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Generational differences in work ethic: Fact or Fiction?

Stereotypes suggest that older co-horts endorse higher levels of work ethic than younger generations. However both academic as well as popular press have found little to support this stereotype, rather that there has been various results to the matter.

Zabel et al. (2016) used multiple hierarchical regressions to look for effects on work ethic endorsement. They found no effect between generations but they did find effect between different samples.

Industry samples had higher work ethic endorsement than did student samples.

Protestant work ethic (PWE) endorsement scale together with conscientiousness are both valid and stable predictors for overall job performance.

The generational cohort that were used are the well established Baby boomers, Generation X and Millenials.

Referring to another study Real et al. (2010). Real et al found meaningful differences in PWE between the three generations on the seven PWE dimensions.

Millenials endorsed higher levels of PWE than the two other generational cohorts on the PWE dimensions of hard work yelding desirable outcomes. Baby Boomers had higher levels of PWE than the other two generational cohorts on the PWE dimension of avoiding wasting time.

Back to the results of Zabel who looked at PWE as a whole construct, one could find no meaningful differences. The study from Real et al. suggests that generations do value the seven PWE dimensions different but as a construct no significant differences between the generations were found.

Suggesting that organizations that treats Millenials different from other might be in for a tough ride.

Rather Zabel et al argue that PWE is a key-enabler of twenty-first-centry skills and that twenty-first-centry-skills should not be affected by any generational differences.

SO, Millenials, in this sense, are not much different than the Baby Boomers only that they truly believe to a larger extent that hard work pays of while the Baby boomers doesn't want to waste time.


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