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Who benefits from more tasks? Older versus younger workers

Sara Zaniboni (Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy)
Donald M. Truxillo (Department of Psychology, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA)
Franco Fraccaroli (Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto, Italy)
Elizabeth A. McCune (Microsoft Corporation, Seattle, Washington, USA)
Marilena Bertolino (Department of Psychology, University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Nice, France)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 8 July 2014




Although a substantial body of research has examined the effects of job characteristics on job attitudes, there is a paucity of work on individual difference moderators of these relationships. Based in selective optimization with compensation theory and socio-emotional selectivity theory, the purpose of this paper is to show that age moderated the relationship between task variety and two key job attitudes, job satisfaction and engagement.


Data were collected through self-report questionnaires (n=152), using a time-lagged design with two waves (two to three weeks between T 1 and T 2).


The authors found that task variety had a stronger relationship with job satisfaction and work engagement for younger workers compared to older workers.

Research limitations/implications

Although there was good age variance in the sample, it had fewer late-career workers and more workers who are in their early and mid-career.

Practical implications

To have workers of all ages satisfied and engaged at work, we need to understand which work characteristics are the best for them. For example, it may be a competitive gain for organizations to challenge younger workers with different tasks, and to challenge older workers in ways that utilize their experience.

Social implications

The study addresses a societal issue related to profound demographic changes in the age composition of the workforce, gaining a better knowledge of differences between workers of different ages to promote effective interventions and policies.


This is the first study to show that task variety differentially affects worker satisfaction and engagement depending on the age of the worker.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, IL, 2011. The authors thank Dave Cadiz for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Zaniboni, S., M. Truxillo, D., Fraccaroli, F., A. McCune, E. and Bertolino, M. (2014), "Who benefits from more tasks? Older versus younger workers", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 508-523.



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