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Ageing and work motivation: a task‐level perspective

Christian Stamov‐Roßnagel (Jacobs Centre on Lifelong Learning, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany)
Torsten Biemann (Department of Management, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 29 June 2012



The paper aims to establish the position that discrete work tasks, rather than entire jobs, are the most useful level of analysis of age differences in work motivation.


A total of 189 workers (aged 18‐65 years) from production and office jobs in the building industry completed a survey on personal and job resources, overall and task‐specific motivation, and job satisfaction.


Age was positively associated with motivation for generativity‐related, but not growth‐related tasks. Personal and job resources were positively and differentially related to task‐specific motivation.

Research limitations/implications

Building on the notion of age‐specific constellations of high and low‐motivation tasks, the findings inspire research into age‐related changes in work motivation. The authors studied only two task types; a more comprehensive task set will in future studies yield deeper insights into motivational regulation. Working with other industry sectors will enhance generalisability.

Practical implications

The results contribute to a theory‐based, empirically grounded platform to assess age‐related changes in work motivation, and to derive age‐differentiated motivational interventions.

Social implications

Supporting older workers' motivation in light of the demand for longer individual work lives is becoming an important agenda for employers and policy makers. This research contributes to developing tools for such motivation support.


The paper enhances the conceptual clarity of work motivation research by distinguishing global and task‐specific levels of motivation. The conceptualisation differentiates job design approaches by considering age‐related changes at multiple levels instead of focusing on major age effects only.



Stamov‐Roßnagel, C. and Biemann, T. (2012), "Ageing and work motivation: a task‐level perspective", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 459-478.



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