The Older-Worker-Younger-Supervisor Dyad: A Test of the Reverse Pygmalion Effect


Marketing and Professional Sales

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


An emerging phenomenon, the older worker reporting to a much younger supervisor, is reversing the tradition that managers are older and more experienced than subordinates. These age-related demographic changes are bringing about a role reversal in the workplace that violates established age norms, creating status incongruence in the supervisor-subordinate dyad. This age-reversed dyad can be better understood by examining generational differences and the effects of older workers' expectations on their younger supervisors' leadership behavior, referred to as Reverse Pygmalion. Research findings highlight demographic differences and similarities in the supervisor-subordinate dyad, called Relational Demography. Major findings are that older workers expect less from their younger supervisors than do younger workers, and in turn older workers rate their younger supervisors' leadership behavior lower than younger workers rate their younger supervisors.