Generations at Work: Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater
Beier, Margaret E.; Kanfer, Ruth
Costanza and Finkelstein (2015) are correct to highlight the dangers of using generationally based stereotypes in organizations. Although popular, these stereotypes are related to a stigmatization based on group membership that can be pernicious and discriminatory. Costanza and Finkelstein are also correct in their assessment of the state of the literature on generational effects: theory and research is woefully lacking. Indeed, a recent review of research on generations at work characterized this research as descriptive and neither theoretical nor empirical (Lyons & Kuron, 2014). Yet, as pointed out by Costanza and Finkelstein, the idea of a generational identity is salient and even appealing to many people. Why would this be if it were completely devoid of psychological import? People seem to resonate with the idea that, to some extent at least, they are a product of their generation. In this article we argue that the concept of generation provides a means to understanding how people process experiences within a cultural context. As such, consideration of generation is important to the development of self-concept, which in turn affects the development of attitudes, knowledge, and values. Although we agree that research on generations is problematic in its current state, we assert that it is too soon to jettison the psychological importance of generations in industrialﾖorganizational (I-O) research without risking throwing the baby out with the bathwater.