the early research on age-
related bias in the applied literature (e.g.,
starting with Rosen and Jerdee’s, 1976, first
study of age-related stereotypes for working
adults), suffers from a generalizability prob-
lem. These studies are usually simulations
conducted in laboratory settings, where eval-
uators, often graduate or undergraduate stu-
dents, are asked to provide opinions about
training, promoting, evaluating a target per-
son’s behavior (often a written scenario). A
meta-analysis by Finkelstein, Burke, and
Raju (1995) for example, used exclusively
simulation studies and found evidence for
age-related stereotypes. Although laboratory
research is beneficial because it can isolate
effects that might otherwise be difficult to
examine in the field, there are differences
between field and lab research on age-related
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 111 13/06/2013 6:43:32 PM
stereotypes, not the least of which is the lim-
ited contact college students have with older
workers. Gordon and Arvey (2004) found,
for instance, that studies examining age ste-
reotypes and attitudes in the field reported
significantly smaller effect sizes than those
studies examining age bias in the laboratory,
although notably, effect sizes in both the field
and laboratory were significantly different
from zero. In total, there is no argument that
age-related bias exists, but there is debate
about the magnitude of the effects and its
impact on meaningful outcomes.
In sum, age-related bias can affect the per-
formance of older workers both directly and
indirectly. The limited research that has been
conducted on how to remedy the negative
effects of age-related bias suggests that the
pervasive nature of stereotypes may recede
somewhat as the mean age of the workforce
continues to increase – that is, as older work-
ers can increasingly identify with their work
group (Garstka, Schmitt, Branscombe, and
Hummert, 2004). Until then, however, age-
related bias remains a potentially negative
influence on older worker motivation and
Our brief review of the age and job perfor-
mance literature suggests that the relationship
of chronological age to work performance
is multi-determined. Job performance is
not simply a function of aging, nor of any
uniform age-related decline in abilities or
motivation. Rather, we propose that age-
related differences in work behavior and job
performance stem from the joint and some-
times synergistic influences of multiple
dynamic factors indicated in Figure 6.1;
namely, person competencies and demands,
job demands, and organizational and socio-
cultural features. These factors operate in
unison to influence motivation to work and
motivation at work for all workers, but
understanding their impact on older workers
requires identification of the changes that
occur in each of these domains for older
workers and their impact on motivation, per-
formance, and worker well-being.
In this chapter we have reviewed and dis-
cussed theory and research that informs each
of the relevant influences on the age and job
performance relationship. The realities of the
impact of aging of the workforce are upon
us, and as such, researchers have recently
redoubled their efforts in this area. As evi-
dence of this, much of the research we
review above has been conducted within the
past decade. Nonetheless, it is clear that
many unanswered questions remain. Here we
outline what we consider to be the most
imperative questions for future research on
the age and job performance relationship.
Recommendation #1: Explore new
conceptions of person attributes
There currently exists a voluminous litera-
ture on the impact of chronological age on
cognitive abilities, and over the past decade,
researchers have also begun investigating
age-related changes in personality traits
(Roberts et al., 2006), work attitudes (Ng and
Feldman, 2010), and work-related motives
(Kooij et al., 2011). To date, however,
research has focused primarily on well-
established person attributes. In the area of
personality and achievement, for example,
we know relatively little about the midlife
emergence of generativity motives (McAd-
ams and de St Aubin, 1992) or age-related
distinctions in achievement directed toward
extrinsic versus intrinsic accomplishments.
Further research is needed to understand the
developmental trajectories of person attrib-
utes as a function of work and non-work
experiences, and how these trajectories affect
the individual’s navigation through work
roles and impact on job performance. Indi-
vidual differences in job performance over
the lifespan, for example, may lie more in
how workers navigate career and work roles
than in age-related changes in specific abili-
ties or traits.
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 112 13/06/2013 6:43:32 PM
Work Performance and the older Worker 113
Recommendation #2: Expand
conceptions of work environment
Contemporary research has focused increas-
ingly on the role that work context plays in
work motivation and job performance. In the
present context, older workers face diverse
and distinct challenges related to age-stereo-
typing. Although evidence on age-related
increases in conscientiousness and pro-social
motivation may translate into the increased
attractiveness of older workers for jobs that
place heavy demands on interpersonal skills,
evidence on age-related declines in fluid
abilities and speed has also translated into
negative age stereotypes about older worker
capabilities for performing work that places
high demands on memory or fast informa-
tion-processing. The generalization of these
findings to age stereotypes that go beyond
the data can reduce older worker motivation
and create artificial constraints on job perfor-
mance. For example, there is little evidence
on age-related differences in innovation to
indicate that older workers are less innova-
tive than younger workers. Similarly,
research on age-related differences in skill
training that shows longer training times for
older workers does not take into account the
impact of training formats that may disad-
vantage older workers, or differences in
incentive value of training for workers at
different ages. Research is needed to exam-
ine the precise mechanisms through which
bias related to age stereotypes occurs in the
work environment and the impact of these
biases on older worker attitudes and perfor-
mance. In a similar vein but from a different
perspective, research is needed to examine
the extent to which human resource manage-
ment practices related to compensation and
work role design affect older worker motivation
and performance. Finally, the development
of a valid and systematic way to understand
contextualized ability and task demands is
needed to permit a more fine-grained analy-
sis of how job complexity moderates the age
and job performance relationship and would
be a potentially useful area of future research.
For example, understanding the extent to
which jobs require novel problem solving
and memory ability (i.e., Gf) and the extent
to which they rely on knowledge and experi-
ence (i.e., Gc) will permit better placement
of older workers into jobs in which they will
thrive throughout their work life.
Recommendation #3: Expand the
operationalization of age and utilize
longitudinal design
Chronological age may not provide all of the
relevant information about the psychological
processes and self-perceptions associated
with aging that may be relevant in the con-
text of work. Although researchers have
expanded the operationalization of age to
include its psychological aspects, and have
shown that psychological age and chrono-
logical age do not predict the same outcomes,
it is relatively rare for researchers to include
assessment of psychological age in their
research studies. One of the most straightfor-
ward recommendations we have for future
research is that researchers more consistently
include an explicit consideration of psycho-
logical age in addition to chronological age.
The research discussed herein addresses
significant gaps in our knowledge about how
aging is related to work performance.
Although this research is informative, most
of it is limited because it is impossible to rule
out cohort influences in cross-sectional
research. Moreover, cross-sectional research
cannot account for threats to validity such as
natural selection/attrition. For instance, older
workers in an organization are likely those
who have thrived or at least survived there
for a number of years and they are likely to
be strong performers. Although selective
attrition will affect the results of both cross-
sectional and longitudinal research designs,
longitudinal designs have an advantage in at
least documenting its effect. Cross-sectional
research has been effective and efficient in
examining the relationship between age and
job performance, but many of the questions
we are now interested in asking require
06-Filed-Hbk-Ch-06 Part II.indd 113 13/06/2013 6:43:32 PM
longitudinal methods. Longitudinal research
on age and job performance will certainly not
be easy, but is not impossible (Warr, 2008).
The effort promises to pay off in terms of
illuminating many unanswered questions
about age and job performance.
This chapter was framed around two ques-
tions. What is the relationship between age
and job performance? And what are the indi-
vidual differences and situational factors that
play a role in understanding this relationship?
As of this writing, researchers are intensifying
their focus on both questions, but much work
remains to be done. Although there is substan-
tial evidence for age-related changes in person
attributes and age-related bias, decades of
work do not show these factors affecting the
relationship between age and job perfor-
mance. Understanding how changes in per-
son-related factors with age map to changes in
job demands in the context of socio-cultural
environment (e.g., workplace climate) affect
the age–performance relationship requires
that we study these variables over time and in
context. Our review also suggests that future
advances will require greater theoretical
sophistication in understanding how the
dynamics of worker, work role, and socio-
environmental variables interact, with greater
attention to identifying worker, job, and envi-
ronment interactions that promote and hinder
sustained employability in late life. We argue
that such research is both timely and relevant
for worker well-being, organizational produc-
tivity, and the societies in which workers and
organizations are embedded.
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... These prejudices are transferred to the workplace environment. As Beier and Kanfer (2013) point out, the prejudice regarding older workers' supposedly poorer job performance is possibly one of the most deeply rooted ones in developed countries, affecting such workers even to the point of hindering their recruitment (Loretto and White 2006;McGann et al. 2016). Some of the stereotypes that older workers must face are: being labelled as people with lower productivity, being reluctant to change, having less memory capacity, rejecting orders given by younger people, and having greater difficulties learning new tools or complex tasks (McGann et al. 2016). ...
... Some of the stereotypes that older workers must face are: being labelled as people with lower productivity, being reluctant to change, having less memory capacity, rejecting orders given by younger people, and having greater difficulties learning new tools or complex tasks (McGann et al. 2016). They are viewed as inflexible and as having little capacity and great reluctance to use technology, all of which purportedly makes them difficult to train (Beier and Kanfer 2013). ...
... However, further stereotypes attributed to older workers are that they are less inclined to being trained at work, or have less motivation at the workplace, as well as less motivation in the acquisition of skills (Maurer et al. 2008;Hsu 2013;Vickerstaff and Van der Horst 2019), especially when they are approaching retirement age (Martin et al. 2014). Indeed, it has been argued that changes in older workers' cognitive abilities reduce their motivation to develop such new competencies (Beier and Kanfer 2013). Results obtained by Carmichael and Ercolani (2014) indicated that workers over 50 completed fewer hours of training than younger ones; throughout the European Union, older workers were ultimately less likely to participate in training in general and in on-the-job training in particular. ...
Age can lead to stigmatization, which is aggravated in groups that are already at risk of exclusion, such as women. This intersectional bias between age and gender (gendered ageism) affects so-called mature workers (aged 50 and over) in different ways. These can include the prejudices on the part of employers and workers regarding their skills and competencies, as well as regarding their motivation to participate in training. In this article we analyse mature female workers’ level of training, motivation, and use of job-related skills, with the aim of providing evidence that breaks with ageist gender prejudices on this issue. We conducted a descriptive analysis using ANOVA, and we applied structural equation modelling in an analysis of the PIAAC data of the OECD (2016), dividing the entire sample (n.=31,739) into four subsamples (women -50; women 50+; men -50; men 50+). In our descriptive analysis, female older workers achieve the highest scores in almost all the variables. Our proposed model, resulting from multigroup comparisons among the four subsamples, has a more optimal fit and structural coefficients of greater weight in mature female workers than in younger ones, especially regarding the influence of informal learning at work on the level of use of job-related skills.
... The construct of job performance is an intuitively simple construct that is notoriously difficult to define and operationalize [56]. Kozlowski [51] mentions that there is no universally accepted definition of employee job performance. ...
... Stewart and Brown [54] define task performance as the employee behavior that directly contributes to producing goods or services. Beier and Kanfer [56] state task performance varies based on the requirements of the job, but is generally measured in either subjective (i.e., supervisor ratings) or objective (e.g., sales or production numbers) ways. Stewart and Brown [54] write: "Task performance occurs when employees perform actions that transform raw materials into goods and services. ...
... In addition, they [54] point to the proven association of organizational citizenship behavior with adequate pay, praise, and appreciation for well-performed duties as well as positive working conditions. Beier and Kanfer [56] discuss organizational citizenship behavior under contextual performance. They [56] further state that contextual performance includes behaviors that positively influence work environments; for example, volunteering for extra work, helping others and following organizational rules even when they are inconvenient (i.e., organizational citizenship behaviors, OCBs). ...
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Abstract: Some of the frequently used buzz words in the corporate sector include green leadership, green human resource management, green employee engagement and green work-life balance. The intention of this article is to identify and examine the logical reasons that govern “green work-life balance” or, in simple terms, “greenwashing” work-life balance. The paper also aims at providing a comprehensive conceptualization of work-life balance, while thoroughly examining the components of measuring the construct. Based on a cross-sectional study in the banking industry with a sample of 170 managerial employees, this study analyzes the impact of work-life balance on employee job performance mediated by employee engagement. Results support the assumed relationship between work-life balance and employee job performance embedded in employee engagement. The theoretical contribution of this study concerns the application of role behavior theory to describe the mechanisms shaping the relationship between work-life balance and job performance through employee engagement. The practical implications of the paper include recommendations for improving job performance by enhancing the work-life balance and strengthening employee engagement.
... The notion that older employees have lower job performance and productivity compared to younger employees is one of the most commonly accepted misconceptions in organizations (Beier & Kanfer, 2013). Despite copious research on the relationship between age-related stereotypes and employment decisions (Bal et al., 2011;Ilmakunnas & Maliranta, 2005;Posthuma & Campion, 2009), there is still limited empirical evidence showing the relationship between age and labor productivity (Conen et al., 2012). ...
... Another common age-related stereotype is that older employers are unwilling or unable to upgrade their skills (Mulders, 2020) and are less flexible or adaptable (DeArmond et al., 2006;Kleissner & Jahn, 2020). Similarly, older workers are often thought to be challenging to train and may incur high training costs because of their shorter potential job duration (Beier & Kanfer, 2013). However, previous research showed no evidence of a relationship between applicants' age and adaptability at work . ...
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Ageism in today's workplace can have a range of detrimental emotional, psychological, and economic effects on older job seekers. This article highlights types of ageism in the workplace and the most common age‐related stereotypes in the hiring process and on the job. We explore how ageism negatively affects the emotional and psychological, physical, and financial health of older job seekers, older workers, and organizations. Finally, we conclude with the implications for supporting older job seekers in navigating reeducation and learning for obtaining employment.
... Aging and lifespan development research has long argued that cognitive, affective, and behavioral differences exist among age-diverse employees (Beier & Kanfer, 2013;Kanfer & Ackerman, 2004;T. Salthouse, 2012;T. ...
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The global trend of increasing age diversity in workforces has called for research on understanding and managing age differences to better integrate employees across the lifespan into organizations. Integrating aging and lifespan development research and inclusion work, we conduct a daily diary study to investigate age differences in employees’ responses to inclusion experience on a daily basis. In light of socioemotional selectivity theory, we argue that older workers exhibit stronger affective shifts (i.e., increase or upshift in positive affect and decrease or downshift in negative affect) in response to inclusion experience because they are likely to put higher value on social relationships, such that the daily effects of inclusion experience on changes in positive and negative affect are stronger for older (vs. younger) workers through the mediating mechanism of relationship value. We tested our hypotheses by surveying 128 employees from a manufacturing company for 10 consecutive workdays (N = 1,248). We found that the daily effects of inclusion experience on affective changes were stronger for older workers through the mediation of higher relationship value. Changes in positive and negative affect, in turn, related to employees’ work engagement over the course of a workday. Our study serves as an important initial step that examines age differences in affective responses to daily inclusion and sheds light on the importance of promoting workplace inclusion for older workers in particular. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Given the global trend of labor force aging and the ongoing challenge of engaging mature-age workers, researchers have begun to explore human resource practices that are tailored to the needs of mature-age workers. However, knowledge about how such practices influence older individuals’ motivation at work is limited. Drawing upon signaling theory, we developed and examined a model that specifies why and when mature-age practices are helpful in engaging mature-age workers. Using time-lagged data from 135 Chinese workers aged 40 years or above, we found that mature-age practices are associated with mature-age workers’ focus on opportunities. Moreover, mature-age practices had a positive indirect effect on mature-age workers’ work engagement through their focus on opportunities. This positive indirect effect of mature-age practices on work engagement via focusing on opportunities was stronger for mature-age workers with lower rather than higher work centrality. The findings are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications for the aging workforce management literature and practical implications are provided for managers seeking to engage mature-age workers.
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Due to population aging and its implications for organizations and societies, organizational practices for older workers (OPOWs) play a relevant role in multiple research disciplines. So far, most reviews on this topic operationalize organizational practices as antecedents of older workers’ outcomes. We extend this perspective by illustrating multilevel antecedents and outcomes of OPOWs. In doing so, we demonstrate how these organizational practices directly and indirectly affect older workers, organizations, and society and how, in turn, older workers, organizations and society impact OPOWs. Drawing on a literature review, we discuss key theories and present current empirical findings from multiple research disciplines to propose an integrated cross-disciplinary model with the potential to guide future research and practice.
As the workforce ages, organizations are increasing their efforts to retain retirement-eligible workers to avoid human capital shortages and preserve knowledge reservoirs. Nevertheless, the potential factors and underlying mechanisms relating to the retention of retirement-eligible workers have rarely been examined. The current research investigates how retirement-eligible workers may be retained by the organization through human capital development activities. Specifically, we draw upon the motivated choice framework to investigate the joint implications of individual (i.e., individual growth need) and organizational factors (i.e., climate for developing older workers and age-inclusive climate) for retirement-eligible workers' training participation and thereby retention. We tested our hypotheses with two samples in the Netherlands. Study 1 utilized the two-wave, multilevel survey data (2015-2018) from the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute Pension Panel Study (N = 3,200 older workers from 409 organizations). We found that individual growth need and climate for developing older workers had positive associations with training participation, which in turn was positively related to older workers' decision to stay (vs. retire) despite retirement eligibility. In addition, age-inclusive climate amplified the positive relationship between individual growth need and training participation. Study 2 utilized the two-wave Longitudinal Internet studies for the Social Sciences panel data (N = 301 older workers). We replicated result patterns from Study 1 and found that person-organization fit and needs-supplies fit mediated the relationship between training participation and retirement-eligible workers' intention to stay. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
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El envejecimiento de la fuerza de trabajo debido a los cambios sociodemográficos globales plantea un conjunto de retos y de oportunidades cuya gestión es compleja y cuyos resultados pueden traer consigo consecuencias muy diversas para las personas y para las organizaciones. El principal objetivo de este artículo es analizar los más importantes identificados por la investigación internacional aplicados al contexto iberoamericano. Tras una contextualización de esos cambios sociodemográficos y sus impactos en el mundo del trabajo en los países de Iberoamérica, se abordan tres de los principales retos. En primer lugar, el relacionado con los conceptos de edad cronológica y edad subjetiva, así como otros tipos de conceptualizaciones de la edad aplicados en contextos organizacionales y laborales. En segundo lugar, analizar la evidencia disponible sobre la motivación, las actitudes y el desempeño de los trabajadores mayores, con objeto de reflexionar y cuestionar los estereotipos heredados acerca de su comportamiento y capacidad laboral. Y en tercer lugar, identificar los principales elementos del enfoque de la empleabilidad sostenible, con el que se pretende responder al reto de mantener y prolongar la vida laboral de los trabajadores mayores en buenas condiciones de satisfacción, desempeño, bienestar y salud. El artículo concluye identificando algunas de las principales futuras líneas de investigación e intervención en este ámbito cuya importancia seguirá aumentando en los próximos años
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Research on retirement decisions has invited studies to examine how personal, work-related, and environmental factors interplay to affect older workers’ retirement decisions. Drawing upon the person-environment fit framework, we proposed a negative relationship between high-involvement work practices (HIWPs) and older workers’ retirement intention. We further developed hypotheses regarding the moderating effects of gender, age, educational level, managerial status, and external economic environment on the relationship between HIWPs and retirement intention. We tested the hypotheses using a sample of 754,856 employees aged 50 and over from 360 U.S. government agencies participating in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey from 2006 to 2015. The results, based on mixed effect logit regressions and cross-classified modeling, indicated that older workers’ experience of HIWPs had a negative relationship with their retirement intention, and the negative relationship was stronger for older men workers, older workers aged 50–59 years, older workers without a bachelor's degree, and non-managerial older workers than for older women workers, those aged 60 years or over, those with a bachelor's degree, and those with managerial responsibilities, respectively. Moreover, the results showed that the negative HIWPs-retirement intention relationship has become stronger since the Great Recession of 2008. We discussed the theoretical and practical implications of older workers’ retirement decisions by considering the interactions between human resource management practices and personal and environmental factors. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Taking the New-Work ideal of self-concordant, sovereign and well-being-generating work seriously ultimately requires a way of thinking that goes beyond the individual and organizational level and takes political conditions into account.
This study expanded the scope of knowledge typically included in intellectual assessment to incorporate domains of current-events knowledge from the 1930s to the 1990s across the areas of art/humanities, politics/economics, popular culture, and nature/science/technology. Results indicated that age of participants was significantly and positively related to knowledge about current events. Moreover, fluid intelligence was a less effective predictor of knowledge levels than was crystallized intelligence. Personality (i.e., Openness to Experience) and self-concept were also positively related to current-events knowledge. The results are consistent with an investment theory of adult intellect, which views development as an ongoing outcome of the combined influences of intelligence-as-process, personality, and interests, leading to intelligence-as-knowledge (P. L. Ackerman, 1996b).
The projected labor force growth over the next 10 years will be affected by the aging of the baby-boom generation; as a result, the labor force is projected to grow at a slower rate than in the last several decades