The meaning of work in the lives of older, male workers




Sweet, Bryan Keith

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The purpose of this grounded theory study was to better understand the differences in the way older, male workers perceived themselves as they aged, particularly with reference to work and aspects of the work environment. Career theorists have, for the most part, paid scant attention to this population. Research efforts that have focused on the “older worker” implicitly assume that they are homogeneous, that aging itself has a uniform impact, and that aging is a process of inevitable loss. A grounded theory approach was chosen because it was deemed most suitable to explore the phenomena because the basic variables were not readily identifiable, the field was rather ill-defined, and the research questions were best asked from within the “lived experience” of the participants. A sample of older, male workers, who were actively employed, were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format. A number of major categories and subcategories emerged through the research analysis including attitudes toward aging, the meaning of work, and the value of interpersonal relationships. The content of these categories were observed to change over the lives of the respondents, and these changes were neither uniform nor necessarily predictable. The differences that were observed among, and within, the respondents were attributable to the interaction of the level of cognitive development, locus of control, self-knowledge, interpersonal orientation, adaptive competence, spiritual courage, and the emotional viability of one's life story. The results of the study suggest that “older workers” do not constitute a unique population within the general workforce and that, in the future, researchers must attend to their individual differences. The findings of the study provide strong support for the notion that adult development is not the result of the passage of time alone, but rather is the result of an interaction among a diversity of factors. The results also affirm that, for many older workers, aging is a time of ongoing growth and renewal, and further that personal development is inseparable from career development. Older workers have the potential to not only contribute to the postmodern workplace, but also markedly enhance the quality of working life for all.



Older people, Employment, Male employees