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Millenial Workers No Different from Anyone Else: A Meta-Analysis

2012 December 5

ResearchBlogging.orgIn a recent meta-analysis appearing in the Journal of Business and Psychology, Costanza and colleagues[1] compare a wide variety of attitude variables between four generations of employees: Traditionals, Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials.  In a quantitative review of 20 articles on generational differences across 19,961 workers, the authors conclude that generational differences are small or near zero in virtually all cases.

Six attitude variables were examined:

  • Job satisfaction, the degree to which employees enjoy and have positive attitudes towards their job
  • General organizational commitment, the degree to which employees are committed to their job (a combination of the next three)
  • Affective organizational commitment, the degree to which employees feel emotionally attached to their job
  • Normative organizational commitment, the degree to which employees feel obligated to remain at their job
  • Continuance organizational commitment, the degree to which employees feel they have invested a lot in their organization and don’t want to lose those investments (personally, not monetarily)
  • Intent to turnover, the degree to which employees intend to leave their organization in the near future

Reported in standard deviation units (Cohen’s d), the authors found effect sizes ranging from .02 to .25 for satisfaction, -.22 to .46 for commitment, and -.62 to .05 for intent to turnover, which can be described as “low to effectively zero.”

Millenials are often characterized as being very different from the rest of employees, with a “drastically different outlook” and “different expectations”, are “difficult to understand” and “entitled”, “less motivated”, “high maintenance” and “silver-spoon fed”, and a variety of other colorful descriptors.  In truth, it seems that they are not much different than any other generation – or at the least, they are no more different from other generations than other generations are from each other.

The article is, of course, limited by the variables it was able to meta-analyze, so it is possible that some other attitude or characteristic that was not examined does demonstrate a large difference.  However, Millenials are commonly vilified as being less committed to their jobs, more likely to jump ship, and less satisfied with their work.  This study demonstrates that at least in these regards, Millenials are just like everyone else.

Footnotes:
  1. Costanza, D., Badger, J., Fraser, R., Severt, J., & Gade, P. (2012). Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis Journal of Business and Psychology, 27 (4), 375-394 DOI: 10.1007/s10869-012-9259-4 []
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