Job Performance And The Aging Worker

Michael A. McDaniel, Virginia Commonwealth University
Bryan J. Pesta, Cleveland State University
George C. Banks

Abstract

This chapter begins by discussing commonly held stereotypes people have about older workers. To gauge whether these stereotypes are accurate, we review the physical, sensory, and cognitive changes occurring as a normal part of aging. Using the cognitive aging literature as a framework, we then summarize the age/job performance literature. Generally, age effects are small and non-linear, but are likely masked by the fact that most researchers have yet to sample truly older (i.e., 50 years plus) workers. Most likely, an inverted U-shaped relationship exists between age and job performance. The effects, however, are probably moderated by job complexity and whether experience with specific job content can buffer against expected age-related physical and cognitive decline. We end with tentative conclusions for practitioners and researchers in the field.