Employee age and reactions to downsizing

Jessica M. Lahner, Bert Hayslip, Tara N. McKelvy, Daniela M. Caballero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The present study explored the career development concerns among employees varying by age who had worked for organizations that either had or had not engaged in downsizing within a 1-year timeframe. The sample consisted of 72 layoff survivors and 92 non-survivors (employees whose organizations had not downsized). Each completed an online survey assessing career concerns framed in the context of Super's Life Span Life Space theory of career development, as well as measures assessing perceptions of loss, job insecurity, distress, social support, loss history, religiosity, and job satisfaction. Younger employees reported more job dissatisfaction, as did survivors, and younger survivors reported more such dissatisfaction relative to older survivors, and saw the downsizing as less equitable than did older survivors. Among non-survivors, age effects were minimal. Younger employees reported more concerns about Crystallization, Specification, Implementation, Innovation, Stabilizing, Consolidating, Advancing, and Updating, as did survivors. For Crystallization, and to a lesser extent for Innovation, younger survivors reported more such concerns than did older survivors, while among non-survivors, these differences were minimal. A similar age by survivorship pattern was found for psychophysical health, career-recycling tendencies, and for concerns at Super's career stages/maxicycles of Exploration, Establishment, and Maintenance. These findings suggest that young survivors appear to be less vocationally adaptable, more vocationally and personally vulnerable to downsizing, and more impacted in seeing downsizing as unfair, perhaps due to unrealistic career trajectory expectations. In contrast, older employees, perhaps due to increased job and/or layoff experience or the perception that downsizing was handled more equitably via greater loyalty to the organization, appear to be more resilient in these respects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-255
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Aging and Human Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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