By Courtney von Hippel, Elise Kalokerinos, and Julie Henry.
Courtney’s earlier research demonstrates that people who feel stereotyped at work (e.g., women in male dominated professions, men in female dominated professions) have more negative job attitudes and greater intentions to quit their jobs. Older employees are often stereotyped at work (e.g., they can be seen as resistant to change), but it is not clear whether they are also susceptible to disengagement from work when they feel stereotyped at work on the basis of their age.
What was done?
This research examined whether employees feel stereotyped at work based on their age and how feeling stereotyped relates to job engagement.
What did they find?
Based on data with over 1000 Australian employees, they found that:
- both older and younger employees are susceptible to feeling stereotyped on the basis of their age at work
- feeling stereotyped at work is only problematic for older employees
- older employees who felt stereotyped reported more negative job attitudes (job satisfaction, commitment), poorer work mental health, greater intentions to quit their jobs, and (in certain industries) greater intentions to retire
This research project was followed up to help uncover why feeling stereotyped is uniquely problematic for older employees. A sneak peek at one of their findings shows that older employees are more likely to ruminate on feeling stereotyped, which helps explain why they experience negative consequences when their younger counterparts do not. Stay tuned for the publication.
What does this mean?
To address the predicted labour shortage caused by the aging population in Australia, policy makers and organizations have created inducements to retain older employees and delay retirement. Such inducements can be effective, but they may still fail if they neglect important countervailing forces. One such force is negative stereotypes of older workers. A more complete understanding of the consequences of feeling stereotyped is needed to inform the development of effective interventions that enhance resilience and reduce vulnerability to age-based stereotyping.
This summary is based on the paper:
von Hippel, C., Kalokerinos, E. K., & Henry, J. D. (2013). Stereotype threat among older employees: Relationship with job attitudes and turnover intentions. Psychology and Aging, 28, 17-27. doi:10.1037/a0029825
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