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Generational Differences in Work Ethic: An Examination of Measurement Equivalence Across Three Cohorts

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to examine the differences across three generational cohorts (Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) on dimensions of the work ethic construct using the multidimensional work ethic profile (MWEP).

Design/Methodology/Approach

Data were collected from multiple samples and combined into a large database (N = 1860). Measurement equivalence was examined using Raju et al.’s (1995) differential functioning of items and tests (DFIT) procedure.

Findings

Several dimensions of the MWEP were not equivalent across cohorts, indicating that item content may not operate in the same manner across groups. When equivalent, several significant mean differences were detected across cohorts, indicating that respondents do differ in important work-related attitudes and behaviors.

Implications

Despite several reviews of generational differences across cohorts, relatively few empirical examinations have been undertaken, and no studies have yet examined the measurement equivalence of constructs across generational cohorts. These findings provide evidence that differences do exist across cohorts on dimensions of work ethic, and some differences may be a result of respondents interpreting content in different ways. Managers of multigenerational employees should consider these differences in managing employees and conflict that may arise as a result.

Originality/Value

This is one of the first studies to provide empirical evidence of generational differences in the work ethic construct. In addition, this is the first study to evaluate the measurement equivalence of a work ethic inventory or any other work related individual difference construct across generational cohorts.

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Correspondence to John P. Meriac.

Appendix

Appendix

Tables 5, 6, 7 include all DFIT results. Indices reported are based on all items in each MWEP subscale.

Table 5 Millennials and Baby Boomers: DIF and DTF estimates for MWEP subscales
Table 6 Generation X and Baby Boomers: DIF and DTF estimates for MWEP subscales
Table 7 Generation X and Millennials: DIF and DTF estimates for MWEP subscales

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Meriac, J.P., Woehr, D.J. & Banister, C. Generational Differences in Work Ethic: An Examination of Measurement Equivalence Across Three Cohorts. J Bus Psychol 25, 315–324 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-010-9164-7

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Keywords

  • Work ethic
  • Generational cohorts
  • Millennials
  • Generation X
  • Baby Boomers