Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Research: Older Workers Supervised by Younger People May Result in Negative Emotions, Corporate Harm

A new study finds that the age gap between older workers and younger supervisors is linked to the frequency of emotions such as "anger, fear and disgust" among employees, and that more frequent negative emotions of this type are associated with lower company performance in areas such as financial results, growth, efficiency, and return on assets. The research was conducted in Germany and published as "Younger supervisors, older subordinates: An organizational-level study of age differences, emotions, and performance" in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, and was conducted by Dr Jochen Menges, University Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at Cambridge Judge Business School, and Professor Florian Kunze, Chair of Organisational Studies at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

According to Menges, they found that age gaps "can harm company performance by negatively influencing employee emotions. If the age gap is small, employees throughout a company are less likely to experience such negative emotions."
While the researchers do not question the effectiveness of merit-based promotion, “we do have evidence for some of the repercussions that companies are likely to face when moving away from traditional age structures and abandoning seniority-based promotion systems.” Companies should therefore think carefully about how to avoid such pitfalls, including less emphasis on “career timetables” and “hierarchical thinking” so employees would respond less emotionally to age differences.

The study’s findings on emotion suppression were complex and nuanced. Whereas some previous studies found emotion suppression at the individual level to be a demanding and socially costly strategy, “we show that emotion suppression can be an effective strategy in circumstances that involve emotionally taxing social interactions.”

“This finding should not be taken to imply that organisations should promote cultures of emotional suppression,” the study says. Instead, companies should “approach the challenges of age-inverse supervisory relationships in ways that benefit both the company at the organisational level and the employees at the individual level, rather than one or the other.”

Source: University of Cambridge Judge Business SchoolNews Release (December 19, 2016)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Research Finds Lack of Employer Support for Older Employees and Problem Drinking

According to a study conducted by the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), older adults in employment and facing retirement are being let down by employers when it comes to problem drinking. "Easing the transition: The relationship between alcohol and labour market activity in the over 50s population of the UK" sets out the specific barriers and challenges faced by over 50s with current or previous drinking problems at three stages of labour market activity: unemployment, employment and retirement.

Among other things, the report finds that it is older ages (60-69) of the professional occupational class that are most likely to be high risk drinkers. While only 6% under the age of 30 drink heavily, nearly 25% of those aged 60-69 drink heavily. In addition, the report concludes that there is a "blind spot" in support from employers and the state in preparing for retirement which falls short of emotional, health and social changes. "For those over 50s still employed stress, boredom, lack of control over work and retirement worries all contribute to drinking more."

The authors call for employers to introduce measures to assist employees over 50 who might be struggling with an alcohol problem, such as counseling and effective workplace policies that treat alcohol issues like any other health issue. In addition, the report calls for greater engagement from employers to staff pre- and post-retirement. This includes social clubs and guidance on how to avoid alcohol becoming a problem once working life is over.

Source: International Longevity Centre-UK Press Release (December 12, 2016)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Research: Older Workers Put Under Pressure by Long-term Job Insecurity

Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research have published the results of a study finding that employees believing for multiple decades that they will lose their jobs leads to heightened levels of fear and distress. According to "Histories of Perceived Job Insecurity and Psychological Distress among Older U.S. Adults," as published in Society and Mental Health, the findings indicate stress from perceived job insecurity was high among minorities and those without a high school degree. "In addition, older workers may experience distress due to their circumstances."

Sarah Burgard, an associate professor of sociology and research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research. Burgard, said age discrimination or an employer's perception that health problems could become more prevalent later in life could endanger this older segment's ability to keep a job. "Those who face the worst burden are those who have faced uncertainty the longest, and it is important to think about the costs of restructuring a labor force and social supports in ways that create such vulnerable workers."

Source: University of Michigan News Release (December 7, 2016)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Research: Cognitive Aging May Not Link to Declining Productivity

According to a review of recent research comparing the productivity of workers in their 20s to workers in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, age appears to be unrelated to performance in most occupations. This is contrary to suggestions that cognitive aging might hinder working longer due to declining fluid intelligence. In an Issue Brief--"Cognitive Aging and Ability to Work"--by Anek Belbase and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, the authors note that :
  • key reasons are that declining fluid intelligence is often offset by accumulated knowledge, and reserve fluid capacity can act as a buffer against decline; and
  • only a minority of workers are vulnerable: those in jobs that require very high levels of fluid intelligence, and those who experience cognitive impairment.
Furthermore, "as people age, improvements in knowledge appear to largely offset declines in fluid intelligence, and the amount of fluid capacity that most workers have through their late 60s seems to offer a sufficient buffer against any declines."
However, some groups of older workers are vulnerable to cognitive decline. Workers in jobs that require a high degree of fluid intelligence (which can include those who end up shifting careers) or who experience a cognitive impairment are likely to have trouble extending their work lives.

As policymakers consider ways to encourage working longer, they may want to pay close attention to the potential impact of any proposed changes on such workers, as well as the effects on disability and unemployment programs that could see increased demand.

Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Brief IB#16-18 (November 2016)