Share your experiences with Ageism

06.01.2021 10:47

When older employees don't share their knowledge with younger ones

Lisa Dittrich Press, communication and marketing
Justus-Liebig university of Giessen

Study from work and organizational psychology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen on age discrimination and its consequences for companies

Older employees who feel discriminated against because of their age and who have too little confidence in their own competence (“self-efficacy”) due to negative experiences, too seldom share their knowledge and experience with younger colleagues. For the success of a company, however, the wealth of experience of older employees is a valuable resource that can make a significant contribution to the company's success. In a current publication "To share or not to share: A social-cognitive internalization model to explain how age discrimination impairs older employees’ knowledge sharing with younger colleagues ", Dr. Ulrike Fasbender and her team from Work and Organizational Psychology at the Justus Liebig University in Gießen (JLU) are looking into these effects and are presenting the results of two studies with almost 600 employees.

"When it comes to discrimination, there is more to be understood than you initially think," explains Dr. Fasbender: “The social perception of older employees plays a central role in passing on knowledge to younger colleagues. We examine perceived discrimination based on age and argue that this is not just a problem for older employees, but rather a problem for the entire company. "Discrimination changes the behavior of those affected in the workplace, explains the psychologist: Older employees internalize the negative social Judge others cognitively and therefore feel less confident about sharing their expertise with younger colleagues. Ultimately, this means that valuable knowledge is lost and younger employees cannot develop further by learning from their more experienced colleagues.

What can organizations and companies do about it? One obvious implication is that they must fight discrimination by all possible means. Preserving the knowledge of older employees is important for the success of companies and is becoming increasingly important against the background of demographic change and the imminent entry of the baby boomer age group into retirement life, emphasizes Dr. Fasbender, who researches and teaches as an Academic Counselor in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at JLU and is also a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University and Birkbeck, University of London in England.

As part of the study, she and her team also examined the effects of various age-appropriate personnel development measures - in particular further training and concessions -
examined. These are an important starting point for companies to create a conducive context for knowledge transfer. Nevertheless, the overall assessment of such measures turned out to be rather sobering: Human resources (HR) practices, which are specifically aimed at older employees, are useful from the Gießen research team's point of view, but can reduce the negative effects of perceived discrimination on the basis of age do not counteract.

The Justus Liebig University of Giessen (JLU), founded in 1607, is a traditional research university that attracts around 28,000 students. In addition to a wide range of courses - from classical natural sciences to law and economics, social and educational sciences to language and cultural studies - it offers a range of life science subjects that is not only unique in Hesse: human and veterinary medicine, agricultural , Environmental and nutritional sciences and food chemistry. Among the great personalities who have researched and taught at JLU are a number of Nobel Prize winners, including Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (Nobel Prize in Physics 1901) and Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize 2004). Since 2006, research at JLU has been continuously funded by the federal and state governments in the excellence initiative and strategy.

Scientific contact:


Dr. Ulrike Fasbender
Work & Organizational Psychology
Phone: 0641 99-26234
Email: [email protected]

Original publication:

Ulrike Fasbender, Fabiola H. Gerpott: "To share or not to share: A social-cognitive internalization model to explain how age discrimination impairs older employees’ knowledge sharing with younger colleagues ". European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology Volume 29, 2020 https: // Target = 10.1080 / 1359 ...

DOI: 10.1080 / 1359432X.2020.1839421

Additional Information:

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Journalists, scientists
research results