Generational Differences in Work Ethic: Fact or Fiction?

Abstract

Even though stereotypes suggest that older generational cohorts (e.g., Baby Boomers) endorse higher levels of work ethic than younger generations (e.g., Millennials), both the academic literature and popular press have found mixed evidence as to whether or not generational differences actually exist. To examine whether generational differences exist in work ethic, a dataset was compiled (k = 105) of all published studies that provided an average sample age and average work ethic score, with each sample becoming an observation, and being assigned a generational cohort based upon the average age of the sample. Three hierarchical multiple regressions found no effect of generational cohort on work ethic endorsement. In two of the three phases, results found a main effect of sample type, such that industry samples had higher work ethic endorsement than student samples. Implications for applied practitioners and future research streams for generational and work ethic research are discussed.

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Zabel, K.L., Biermeier-Hanson, B.B.J., Baltes, B.B. et al. Generational Differences in Work Ethic: Fact or Fiction?. J Bus Psychol 32, 301–315 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-016-9466-5

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Keywords

  • Work ethic
  • Generational differences
  • Twenty-first-century skills
  • Aging