2021, Paper: "As the workforce becomes more age diverse and career ascension less contingent upon seniority, workers are increasingly bound to encounter younger co-workers who enjoy more prestigious careers than them. Building on social comparison theories and the literature on ascribed status, we theorize that interacting with younger, higher occupational status colleagues can trigger a form of precocity threat: an unfavorable comparison process that undercuts one’s job and career investment. Using diverse methods and participant samples—including a longitudinal, archival U.S. professional sport dataset (N = 5,093), a matched quasi-experiment at a Latin American financial institution (N = 2,573 and N = 2,842), and a large, pre-registered online experiment with U.K.-based full-time workers (N = 1,112)—we find consistent evidence that exposure to younger, higher status workers hinders career engagement, willingness to perform extra-role behaviors, and overall individual performance. Consistent with the idea that self-reflective processes drive these effects, workers encouraged to think about the achievements of a younger (versus older) higherstatus professional in their network reported feeling uninspired to reach a similar outcome (i.e., low benign envy), which, in turn, negatively impacted their job and career attitudes. Precocity threat offers novel insights into the role of age—and more broadly, ascribed status—in social comparisons, and stresses the need for diversity scholars to integrate age-status dynamics as they ponder the consequences of a rapidly aging workforce."
Non-HKS Author Website - Jon M. Jachimowicz