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Younger workers’ metastereotypes, workplace mood, attitudes, and behaviors

Katherine M. Ryan (Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA)
Eden B. King (Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA)
Lisa M. Finkelstein (Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of age-related stereotyping processes on younger workers’ mood, attitudes, and impression management behaviors at work.


Using survey data from 281 younger workers, the hypothesized model was tested using structural equation modeling.


As younger workers are more self-conscious about being age stereotyped, they are less likely to be satisfied with older co-workers, which is partly explained by negative mood associated with that metastereotype consciousness. Also, chronological age, age-group identification, and age prejudice, were critical influences on the emergence of metastereotype consciousness.

Research limitations/implications

Unexpected findings point to: experiences of younger workers which may not follow the same patterns found with older groups and unique operation of age as a dynamic social category that may not parallel findings regarding other social categories.

Practical implications

There is clearly potential for younger workers to be concerned they are viewed “stereotypically” and this metastereotype consciousness influences how they feel, think, and behave at work. Organizations should be aware of the potential antecedents and consequences, as well as the nature of metastereotypic perceptions, to better facilitate positive and productive interactions across age groups at work.


This research contributes to an understanding of younger workers’ experiences at work, highlights the role of mood in the operation of metastereotypes on attitudes and behaviors in age-diverse contexts, and improves our understanding of social biases and inequality associated with age-based groups.



Ryan, K.M., King, E.B. and Finkelstein, L.M. (2015), "Younger workers’ metastereotypes, workplace mood, attitudes, and behaviors", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 54-70.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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