Relation of Group Performance to Age

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  • Topic: Old age, Aging, Organizational citizenship behavior
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Journal of Applied Psychology 2008, Vol. 93, No. 2, 392– 423

Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association 0021-9010/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.2.392

The Relationship of Age to Ten Dimensions of Job Performance Thomas W. H. Ng
The University of Hong Kong

Daniel C. Feldman
The University of Georgia

Previous reviews of the literature on the relationship between age and job performance have largely focused on core task performance but have paid much less attention to other job behaviors that also contribute to productivity. The current study provides an expanded meta-analysis on the relationship between age and job performance that includes 10 dimensions of job performance: core task performance, creativity, performance in training programs, organizational citizenship behaviors, safety performance, general counterproductive work behaviors, workplace aggression, on-the-job substance use, tardiness, and absenteeism. Results show that although age was largely unrelated to core task performance, creativity, and performance in training programs, it demonstrated stronger relationships with the other 7 performance dimensions. Results also highlight that the relationships of age with core task performance and with counterproductive work behaviors are curvilinear in nature and that several sample characteristics and data collection characteristics moderate age–performance relationships. The article concludes with a discussion of key research design issues that may further knowledge about the age–performance relationship in the future. Keywords: age, aging, older workers, job performance, meta-analysis

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of the American workforce has been increasing over the last 30 years—35 years old in 1980, 37 years old in 1990, 39 years old in 2000, and 41 years old in 2006. This trend is also evident worldwide. For instance, International Labor Organization (2005) statistics indicate that young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 were the largest segment of the working population in 1980. However, by 1990 the 30 –34 age group was the largest segment of the working population, and today the largest segment of the world’s working population is the age 40 – 44 cohort. Older workers are becoming an increasingly important concern for organizations for reasons beyond their sheer numbers. The shift to an older workforce has caused many organizations to spend more money on succession planning, pension benefits, health insurance, and medical benefits (Beehr & Bowling, 2002; Paul & Townsend, 1993). In addition, numerous organizations have concerns (and/or stereotypes) that older workers may exhibit lower productivity (Avolio & Waldman, 1994; Greller & Simpson, 1999; Hassell & Perrewe, 1995; Lawrence, 1996). For instance, compared with younger workers, older workers are stereotyped as being less physically capable, as more likely to have problems getting along with coworkers, as preferring to invest more time in their families than in their jobs (Fung, Lai, & Ng, 2001; Paul & Townsend, 1993), as less technologically savvy, and as less willing to adapt quickly in volatile environments (Isaksson & Johansson, 2000; Riolli-Saltzman & Luthans, 2001).

Thomas W. H. Ng, School of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong; Daniel C. Feldman, Terry College of Business, The University of Georgia. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Thomas W. H. Ng, School of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong. E-mail: tng@business.hku.hk 392

Previous research has produced mixed results, however, regarding the precise relationship between age and job performance. In the three most-cited quantitative reviews of this literature, one found a moderate-sized positive relationship between age and performance (Waldman & Avolio, 1986), one found that age was largely unrelated to performance (McEvoy...
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