Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Older workers from the viewpoint of their younger colleagues. Do organisations fail to harness the potential of an ageing workforce?


Objective: Scholars agree that due to an ageing workforce which is observable in many societies around the globe, organisations will face an employee base that is getting older and more age-diverse (Kunze et al., 2011). This development can be beneficial for organisations when its potential gets harnessed; however, it leaves us also with some concerns. Research studies found rather unpromising results for an ageing workforce in the organisation. This article sheds light on the perception of older employees from the perspective of their younger co-workers, where little is known about.

Research Design & Methods: It uses a qualitative study design through in-depth interviewing and metaphorical talk. In total, 27 interviews have been collected in Germany and Poland.

Findings: Respondents point out that their senior colleague possesses crucial human and social capital for the organisation. They further reveal obstacles which partially explain, why results from previous studies may vary.

Contribution & Value Added: The perception of younger employees offers valuable inside for employers and entrepreneurs alike. Employers have been found to have a somewhat negative attitudes towards the employability of senior-aged workers. Younger employees revealed that senior-aged workers are perceived to have a vital role in knowledge transfer by their younger colleagues.


ageing workforce, older workers, human resource management, personnel management, qualitative study


Author Biography

Tanja Kosowski

Bachelor of Business Administration (DHBW Ravensburg, Germany); Bachelor of Business Administration (University of South Wales, UK); Master in International Relations (University of Lodz, Poland); PhD student Management (Kozminski University, Poland). His research interests include diversity management, human resource management, and ageism.


  1. Barkema, H.G., Chen, X., George, G., Luo, Y., & Tsui, A.S. (2015). West Meets East : New Concepts and Theories. Academy of Management Journal, 58(2), 460-479. WEST
  2. Becker, G. (1964). Human Capital. Columbia University Press.
  3. Beckman, C.M., & Haunschild, P.R. (2002). Network Learning: The Effects of Partners’ Heterogeneity of Experience on Corporate Acquisitions. Administrative Science Quaterly, 47(1), 92-124.
  4. Brooke, L., & Taylor, P. (2005). Older workers and employment: Managing age relations. Ageing and Society, 25(3), 415-429.
  5. Cadiz, D.M., Truxillo, D.M., & Fraccaroli, F. (2015). What are the benefits of focusing on generation-based differences and at what cost? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8(3), 356-362.
  6. Carpenter, S.R. (2002). Ecological futures: Building an ecology of the long now. Ecology, 83(8), 2069-2083.[2069:EFBAEO]2.0.CO;2
  7. Comer, L.B., Nicholls, J.A.F., & Vermillion, L.J. (1998). Diversity in the sales force: Problems and challenges. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 18(4), 1-20.
  8. Conen, W.S., van Dalen, H.P., & Henkens, K. (2012). Ageing and employers’ perceptions of labour costs and productivity: A survey among European employers. International Journal of Manpower, 33(6), 629-647.
  9. Costanza, D.P., & Finkelstein, L.M. (2015). Generationally based differences in the workplace: Is there a there there? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8(3), 308-323.
  10. D’Netto, B., Shen, J., Chelliah, J., & Monga, M. (2014). Human resource diversity management practices in the Australian manufacturing sector. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(9), 1243-1266.
  11. European Commission. (2018). The 2018 Ageing Report: economic and budgetary projections for the EU Member States (2016-2070). European Economy, 2, Issue May).
  12. Finkelstein, L.M., Ryan, K.M., & King, E.B. (2013). What do the young (old) people think of me? Content and accuracy of age-based metastereotypes. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 22(6), 633-657.
  13. George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6), 1880-1895.
  14. Gerpott, F.H., Lehmann-Willenbrock, N., & Voelpel, S.C. (2017). A phase model of intergenerational learning in organizations. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 16(2), 193-216.
  15. Göbel, C., & Zwick, T. (2012). Age and Productivity: Sector Differences. Economist, 160(1), 35-57.
  16. Goštautaitė, B., & Bučiūnienė, I. (2015). The role of work characteristics in enhancing older employees’ performance: evidence from a post-Soviet country. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(6), 757-782.
  17. Kearney, E., & Gebert, D. (2009). Managing Diversity and Enhancing Team Outcomes : The Promise of Managing Diversity and Enhancing Team Outcomes : The Promise of Transformational Leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(1), 77-89.
  18. Kraak, J.M., Russo, M., & Jiménez, A. (2018). Work-life balance psychological contract perceptions for older workers. Personnel Review, 47(6), 1198-1214.
  19. Kunisch, S., Boehm, S.A., & Boppel, M. (2011). From grey to silver: Managing the demographic change successfully. From Grey to Silver: Managing the Demographic Change Successfully, March 2015, 1-223.
  20. Kunze, F., Boehm, S.A., & Bruch, H. (2011). Age diversity, age discrimination climate and performance consequences - a cross organizational study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 264-290.
  21. Latusek, D., & Vlaar, P.W.L. (2015). Exploring managerial talk through metaphor: An opportunity to bridge rigour and relevance? Management Learning, 46(2), 211-232.
  22. Mohammed, S., & Angell, L.C. (2004). Surface- and deep-level diversity in workgroups: Examining the moderating effects of team orientation and team process on relationship conflict. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(8), 1015-1039.
  23. Patel, J., Tinker, A., & Corna, L. (2018). Younger workers’ attitudes and perceptions towards older colleagues. Working with Older People, 22(3), 129-138.
  24. Posthuma, R.A., & Campion, M.A. (2009). Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions. Journal of Management, 35(1), 158-188.
  25. Rabl, T., & Triana, M. (2013). How German employees of different ages conserve resources: Perceived age discrimination and affective organizational commitment. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(19), 3599-3612.
  26. Rego, A., Vitória, A., Ribeiro, T., Ribeiro, L., Lourenço, R., Leal, S., & Pina, M. (2017). Attitudes and HRM decisions toward older workers in Africa: Exploring contradictions through an empirical study. European Management Review, 1-28.
  27. Sousa, I., & Ramos, S. (2019). Longer working lives and age diversity: A new challenge to HRM. European Journal of Management Studies, 24(1), 21.
  28. Stankiewicz, K. (2015). Value of Age Diversity – Declarations and Practice in Polish Organizations. Social Sciences, 89(3), 19-32.
  29. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. SAGE Publications, Inc.
  30. Stypinska, J., & Turek, K. (2017). Hard and soft age discrimination : the dual nature of workplace discrimination. European Journal of Ageing, 14(1), 49-61.
  31. Tajfel, H. (1978). Differentiation between social groups: studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations (1st ed.). Academic Press.
  32. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J.C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior (Eds). Nelson-Hall.
  33. Taneva, S., Arnold, J., & Nicolson, R. (2014). A qualitative analysis of older workers’ perceptions of stereotypes, successful ageing strategies and human resource management practices. In VII National Congress of Psychology, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  34. Tasheva, S., & Hillman, A.J. (2019). Integrating diversity at different levels: multi-level human capital, social capital, and demographic diversity and their implications for team effectiveness. Academy of Management Review, 44(4), 746-765.
  35. Turek, K., & Perek-Białas, J. (2013). The role of employers opinions about skills and productivity of older workers: example of Poland. Employee Relations, 35(6), 648-664.
  36. Turner, J.C. (1982). Toward a cognitive definition of the group. In H. Tajfel (Ed.), Social identity and intergroup relations. (1st ed., pp. 15-40). Cambridge University Press.
  37. Van Bavel, J., & Reher, D.S. (2013). The baby boom and its causes: What we know and what we need to know. Population and Development Review, 39(2), 257-288.
  38. van Dalen, H.P., Henkens, K., & Schippers, J. (2009). Dealing with older workers in Europe: A comparative survey of employers’ attitudes and actions. Journal of European Social Policy, 19(1), 47-60.
  39. Van Dalen, H.P., Henkens, K., & Wang, M. (2015). Recharging or retiring older workers? Uncovering the age-based strategies of european employers. Gerontologist, 55(5), 814-824.
  40. van Knippenberg, D., & Schippers, M.C. (2006). Work Group Diversity. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 515-541.
  41. von Bonsdorff, M.E., Zhou, L., Wang, M., Vanhala, S., von Bonsdorff, M.B., & Rantanen, T. (2018). Employee Age and Company Performance: An Integrated Model of Aging and Human Resource Management Practices. Journal of Management, 44(8), 3124-3150.
  42. Zimmer, L. (1988). Tokenism and Women in the Workplace : The Limits of Gender-Neutral Theory Problems Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article : Tokenism and Women in the Workplace : The Limits of Gender-Neutral Theory *. Social Problems, 35(1), 64-77.


Download data is not yet available.

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.