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Using the kaleidoscope career model to examine generational differences in work attitudes

Sherry E. Sullivan (Department of Management, College of Business, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA)
Monica L. Forret (Department of Managerial Studies, College of Business, St Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa, USA)
Shawn M. Carraher (School of Business, Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma, USA)
Lisa A. Mainiero (Department of Management, Charles F. Dolan School of Business, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 19 June 2009




The purpose of this paper is to examine, utilising the Kaleidoscope Career Model, whether members of the Baby Boom generation and Generation X differ in their needs for authenticity, balance, and challenge.


Survey data were obtained from 982 professionals located across the USA. Correlations, t‐tests, and multiple regressions were performed to test the hypotheses.


Members of Generation X have higher needs for authenticity and balance than Baby Boomers. There was no difference in needs for challenge between Baby Boomers and members of Generation X.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation in the study, as well as in most of the research on generational differences, is the use of cross‐sectional designs that fail to capture the influence of the aging process. A longitudinal, multi‐survey design over the lives of individuals would enable scholars to capture within‐ and between‐person differences and to permit a better understanding of whether differences are in fact due to generational effects or to aging.

Practical implications

Knowledge of the differences and similarities among the various generations in the workforce can help organizational leaders make important decisions about human resource policies and practices.


Many studies in the popular press stress the prevalence and importance of generational differences in the workplace. However, the little academic research that has been conducted has shown mixed results. The study uses the theoretical framework of the Kaleidoscope Career Model to examine generational differences in work attitudes.



Sullivan, S.E., Forret, M.L., Carraher, S.M. and Mainiero, L.A. (2009), "Using the kaleidoscope career model to examine generational differences in work attitudes", Career Development International, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 284-302.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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