Generational Differences in Work Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values Decreasing
Management and Entrepreneurship
Organizations are currently facing the retirement of many older workers and the challenge of recruiting and retaining young talent. However, few studies have empirically substantiated generational differences in work values. This study examines the work values of a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school seniors in 1976, 1991, and 2006 (N = 16,507) representing Baby Boomers, Generation X (GenX), and Generation Me (GenMe, also known as GenY, or Millennials). With data collected across time, these analyses isolate generational differences from age differences, unlike one-time studies, which cannot separate the two. Leisure values increased steadily over the generations (d comparing Boomers and GenMe = .57), and work centrality declined. Extrinsic values (e.g., status, money) peaked with GenX but were still higher among GenMe than among Boomers (d = .26). Contrary to popular press reports, GenMe does not favor altruistic work values (e.g., helping, societal worth) more than previous generations. Social values (e.g., making friends) and intrinsic values (e.g., an interesting, results-oriented job) were rated lower by GenMe than by Boomers. These findings have practical implications for the recruitment and management of the emerging workforce.
Journal of Management
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