Skip to main content

Stereotyping Older Workers and Retirement: The Managers' Point of View*

  • Kène Henkens (a1)

This article presents the results of a study into stereotyping by managers of their older workers and the influence of these stereotypes on the inclination of managers to keep their older workers in employment. The data for the study were gathered among 796 managers. Through principal components analysis, 15 opinions about older workers were reduced to three dimensions of stereotypes. The first dimension deals with the productivity of older staff; the other two dimensions have to do with their reliability and their adaptability. These stereotypical ideas about older workers influence managers' attitudes toward the retirement of their employees. The analyses show that, besides organizational factors, psychological mechanisms also explain why people view older workers through stereotypes. Managers who are older and in more frequent contact with older employees tend to hold more positive views.


Cet article présente les résultants d'une étude à propos des différents stéréotypes des gestionnaires envers leurs employés plus âgés et sur l'influence de ces stéréotypes dans la propension des gestionnaires à garder des employés âgés en service. Les données ont été recueillies auprès d'un échantillon de 796 gestionnaires. Àtravers des composantes d'analyse principales, 15 opinions sur les employés âgés ont été réduites à trois dimensions de stéréotypes. La première dimension concerne la productivité de personnel âgé, les autres dimensions concernent leur fiabilité et leur adaptabilité. Les idées stéréotypées sur les employés âgés ont une influence sur les attitudes des gestionnaires envers la retraite de leurs employés. Les analyses montrent que malgré les facteurs organisationnels, les mécanismes psychologiques expliquent également pourquoi les gens utilisent des stéréotypes sur les employés âgés. Les gestionnaires qui sont eux-mêmes plus âgés et qui maintiennent plus de contact avec des employés âgés, ont tendance à avoir des avis davantage positifs.

Corresponding author
Requests for offprints should be sent to: / Les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être addressées à : K. Henkens (NIDI), P.O. Box 11650, 2502 AR The Hague. (
Hide All

Leo van Wissen was extremely helpful with statistical advice. Comments by Harry van Dalen, Rob Ranzijn, and Petra Visser are gratefully acknowledged.

Hide All
Ashmore R.D., & DelBoca F.K. (1981). Conceptual approaches to stereotypes and stereotyping. In Hamilton D.L. (Eds.), Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behavior (pp. 135). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Barr S.H., & Hitt M.A. (1986). A comparison of selection decision models in manager versus student samples. Personnel Psychology, 39, 599617.
Bartel A.P., & Sicherman N. (1993). Technological change and retirement decisions of older workers. Journal of Labor Economics, 11, 162183.
Becker G.S. (1975). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education (Studies in Human Behavior and Social Institutions No. 5). (2nd ed.). New York: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Berger E.D., Marshall V.W. & Ashbury F.D. (2005). Organizational and personal characteristics influencing Canadian employers' attitudes toward older workers. North Bay, ON: Department of Sociology, Nipissing University.
Bird C.P., & Fisher T.D. (1986). Thirty years later: Attitudes toward the employment of older workers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 515517.
Blocklyn P.L. (1987, August) The aging workforce. Personnel, 1619.
Bodenhausen G.V. (1988). Stereotype biases in social decision making and memory: Testing process models of stereotype use. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(5), 726737.
Brewer M.B., Dull V., & Lui L. (1981). Perceptions of the elderly: Stereotypes as prototypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(4), 656670.
Brewster C., Hegewisch A., Mayne L., & Tregaskis O. (1994). Methodology of the Price Waterhouse Cranfield Project. In Brewster C. & Hegewisch A. (Eds.), Policy and practice in European human resource management (pp. 230245). London: Routledge.
Butler R. (1969). Ageism: Another form of bigotry. The Gerontologist, 9, 243.
Chasteen A.L., Schwarz N., & Park D.C. (2002). The activation of aging stereotypes in younger and older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 57B, P540P547.
Chiu W.C.K., Chan A.W., Snape E., & Redman T. (2001). Age stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards older workers: An east-west comparison. Human Relations, 54(5), 629661.
Dunteman G.H. (1989). Principal components analysis, series: Quantitative applications in the social sciences (Sage University Papers 69). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Ekamper P. (1997). Future age-conscious manpower planning in the Netherlands: From early retirement to a new perspective on the elderly? International Journal of Manpower, 18, 232247.
Eurostat (1990). Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (Rev. 1). Luxembourg: Author.
Finkelstein L.M., Burke M.J., & Raju N.S. (1995). Age discrimination in simulated employment contexts: An integrative analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(6), 652663.
Finkelstein L.M., & Burke M.J. (1998). Age stereotyping at work: The role of rater and contextual factors on evaluations of job applicants. Journal of General Psychology, 125(4), 317345.
Finkelstein L.M., Higgins K.D., & Clancy M. (2000). Justifications for ratings of old and young job applicants: An exploratory content analysis. Experimental Aging Research, 26, 263283.
Fiske S.T., & Neuberg S.L. (1990). A continuum model of impression formation from category-based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. In Zanna M.P. (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 174). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Gray L., & McGregor J. (2003). Human resource development and older workers: Stereotypes in New Zealand. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 41(3), 117.
Hamilton D.L., & Trolier T. (1986). Stereotypes and stereotyping. In Dovidio J. and Gaertner S. (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 127163). New York: Academic Press.
Hassell B., & Perrewe P.L. (1995). An examination of beliefs about older workers: Do stereotypes still exist? Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 16, 457468.
Henkens K. (1999). Retirement intentions and spousal support: A multi-actor approach. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 54B, S63S73.
Henkens K. (2000). Supervisors' attitudes about early retirement of subordinates. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30(4), 833852.
Henkens K., & Kalmijn M. (In press). Labor market exits of older men in the Netherlands: An analysis of survey data 1979–1999. In Blossfeld H.P., Buchholz S., & Hofäcker D. (Eds.), Globalization, uncertainty and late careers in society. London: Routledge.
Henkens K., & Tazelaar F. (1997). Explaining retirement decisions of civil servants in the Netherlands: Intentions, behaviour and the discrepancy between the two. Research on Aging, 19(2), 139173.
Henkens K., & van Solinge H. (2003). Het eindspel: Werknemers, hun partners en leidinggevenden over uittreden. Assen, The Netherlands: van Gorcum/Stichting Management Studies.
Hewstone M., and Brown R.J. (1986). Contact is not enough: An intergroup perspective on the contact hypothesis. In Hewstone M. & Brown R. (Eds.), Contact and conflict in intergroup encounters (pp. 144). Oxford: Blackwell.
Hilton J.L., & Von Hippel W. (1996). Stereotypes. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 237271.
Hummert M.L., Garstka T.A., Shaner J.L., & Strahm S. (1994). Stereotypes of the elderly held by young, middle-aged, and elderly adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 49, P240P249.
Hummert M.L., Garstka T.A., & Shaner J.L. (1997). Stereotyping of older adults: The role of target facial cues and perceiver characteristics. Psychology and Aging, 12, 107114.
Institute of Personnel Management (1993). Age and employment: Policies, attitudes and practice. London: Author.
Joulain M., & Mullet E. (2001). Estimating the “appropriate” age for retirement as a function of perceived occupational characteristics. Work and Stress, 15, 357365.
Judd C.M., & Park B. (1993). Definition and assessment of accuracy in social stereotypes. Psychology Review, 100, 109128.
Kalleberg A.L., Knoke D., Marsden P., & Spaeth J. (1996). Organizations in America: Analyzing their structures and human resource practices. London: Sage.
Kirchner W.K., & Durnette M.D. (1954). Attitudes toward older workers. Personnel Psychology, 7, 257265.
Lalonde R.N., & Gardner R.C. (1989). An intergroup perspective on stereotype organization and processing. British Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 289303.
Lee J.A., & Clemons T. (1985). Factors affecting employment decisions about older workers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70(4), 785788.
Linville P.W., Fischer G.W., & Salovey P. (1989). Perceived distributions of the characteristics of in-group and out-group members: Empirical evidence and a computer simulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 165188.
Loretto W., Duncan C., & White P.J. (2000). Ageism and employment: Controversies, ambiguities and younger people's perceptions. Ageing and Society, 20, 279302.
Lyon P., & Pollard D. (1997). Perceptions of the older employee: Is anything really changing? Personnel Review, 26(4), 245257.
Macrae C.N., & Bodenhausen G.V. (2001). Social cognition: Categorical person perception. British Journal of Psychology, 92, 239255.
Marshall V. (1996). Issues of an aging workforce in a changing society: Cases and comparisons. Toronto: University of Toronto, Centre for Studies of Aging.
McCann R., & Giles H. (2003). Ageism in the workplace: A communication perspective. In Nelson T.D. (Ed.), Ageism, stereotyping and prejudice against older persons (pp. 163199). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
McEvoy G.M., & Cascio W.F. (1989). Cumulative evidence of the relationship between employee age and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74(1), 1117.
McGregor J., & Gray L. (2002). Stereotypes and older workers: The New Zealand experience. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 18, 163177.
Oakes P.J., Haslam S.A., & Turner J.C. (1994). Stereotyping and social reality. Cambridge, UK: Blackwell.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1995). The Transition from work to retirement (Organisation for Economic Coorporation and Development, Social Policy Studies No. 16). Paris: Author.-
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2001). Ageing and income-financial resources and retirement in 9 OECD countries. Paris: Author.
Pendry L.F., & Macrae C.N. (1994). Stereotypes and mental life: The case of the motivated but thwarted tactician. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 30, 303325.
Polachek S.W., & Siebert W.S. (1993). The economics of earnings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Reday-Mulvey G., & Velladics K. 2005. Employment of older workers in the Netherlands: Recent reforms. European Papers on the New Welfare, 1, 100115.
Remery C., Henkens K., Schippers J.J., & Ekamper P. (2003). Managing an aging workforce and a tight labor market: Views held by Dutch employers. Population Research and Policy Review, 22, 2140.
Rosen B., & Jerdee T.H. (1976a). The nature of job-related age stereotypes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61(2), 180183.
Rosen B., & Jerdee T.H. (1976b). The influence of age stereotypes on managerial decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61(4), 428432.
Rosen B., Jerdee T., & Lunn R.O. (1981). Effects of performance appraisal format, age and performance level on retirement decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 66, 515519.
Schmidt K. (1999). Employing older workers (Report of a survey of Western Australian human resource professionals, Discussion Paper 3“00, University of Western Australia, Department of Organisational and Labour Studies). Crawley, Western Australia: University of Western Australia.
Schmidt D.F., & Boland S.M. (1986). Structure of perceptions of older adults: Evidence for multiple stereotypes. Psychology and Aging, 1, 255260.
Shephard R.J. (1995). A personal perspective on aging and productivity, with particular reference to physically demanding work. Ergonomics, 38, 617636.
Snyder M., & Miene P.K. (1994). Stereotyping of the elderly: A functional approach. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 6382.
Sterns H.L., & Kaplan J. (2003). Self-management of career and retirement. In Adams G.A. & Beehr T.A. (Eds.), Retirement: Reasons, processes, and results (pp. 188214). New York: Springer.
Tajfel H., & Turner J.C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In Austin W.G. & Worchel S. (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 3347). Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole.
Taylor P., & Walker A. (1994). The ageing workforce: Employers' attitudes towards older people. Work, Employment and Society, 8(4), 569591.
Taylor P., & Walker A. (1998). Employers and older workers: Attitudes and employment practices. Ageing and Society, 18(6), 641658.
Taylor P., & Urwin P. (2001). Age and participation in vocational education and training. Work, Employment and Society, 15(4), 763779.
Turner J., & Watanabe N. (1995). Private pension policies in industrialized countries: A comparative analysis. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Underhill S., & Marshall V. (1997). Survey of Canadian employers: Final report. Toronto: Institute for Human Development, Life Course and Aging.
Van Dalen H.P., & Henkens K. (2002). Early retirement reform: Can it and will it work? Ageing and Society, 22(2), 209231.
Van Dalen H.P., & Henkens K. (2005). The double standard in retirement and work: The case of the Netherlands. Geneva Papers of Risk and Insurance, Issues and Practice, 30, 693710.
Verkuyten M., & Nekuee S. (1999). Ingroup-bias: The effect of self-stereotyping, identification and group threat. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 411418.
Vrugt A., & Schabracq M. (1996). Stereotypes with respect to elderly employees. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 6(4), 287292.
Wagner D.L. (1998). Factors influencing the use of older workers: A survey of U.S. employers. Washington, DC: The National Council on the Aging.
Warr P., & Pennington J. (1993). Views about age discrimination and older workers. In Taylor P., Walker A., Casey B., Metcalf H., Lakey J., Warr P., & Pennington J.. Age and employment: Policies, attitudes, and practice (pp. 75106). London: Institute of Personnel Management.
Weber R., & Crocker J. (1983). Cognitive processes in the revision of stereotype beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(5), 961977.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 155 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 999 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.