The growing age diversity in organizations in most industrialized economies provides opportunities to motivate both older and younger workers by enabling them to benefit from each other through knowledge transfer. In this study, we integrate self-determination theory with socio-emotional selectivity theory to argue that the alignment between workers’ age and their roles in knowledge transfer can generate motivational benefits for them. More specifically, we argue that receiving knowledge from coworkers (i.e., actor knowledge receiving) is more closely aligned with younger workers’ goal priorities, while having coworkers receive one’s knowledge (i.e., partner knowledge receiving) is more closely aligned with older workers’ goal priorities. We expect that these motivational benefits manifest in younger and older workers’ need fulfillment at work, which can shape their subsequent intention to remain with the organization. We used an actor-partner interdependence model to test our hypotheses with time-lagged data from a sample of 173 age-diverse coworker dyads, and found support for most of our hypotheses. The age-specific motivational perspective that we adopt has implications for self-determination theory and research on knowledge transfer and mentoring.

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Keywords socio-emotional selectivity theory, self-determination theory, work motivation, employee retention, mentoring, actor-partner interdependence model
Sponsor This research has been supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation with a postdoctoral research travel grant awarded to Anne Burmeister (grant number: IZSEZO_176683).
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Journal Journal of Applied Psychology
Note The ideas in this manuscript have been presented at the Academy of Management Meeting 2019 in Boston in a divisional paper session.
Burmeister, A, Wang, M, & Hirschi, A. (2019). Understanding the Motivational Benefits of knowledge transfer for older and younger workers in age-diverse coworker dyads. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(7), 748–759. doi:10.1037/apl0000466