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Study: Baby boomers don't work harder than younger generations

"Human resource-related organizational interventions aimed at building 21st century skills should ... not be concerned with generational differences in Protestant work ethic," researcher Keith Zabel said.

By Brooks Hays
Study: Baby boomers don't work harder than younger generations
New research shows baby boomers don't have a greater work ethic than younger generations. Photo by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

DETROIT, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Some social scientists and historians have suggested the work ethic of the baby boomer generation -- the Protestant work ethic -- helps explain America's rising economic output during the late 20th century.

Others have argued the importance baby boomers place on work and commitment to large organizational structures have placed them at a disadvantage in the 21st century, as technology and social norms alter the work space.

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Members of Generation X and millennials are said to be better adapted to problem solving, teamwork and technology, while business psychologists might describe baby boomers as independent, goal-oriented and competitive.

A new analysis of generational differences suggests such narratives are just that and little more -- narratives with limited basis in reality.

A team of researchers led by Keith Zabel of Wayne State University examined 77 different studies comprising 105 distinct measurements of work ethic. Their analysis revealed no significant differences in work ethic among different generations.

"The finding that generational differences in the Protestant work ethic do not exist suggests that organizational initiatives aimed at changing talent management strategies and targeting them for the 'very different' millennial generation may be unwarranted and not a value added activity," Zabel said in a news release. "Human resource-related organizational interventions aimed at building 21st century skills should therefore not be concerned with generational differences in Protestant work ethic as part of the intervention."

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The new research was published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

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