Motivation at Work: Which Matters More, Generation or Managerial Level?

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Department or Administrative Unit


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The purpose of this study was to investigate whether generations differ in level of work motivation and whether differences in work motivation are better explained by managerial level than by generation. Data were collected from 3,440 working participants by using an online survey. Results indicate that managerial level better explains work motivation than does generation. Although Gen Xers, Late Boomers, and Early Boomers did differ in external and introjected work motivation, there was substantially more variance in work motivation explained by managerial level. Individuals at lower managerial levels had higher levels of external motivation than did those at higher managerial levels, whereas individuals at higher managerial levels had higher levels of intrinsic, identified, and introjected motivation. Understanding that work motivation appears to be more related to managerial level than it is to generation advances our knowledge of both generational differences and motivation at work. This knowledge assists practitioners by providing evidence that organizations should look to factors of level more than generation when acting to understand and improve employee motivation. Our study shows that in the current managerial working population work motivation is related to managerial level more than it is to generation.


This article was originally published in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research


© 2013 American Psychological Association