Age-Differentiated Leadership and Healthy Aging at Work: Evidence from the Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic


Little is known about the relative influence of age-differentiated leadership on healthy aging at work. Likewise, the age-conditional influence of age-differentiated leadership is understudied, and especially so in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a three-wave longitudinal study, we examined the role that age-differentiated leadership plays in the prediction of work ability, as measured three times over six months (n = 1130) during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany (i.e., December 2019, March 2020, and June 2020). The results suggest that although there were no systematic changes in work ability on average, there was notable within-person variability in work ability over time. Additionally, we find that a balanced approach to age-differentiated leadership that considers the needs of both older and younger employees matters most and complements the positive influence of leader–member exchange for predicting within-person variability in work ability. We also find that older employees’ work ability benefits from an approach to age-differentiated leadership that considers older employee’s needs, whereas younger employees’ work ability especially benefits from leader–member exchange and a balanced approach to age-differentiated leadership. Overall, these results provide initial support for the idea that an age-differentiated approach to leadership is important when considering healthy aging at work.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health