Book co-authored by UF professor explores issues, stereotypes of older workers
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Older workers learn more quickly and have more drive than some employers might believe, a new book co-authored by a University of Florida business professor finds.
“Mid and Late Career Issues: An Integrative Perspective” is one of the first works to study the challenges facing workers ages 40 and over. The book, which was released today, is co-authored by Mo Wang, an associate professor of management and co-director of the Human Resource Research Center at the Warrington College of Business Administration.
Synthesizing the limited literature on the topic as well as conducting numerous in-depth interviews with older workers and recent retirees, the authors challenge the stereotypes associated with older workers, such as they are more difficult to train and they lack energy compared with younger colleagues.
“We really found no basis to argue that older workers are harder to train than younger workers,” Wang said. “This stereotype often contributes to employers’ unwillingness for hiring older workers.”
Wang said that when workers reach their early 40s, their career priorities could change. No longer preoccupied with advancement, older workers reassess their position and value.
“When you get to be 40 or 45, your future in your organization becomes clear,” Wang said. “You’re thinking less about climbing the career ladder. You begin to think of other ways to have a legacy.”
Wang said older workers are often better at certain types of work, such as customer service, because they are better equipped to deal with emotional aspects of the job. Experiences such as raising children and caring for elderly parents provide older workers with the skills to deal with emotional obstacles. Such life experience also benefits workers when they change jobs or face layoffs, Wang said.
Wang noted some interesting populations within the older work force that are emerging. For instance, he said, women in their 50s entering the work force are some of the more talented and dedicated workers.
“They love to work,” Wang said. “Their kids are in college and they love the structure work offers them. They’re more mature, they’ve been through a lot and that experience helps them do their job better.”
Wang also cited an increase in older entrepreneurs who use their severance and retirement packages as capital to finance startup ventures.
The book’s co-authors are Deborah A. Olson, an associate professor of management and leadership at the University of La Verne (Calif.), and Kenneth Shultz, a professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernadino.