Generational differences in personality and motivation

Melissa Wong (SHL, Melbourne, Australia)
Elliroma Gardiner (School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia)
Whitney Lang (School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Leah Coulon (SHL, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Publication date: 7 November 2008



The purpose of this research is to examine whether personality and motivational driver differences exist across three generations of working Australians: Baby Boomers, Gen Xs, and Gen Ys.


Using the Occupational Personality Questionnaire and the Motivation Questionnaire, the study examined cross‐sectional differences in personality and motivational drivers across three generations.


The results are not supportive of the generational stereotypes that have been pervasive in the management literature and the media. Specifically, few meaningful differences were found between the three generations. Moreover, even when differences have been observed, these have related more to age than generation.

Research limitations/implications

One of the key limitations is the use of cross‐sectional data. To further explore this issue, it would be interesting to undertake a longitudinal study to assess personality preferences and motivational drivers of the different generations, when the participants are at the same age or the same point in their career.

Practical implications

The research emphasizes the importance of managing individuals by focusing on individual differences rather than relying on generational stereotypes, which may not be as prevalent as the existing literature suggests.


Managers and HR professionals may find the lack of differences across generations interesting and refreshing, in contrast with the popular management literature.



Wong, M., Gardiner, E., Lang, W. and Coulon, L. (2008), "Generational differences in personality and motivation", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 878-890.

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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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