Generational Differences in Psychological Traits and Their Impact on the Workplace
Management and Entrepreneurship
Purpose — The purpose of this paper is to review data from 1.4 million people who completed personality, attitude, psychopathology, or behavior scales between the 1930s and the present and to discuss how those differences may impact today's workplace. Design/methodology/approach — The data are gathered from research reports using psychological scales over the last eight decades, primarily those using college student samples. Findings — Generation Me (sometimes called Gen Y or Millennials) demonstrates higher self-esteem, narcissism, anxiety, and depression; lower need for social approval; more external locus of control; and women with more agentic traits. Practical implications — Managers should expect to see more employees with unrealistically high expectations, a high need for praise, difficulty with criticism, an increase in creativity demands, job-hopping, ethics scandals, casual dress, and shifting workplace norms for women. Organizations can respond to these changes with accommodations (e.g. praise programs) or with counter pressure (e.g. dress codes), and it is imperative that managers consider the best reaction for their workforce. Originality/value — Most studies of generations interview workers at one time; thus any differences could be due to age or generation. Many of these reports are also based on subjective opinions and perceptions. In contrast, the paper reviews quantitative data on generational differences controlling for age. This empirically based look at generations in the workplace should be useful to managers and workers.
Journal of Managerial Psychology
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)