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Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing

The Journal of Vocational behaviour publishes research by Sheena Johnson on “Career Plateau”

11 December 2018

Dr Sheena Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at The University of Manchester has had two publications accepted by The Journal of Vocational behaviour. Both papers examine the concept of “Career Plateau”.

That's not what I signed up for!” A longitudinal investigation of the impact of unmet expectation and age in the relation between career plateau and job attitudes finds that career plateau negatively affected job attitudes via unmet expectations, regardless of age. The study suggests that organisations need to be mindful of the damaging effects of career plateau for employees of all ages.

One of the study aims was to explore whether the effects of career plateau varied according to employee age. Rather surprisingly, the study authors discovered that the negative consequences of both hierarchical and job content plateau due to unmet expectations arise regardless of employees' age. However, with a mean age of 34.51 years, it indicates that many of the older workers in this study cohort were aged in the mid-forties and therefore middle-aged, as opposed to in a late career stage nearing retirement. The authors agree that with narrow and relatively young age profile of participants, the findings are not necessarily representative of employees of all ages. Caution must therefore be applied when concluding that age does not affect the influence of career plateau on job attitudes.

The study identifies scope for future research exploring the role played by age in greater depth. One important aspect of this will involve studying the relationships here with a wider age range, to examine whether differences in unmet expectations and therefore attitudes do emerge in later career stages. Another idea would be to study the potential intersectional impact of age with other key demographic factors, such as gender, in the career plateau process.

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