The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between employee perceptions of unfair treatment of older workers and employee engagement.
In a sample of over 4,500 workers, ages 18-94, from a retail workforce across three regions of the USA, the authors examine the relationship between perceptions that older workers are less likely to be promoted and employee engagement, using multilevel mixed effects linear regression models. The authors also examine whether the relationship is different if older workers were seen as fit for promotion, and whether discrimination is: intentional (fit, but less likely to be promoted) or unintentional (unfit, and less likely to be promoted).
Results indicate that perceived discrimination is related to lower levels of employee engagement among workers of all ages. Findings also suggest that for older workers, there is a more negative relationship between unintentional discrimination and employee engagement, while for younger workers the relationship is more negative for intentional discrimination.
Age discrimination is a critical issue for managerial psychology. While the authors' study is limited to one organization, the idea of unintentional discrimination may make it easier for managers to recognize and challenge discriminatory attitudes and behaviors in less threatening ways.
As older workers of today may not exit the workforce in predictable ways, there is a need to understand potential barriers to continued work. Traditional measures of stereotypes and perceptions of older workers are used here for the first time to construe intentional and unintentional discrimination, which may be one such barrier.
Boone James, J., McKechnie, S., Swanberg, J. and Besen, E. (2013), "Exploring the workplace impact of intentional/unintentional age discrimination", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 28 No. 7/8, pp. 907-927. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMP-06-2013-0179Download as .RIS
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