Generations and Generational Differences: Debunking Myths in Organizational Science and Practice and Paving New Paths Forward


Talk about generations is everywhere and particularly so in organizational science and practice. Recognizing and exploring the ubiquity of generations is important, especially because evidence for their existence is, at best, scant. In this article, we aim to achieve two goals that are targeted at answering the broad question: “What accounts for the ubiquity of generations despite a lack of evidence for their existence and impact?” First, we explore and “bust” ten common myths about the science and practice of generations and generational differences. Second, with these debunked myths as a backdrop, we focus on two alternative and complementary frameworks—the social constructionist perspective and the lifespan development perspective—with promise for changing the way we think about age, aging, and generations at work. We argue that the social constructionist perspective offers important opportunities for understanding the persistence and pervasiveness of generations and that, as an alternative to studying generations, the lifespan perspective represents a better model for understanding how age operates and development unfolds at work. Overall, we urge stakeholders in organizational science and practice (e.g., students, researchers, consultants, managers) to adopt more nuanced perspectives grounded in these models, rather than a generational perspective, to understand the influence of age and aging at work.

Journal of Business and Psychology
Cort W. Rudolph
Associate Professor of Industrial & Organizational Psychology