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Older workers' motivation: against the myth of general decline

Christian Stamov‐Roßnagel (Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany)
Guido Hertel (Psychological Institute III, Westfälische Wilhelms‐Universität Münster, Münster, Germany)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 29 June 2010




The purpose of this paper is to establish a theory‐based and empirically grounded platform to assess age‐related changes in work motivation, and to derive motivational interventions in personnel management.


The general approach is one of conceptual transfer: to cast work psychological phenomena in lifespan psychological terms to generate the tenets.


Rather than declining uniformly, older workers' motivation develops in a multidirectional, multilevel way. Motivation decline in certain types of work tasks goes with stable motivation and even motivation gains in other tasks as a function of a variety of task characteristics. These age‐related changes may be captured in a worker's motivation profile, which is functional for positive affect regulation.

Practical implications

The conceptualisation suggests a more differentiated approach to job design and human resource management, considering age‐related changes at multiple levels simultaneously instead of focusing on major age effects only.


The conceptual clarity of work motivation research is enhanced by distinguishing global and task‐specific levels of motivation that may dissociate in older workers. By transferring up‐to‐date findings and concepts from Lifespan Psychology to Organisational Psychology, further research is stipulated in both fields.



Stamov‐Roßnagel, C. and Hertel, G. (2010), "Older workers' motivation: against the myth of general decline", Management Decision, Vol. 48 No. 6, pp. 894-906.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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