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Generations at work: a phronetic approach to aged and generational scholarship

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Scholarship and the popular press alike assert that, within the workplace and the world, there are distinct generational groups who are hallmarked by fundamental differences. Generational scholarship, undergirded by the

Scholarship and the popular press alike assert that, within the workplace and the world, there are distinct generational groups who are hallmarked by fundamental differences. Generational scholarship, undergirded by the priori assumption that generational differences must be managed, has become a well traversed field despite very little empirical evidence to substantiate the claims made about the attitudes, values, and beliefs of these purported generational cohorts. Scholars debate the veracity of generational characteristics, but few have taken critical approaches and noted the absence of theory and meta-discourse in the field. All the while, the over-simplified stereotypes are perpetuatued and employed in making fundamental decisions about the lives and work of the old and the young. In this dissertation, I present a grounded qualitative and phronetic study that offers a framework for a more nuanced approach to generational scholarship. Specifically, I employ qualitative methods and take a phronetic approach to examine young professionals’ (a) sensemaking of generational constructs and (b) identification/disidentification with generational archetypes. This dissertation reveals the ways in which participants made sense of popular generational archetypes as stereotypes or generalizations that exist in broad contexts of media and culture but are unconsidered in the workplace. Further, in the context of work, participants demonstrated very limited identification or disidentification with popular generational archetypes. Despite this, participants created and enacted generational differences in their workplaces based on age and tenure in the industry through the development of emergent archetypes. Methodologically, this dissertation demonstrates the utility of more emic approaches to generational scholarship and evidences the need for situated and needs based approaches. Theoretically, this dissertation demonstrates the utility of sensemaking and identification in generational scholarship. Moreover, the insights gleaned from these frameworks illustrate the need for the critical examinations in the field, and meta-discourse about our assumptions.

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  • 2016