Do stereotypes about older workers change? A panel study on changing attitudes of managers

Hendrik Peter van Dalen, C.J.I.M. Henkens

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to see whether attitudes toward older workers by managers change over time and what might explain development over time.
Design/methodology/approach – A unique panel study of Dutch managers is used to track the development of their attitudes toward older workers over time (2010–2013) by focusing on a set of qualities of older workers aged 50 and older. A conditional change model is used to explain the variation in changes by
focusing on characteristics of the manager (age, education, gender, tenure and contact with older workers) and of the firm (composition staff, type of work and sector, size).
Findings – Managers have significantly adjusted their views on the so-called “soft skills” of older workers, like reliability and loyalty. Attitudes toward “hard skills” – like physical stamina, new tech skills and willingness to train – have not changed. Important drivers behind these changes are the age of the manager – the older the manager, the more likely a positive change in attitude toward older workers can be observed – and the change in the quality of contact with older workers. A deterioration of the managers’ relationship with older workers tends to correspond with a decline in their assessment of soft and hard skills.
Social implications – Attitudes are not very susceptible to change but this study shows that a significant change can be expected simply from the fact that managers age: older managers tend to have a more positive assessment of the hard and soft skills of older workers than young managers.
Originality/value – This paper offers novel insights into the question whether stereotypes of managers
change over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-550
JournalInternational Journal of Manpower
Issue number5
Early online date12 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Productivity
  • Older workers
  • Stereotypes
  • Employers


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