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Generational differences in psychological traits and their impact on the workplace

Jean M. Twenge (Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA)
Stacy M. Campbell (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 7 November 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review data from 1.4 million people who completed personality, attitude, psychopathology, or behavior scales between the 1930s and the present and to discuss how those differences may impact today's workplace.

Design/methodology/approach

The data are gathered from research reports using psychological scales over the last eight decades, primarily those using college student samples.

Findings

Generation Me (sometimes called Gen Y or Millennials) demonstrates higher self‐esteem, narcissism, anxiety, and depression; lower need for social approval; more external locus of control; and women with more agentic traits.

Practical implications

Managers should expect to see more employees with unrealistically high expectations, a high need for praise, difficulty with criticism, an increase in creativity demands, job‐hopping, ethics scandals, casual dress, and shifting workplace norms for women. Organizations can respond to these changes with accommodations (e.g. praise programs) or with counter pressure (e.g. dress codes), and it is imperative that managers consider the best reaction for their workforce.

Originality/value

Most studies of generations interview workers at one time; thus any differences could be due to age or generation. Many of these reports are also based on subjective opinions and perceptions. In contrast, the paper reviews quantitative data on generational differences controlling for age. This empirically based look at generations in the workplace should be useful to managers and workers.

Keywords

Citation

Twenge, J.M. and Campbell, S.M. (2008), "Generational differences in psychological traits and their impact on the workplace", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 862-877. https://doi.org/10.1108/02683940810904367

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited