Age, discrimination, and achievement motives

Tanja Rabl (University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 8 June 2010



The aim of this paper is to challenge the person‐related aspect of the stereotype that older employees are unmotivated. In an overall model, it seeks to examine how age, perceived age discrimination, and perceived organizational support relate to each other and how they affect the achievement motives' hope of success and fear of failure.


Data were collected in six large German enterprises using a standardized questionnaire. The sample included 631 older employees aged 50 to 64 and 624 younger employees aged 30 to 40. For the data analysis, PLS structural equation modeling was used.


The results showed that older employees were more strongly affected by age discrimination than their younger colleagues. Perceived age discrimination, in turn, led to less perceived organizational support and a higher fear of failure. Age, in contrast, was not substantially related to achievement motives. Thus, the stereotype of unmotivated older employees is not justified.

Practical implications

The findings outline the central role of perceived age discrimination. Thus, with an increasingly aging workforce, organizations have to amplify their anti‐discrimination efforts by applying suitable human resource management and leadership practices.


This paper contributes to the literature by challenging a stereotype common in Western societies and examining the achievement motives of older employees. Moreover, it tries to shed light on the organization's role regarding the perception of discriminating and non‐supporting environments.



Rabl, T. (2010), "Age, discrimination, and achievement motives", Personnel Review, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 448-467.

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