Younger workers’ attitudes and perceptions towards older colleagues

Patel, J. and Tinker, A. and Corna, Laurie (2018) Younger workers’ attitudes and perceptions towards older colleagues. Working with Older People, 22 (3). pp. 129-138.

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate younger workers’ perceptions of older colleagues, including whether there is evidence of ageism. Design/methodology/approach Convenience sampling was used to recruit ten individuals who were both below the age of 35 and employed at a multigenerational workplace in England. The study is qualitative, involving semi-structured interviews that were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Findings This study found that whilst some younger employees valued working with older colleagues as they believe that their differing characteristics are complementary, others felt that it leads to intergenerational conflict due to contrasting approaches towards work. Positive perceptions of older workers included their increased knowledge and experience, reliability and better social skills; however, ageism was also prevalent, such as the perception of older workers as resistant to change, slower at using technology and lacking the drive to progress. This study also provided evidence for the socioemotional selectivity and social identity theories. Research limitations/implications This study has a small sample size and participants were only recruited from London. Practical implications In order to create working environments that are conducive to the well-being of employees of all ages, organisations should place an emphasis on reducing intergenerational tension. This could be achieved by team building sessions that provide an opportunity for individuals to understand generational differences. Originality/value There is minimal evidence from the UK focussing on the perceptions of specifically younger workers towards older colleagues and the basis of their attitudes. Only by gaining an insight into their attitudes and the reasoning behind them, can efforts be made to decrease ageism.

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