Sub-theme 20: Meanings, Contexts and Future of Ageing Studies: Organizational Diversities in Transition

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Convenors:
Iiris Aaltio
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Jean Helms Mills
Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, Canada
Albert J. Mills
Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, Canada

Call for Papers


The terms ‘new’, ‘young’ and ‘change’ are often associated interchangeably and in a positive way, whereas ‘old,’ ‘elderly’ and ‘stable’ can have negative connotations. Overall, questions related to ageing are shared widely in and between organizations because people are living longer. So in work-life, it is of interest to connect well with people at their later career and now more people over the age of 60 are staying on in the workforce. This means re-understanding and restructuring life-span and careers as well. People may circulate between working and non-working even after retirement, and also involve in voluntary work. Careers are broad with multiple meanings and so are boundaries between work, private and retirement (Tervo & Haapanen, 2017).
 
Statistical and other numerical approaches, which include age as a background variable, have been the major orientation in ageing research, and studies that approach ageing as multiple and context-bound with mixed methods and multiple data have been rare. Age also has ties to issues of tolerance and equity at the organization and throughout age generations. Within this focus, issues of age are finding a place among diversity management scholars, including those with an interest in gender (Irni, 2009), ethnicity, cultural background (Price et al., 2017) and other typologies and their crossings (Aaltio et al., 2016; 2017).
 
Societies do not face ageing in a similar way. Northern America and Europe are ageing societies, but not for instance Latin America, where the average age does not grow as rapidly (Palloni & McEniry, 2007). In countries with ageing population, the impact of age on such things as stereotypes of the ageing worker (Hedge et al., 2006; Brought et al., 2011), workplace efficiency, career development, retirement policies, experience (Kanfer & Ackerman 2004), and training needs (Ilmarinen, 2006) have been studied. Equity between different age groups but also their talent management has been an issue.
 
Definitions and understanding of ageing are culturally-bound as well as the practices in work-life. For example, Asian cultures value ageing more than Western societies (Leung, 2000), which have commonly adopted ambivalence concerning the value of ageing employees. On the one hand, it is recognized that ‘old age’ may bring valuable expertise and wisdom, and what is referred to as crystallized intelligence (Kanfer & Ackerman 2004). While on the other hand, stereotypes related to older employees include being viewed as less productive, less healthy and less able to cope with change (Hedge et al., 2006; Brought et al., 2011) – because change is so important in current organizations this stigma may be a specially injurious for older workforce. Experience and wisdom, although perceived positively can nonetheless suggest sedentary and established qualities, rather than an ability to respond in new and innovative ways. Although recent research has shown that the assumption of a general decline with age is simplistic, stereotypical assumptions tend to continue. Issues on ageing usually focus on compensating for a supposed loss of skills and abilities through such things as training and re-evaluations of the types of work that ageing employees are expected to undertake (Ilmarinen, 2006). When these assumptions grow into practices and cultural knowledge they tend to be taken as self-evident.
 
What happens in respect to age in organizations has not often been subject to critical research (Fineman, 2014). Western societies emphasize the need for workers to stay in work-life longer, but ageing employees are frequently the main victims of downsizing or restructuring. Also, aging research may be used as managerial targets, thinking of ageing individuals as numbers and just consumed resources? Not sure what this means? The focus has been on different kinds of practices for managing the older workforce, including leadership and human resource management. In these models organizations are seen as black boxes and employees viewed as passive and something-to-manage, without having voice. Lifespan literature has little connection to ageing research at the organizational level. Throughout the various recent debates on aging and work, little has focused on such issues as the discursive nature of age and ageing – nor has the role of age and work been adequately accounted for in issues of discriminatory practices and theories of discrimination and intersectionality. Most often the tone has been of determinism and self-evidence. The many paths of ageing are often neglected and used as a Grand Narrative which suits everyone.
 
In this sub-theme, we invite studies related to age and ageing in organizations with special emphasis on:

  • Age as something more than a number – the many meanings of age
  • Seniority in organizations
  • Roles and identities given to younger workforce
  • Career research, age and ageing
  • Ageing and entrepreneurship, swifts between work, non-work and private
  • Cultural contexts of age and ageing workforce
  • Human Resource Management, equality and discrimination in the questions of ageing
  • Gender, age and ageing in organizations
  • Age generations and society level


 

References

  • Aaltio, I., Mills, A.J., & Helms Mills, J. (eds.) (2016): “Special Issue on Ageing, Socio-Economic Change, Challenges and Potentialities.” International Journal of Work Innovation, 1 (4).
  • Aaltio, I., Mills, A.J., & Helms Mills, J. (eds.). (2017): Ageing, Organizations and Management: Constructive Discourses and Critical Perspectives. London: Springer International Publishing.
  • Buyens, D., Van Dijk, H., Dewilde T., & De Vos, A. (2009): “The ageing workforce: perceptions of career ending.” Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24 (2), 102–117.
  • Brought, P., Johnson, G., Drummond, S., & Timms, C. (2011): "Comparisons of cognitive ability and job attitudes of older and younger workers." Equality Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 30 (2), 105–126.
  • Fineman, S. (2014): "Age Matters." Organization Studies, 35 (11), 1719–1723.
  • Hedge, J.W., Borman, W.C., & Lammlein, S.E. (2006): The Ageing Workforce. Realities, Myths, and Implications for Organizations. Washington: American Psychological Association.
  • Ilmarinen, J. (2006): Towards a Longer Worklife – Ageing and the Quality of Worklife in the European Union. Helsinki: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
  • Irni, S. (2009): “Cranky old women? Irritation, resistance and gendering practices in organizations.” Gender, Work and Organization, 16 (6), 667–683.
  • Kanfer, R., & Ackerman, P.L. (2004): “Ageing, adult development, and work motivation.” Academy of Management Review, 440–458.
  • Leung, A.S.M. (2000): “Gender differences in Guanxi-behaviours: An examination of PRC state-owned enterprises.” International Review of Women and Leadership, 6 (10), 48–59.
  • Levinson, D.J. (1978): The Seasons of a Man’s Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Palloni, A., & McEniry, M. (2007): “Ageing and Health Status of Elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean: Preliminary Findings. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerentology, 22 (3), 263–285.
  • Price, S., Hartt, C., Yue, R., & Pohlkamp, G. (2017): “We the Inuit: Fluid Notions of Age and Non-corporeal Actants.” In: I. Aaltio, A.J. Mills & J. Helms Mills (eds.): Ageing, Organizations and Management: Constructive Discourses and Critical Perspectives. London: Springer International Publishing.
  • Tervo, H., & Haapanen, M. (2017): “Opportunity- and necessity-driven self-employment among older people in Finland.” In: I. Aaltio, A.J. Mills & J. Helms Mills (eds.): Ageing, Organizations and Management: Constructive Discourses and Critical Perspectives. London: Springer International Publishing.

 

Iiris Aaltio is Professor of Management and Leadership at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She is on the editorial boards of international journals including the ‘Electronic Journal of Business Ethics’ and ‘Organization Studies’, has authored, edited and co-edited a variety of books and special issues, latest a book on “Ageing, Organizations and Management: Constructive Discourses and Critical Perspectives” with Albert J. Mills and Jean Helms Mills.
Jean Helms Mills is Professor of Management in the Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University, Canada; Docent at Jyväskylä University School of Business, Finland; and has been a Senior Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, since 2008. She was recently appointed an International Reader at the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. She is currently the co-editor of ‘Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management’.
Albert J. Mills is Professor of Management and Director of the Sobey PhD (Management) program at Saint Mary’s University, Canada. He is also a 2.0 Professor of Innovation at the University of Eastern Finland, and is currently the Co-Chair of the International Board for Critical Management Studies and the co-editor of ‘Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management’.
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