Millennials’ (Lack of) Attitude Problem: An Empirical Examination of Generational Effects on Work Attitudes

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the sparse empirical literature on generational differences at work by examining (1) the effect of generation on work attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction, job security, and turnover intentions) and (2) how Millennials’ work attitudes differ from prior generations.

Design/Methodology/Approach

Data were collected from a diverse sample of U.S. employees (N = 115,044) obtained from 18 years of repeated administrations of the Kenexa WorkTrends™ employee opinion survey. The data were analyzed using a hierarchical age-period-cohort regression model which has been recommended for the analysis of generational effects using repeated cross-sectional data.

Findings

In general, work attitudes differed across generations, although effect sizes were relatively small and depended on the work attitude. Compared to Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials reported higher levels of overall company and job satisfaction, satisfaction with job security, recognition, and career development and advancement, but reported similar levels of satisfaction with pay and benefits and the work itself, and turnover intentions.

Implications

While generational differences do exist, whether they warrant special programs for Millennials is debatable. The cost of tailoring an intervention to each generation should be weighed against the potential benefits of considering generational differences.

Originality/Value

To our knowledge, no study has empirically examined differences in work attitudes across five generations while controlling for the confounding effects of age and time period.

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Correspondence to Brenda J. Kowske.

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Kowske, B.J., Rasch, R. & Wiley, J. Millennials’ (Lack of) Attitude Problem: An Empirical Examination of Generational Effects on Work Attitudes. J Bus Psychol 25, 265–279 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-010-9171-8

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Keywords

  • Generational differences
  • Millennials
  • Gen Y
  • Work attitudes
  • WorkTrends
  • HAPC