Age work in organizations: Maintaining and disrupting institutionalized understandings of higher age

Isabel Collien, Barbara Sieben, Michael Müller-Camen

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Age diversity research calls for new approaches in explaining the persistence of age inequalities, which integrate different levels of analysis and display greater context sensitivity. Concurrently, neoinstitutionalist research interested in social inequalities calls for merging institutional theory with critical perspectives and to account for issues of power. In this study, we address the calls of both research streams through developing the concept of ‘age work’: the institutional work actors undertake on age as a social institution. Applying our novel concept to a multi-actor study of four German organizations known for their age management, we come across a counterintuitive insight regarding actors’ age work: maintaining stereotypical age images can serve to counter age inequalities, whereas deconstructing age images can reinforce age inequalities. The multi-actor perspective of our study allows us to categorize different forms of power-laden and interest-driven age work and to portray the reproduction of age inequalities as a result of actors’ age work, embedded in different contexts and complex power relations. Comparing employees’ forms of age work across sectors and organizations, we detail how notions of masculinity as well as income and job security shaped the categorized forms of age work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778 - 795
JournalBritish Journal of Management (BJM)
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502026 Human resource management

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