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New methods book underway!

Katrina and Rebecca are delighted to announce that work on a new methods book is well underway.  The book – Collecting Qualitative Data using Digital Methods – is part of the SAGE series “Mastering Business Research Methods“, edited by Bill Lee, Mark NK Saunders and VK Narayanan.

Aimed at taught postgraduate students completing a Master’s dissertation, this series offers a detailed look at a particular method to support students in their research journey.

Our book focuses specifically on the way in which students can engage with digital methods to collect qualitative data.  Many of you will be familiar with the term ‘big data’, in which large scale quantitative methods are used to map internet phenomena.  In contrast, the approaches we cover in this book focus on the ways these maps are navigated in relation to specific management and business issues.  Our own research on age at work uses these approaches, for example in our papers on generational identity (in Organization Studies), images of gendered ageing (in Gender, Work and Organization) and understanding retirement (in Journal of Management Inquiry).

We will provide further updates on our blog as the book is produced and then published.

Update and new paper “Reconstructing Retirement as an Enterprising Endeavor” in @JMgmt_Inquiry

We’ve been very quiet on this blog and its related twitter account this year. We have been busy!

The BIG news is that Katrina is now Professor Katrina Pritchard in the School of Management at Swansea University. Many congratulations to her on this very well deserved promotion. We have come quite a long way from when this project started. I was a part-time PhD student and research assistant and Katrina was a junior lecturer, both of us in the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London.

Right at the end of 2017 (so near the end in fact that we didn’t see the published volumes till early 2018) we published two chapters in the The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods, one on digital ethics and the other on analysing web images. Full details on our Publications tab on this blog. And do contact us if you would like copies of either chapter.

And following a similar pattern in 2018, we are delighted to announce that we have a new publication that has just appeared in the Journal of Management Inquiry. Entitled ‘Reconstructing Retirement as an Enterprising Endeavor’, this is the link, and we have arranged for the paper to be openly available for download for a couple of weeks (linked to a short introductory piece we have written for the Sage Business and Management Ink website). We’ll post details of when this is live as soon as we have them. In the meantime, the abstract of the paper is as follows:

This article explores issues of age and enterprise in later life as manifested in tensions between retiree and entrepreneurial identities. We utilize the concept of a discursive event to examine time-bound online data, specifically media texts and reader comments associated with the online news coverage of an insurance company report. This report introduced the label Weary to describe “working entrepreneurial and active retirees.” Our analysis shows how keeping healthy and active are constructed as insufficient markers of a productive and successful older age. These markers are supplanted by a neoliberal discourse that prioritizes enterprise and economic productivity in retirement. However, the Weary subject position has implications within this discourse that constrain the valued contribution of older adults to productive work yet deny access to this group to entrepreneurial endeavors. This highlights the destabilization of retirement and critical tensions in its discursive reconceptualization as a period of entrepreneurial endeavor.

We have also been contracted by Sage to write a book about the qualitative internet methodology we have used in this project.  It will be part of the excellent Mastering Business Research Methods Series conceived and edited by Bill Lee, Mark N. K. Saunders and Vadake K. Narayanan. The series is designed to support researchers by providing in-depth and practical guidance on using a chosen method of data collection or analysis.  Our book is due to be published in 2020.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to more Age at Work in 2019. All best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Age at work goes outdoors

In April and May 2018 Katrina Pritchard and William Fear conducted a leadership survey with Mountain Leaders and related organizations and, through Facebook, with members of groups that walk in the mountains. We received 459 completed questionnaires. The purpose of the survey was to: 1) get an understanding of the ‘mountain/hill-walking’ community; and 2) to explore perceptions of leadership among both professional and lay groups in relation to ‘Mountain Leadership’. An initial working paper on descriptive statistics is available here and further detailed findings will be reported at a later date once our analysis is complete.

From an age perspective, our initial review of results highlights some interesting statistics which we will be examining further.  For example, most male respondents were between 46 and 65 years old and most female respondents were between 26 and 55, illustrating some age/gender differences in participation which also carried through to organisational membership and achievement of leadership awards.  When looking a different activities, there was little difference in participation in hill/mountain walking but rapid declines in participation in climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking with age.

Katrina will be exploring age and gender more specifically as part of this work in the next stage of data analysis.

Our chapters in SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods

Rebecca and I are delighted to have a chapter in each of these volumes.  Please do get in touch if you’d like a copy of either chapter.

Pritchard, K and Whiting, R (2018) ‘Analysing web images’ in SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods Volume 2 (Eds. Cassell, C; Cunliffe, A and Grandy, G) Sage: London

 Whiting, R and Pritchard, K (2018) ‘Digital Ethics’ in SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods Volume 1 (Eds. Cassell, C; Cunliffe, A and Grandy, G) Sage: London


Wrapping up 2017: Valuing what we have whatever our age at Christmas #AgeUK #joinin

Our last blog posts of the year has usually been an age at work story with a festive twist.  They’re not always that easy to find. This year we bring you this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald about the role of grandparents in providing child care who might now be looking forward to a break over the festive season. Entitled ‘Grandparents put their feet up after a year of helping the rest of us achieve the impossible‘ it highlights the reliance working parents have on their own parents to look after their children.  The parents are generally working in paid employment whereas most grandparents are providing unpaid childcare. A reminder that childcare is still ‘work’ even if you are not getting paid, and whatever age you are when you undertake it!

The article points out the benefits of such arrangements: “Within our larger communities there are those in the older generation who work hard, generally without payment, for our benefit throughout the year. Many of us rely on the contribution, the kindness, the love of these older members of our community. Yet too often we fail to appropriately include and appreciate them.” Closer to home, this last sentiment has been the message of Age UK’s campaign ‘No one should have no one’.

Meanwhile Sarah Millican will be running her #joinin twitter initiative to alleviate loneliness again on Christmas Day. As she explains to the Huffington Post, this is for those who are on their own at Christmas not through choice: “Be it because they have no family, are estranged from their family, it’s not their turn to have the kids, even just that their partner is at work, whatever. Alone and would rather not be.”  The idea is to use Twitter to connect people who otherwise wouldn’t have anyone to talk to on Christmas Day.

All these stories remind us (whatever our age) that we benefit from the work of others, that valuing what we have is important and that we can contribute to those who may not be so fortunate this year.

We’ll be back in January but in the meantime, Merry Christmas.


Age discrimination and age stereotypes: Still ongoing in UK workplaces

It would be fair to say that this has been a very busy term for Katrina and me in our respective universities so our apologies for not having blogged for a while.

What have we missed? A survey by CV-Library covered here on the Small Business website reports that 70% of UK workers said age discrimination is common in their workplace. The survey was also covered here by the Independent and by Free Press website with the latter highlighting that the percentage reporting this in Wales was even higher, at 81%. It didn’t offer any explanation for this though.

A decade after discrimination on the grounds of age was made unlawful, this is depressing reading. It is good to note that the survey did not assume that discrimination is only targeted at either younger or older workers, but could be directed at people of any age. Unfortunately the detail suggests that the application of age stereotypes are still a feature of recruitment practices in some organizations. Of those who said they were considered ‘too young’ for a job, nearly half said they were told they didn’t have enough experience and over a third said the employer felt no-one would take them seriously. For those considered to be ‘too old’, one in five were told that they would be ‘too stuck in their own ways’.

Almost half of the Welsh workforce says they won’t be able to afford to retire

Age Cymru, BITC Cymru and You Gov have worked together to place ageing in Wales under the spotlight.  The survey finds, perhaps unsurprisingly, increased concern about the need to work longer for financial reasons alongside worries about the health implications of doing so.  The survey found that 43% of respondents believe they will be working past state pension age and plan to continue working in their current job.

Relatedly, the Welsh Government are reminding employers that people have #nobestbeforedate and also highlighting that many over 50’s plan to keep on working into their sixties.


The aim of this campaign is to address myths about employing older workers.



Ageism and the tech industry (again)

Once again there have been headlines this week regarding issues of ageism in the tech industry. Thanks to my colleage Almuth McDowall for drawing my attention to this article in The Register which reports a survey by job website of tech workers. It found that in the US almost half ‘live in constant fear that age will end their careers’. It likens tech workers to Hollywood stars (in terms of their vulnerability to being seen as ‘too old’).

The article links to a blogpost by Raj Mukherjee which gives further details. Unfortunately, the piece uses all the generational labels (Millennials, Baby Boomers) that we find unhelpful and which research shows don’t usually represent groups between whom there are meaningful or significant differences. Still, I guess it’s interesting to see the attitudes and experience of people of different age groups in this industry. A couple of points to note: those who were once the ‘young guns’ in tech are themselves getting older. There seem to be some differences in the types of tech job that different age groups apply for (and where).

Mukherjee also very rightly calls out the importance of language, arguing that organizations can improve workforce diversity by using age-inclusive language in their communications and job postings. “Removing terms like ‘recent graduate’ and ‘digital native‘ can go a long way toward encouraging older professionals apply for these positions,” he said.

All of this is right up the street of Katrina’s PhD student Christine Brown who’s conducting her doctoral studies at Birkbeck on the professional identity of the older ‘digital worker’. This is her Twitter response to the tweet about the survey, in which she makes the point that those working in the industry may also reinforce age stereotypes.

Work longer unless…..

…you happen to be sitting on a very large pension pot and happen to be the person who oversaw the reform to state pension age.

Aside from the glowing tributes from the Civil Service much is made in the press about his retirement age – he will be leaving on his 61st birthday in January – and the size of his pension pot – £1.8 million according to the Daily Mail.

The news not only comes on the back of a raft of changes to state pension arrangements but also the recent announcement that any review of the specific changes to women’s pension age entitlements will not take place.  This is despite campaigns that had highlighted poor communication leaving many women born in the 1950’s with too little time to make satisfactory arrangements for their pension.

Generational “differences”? Work ethic examined

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have covered the topic of ‘generational differences’ more than once; the methodological limitations of many studies in this area are now well rehearsed – for example – investigating attitudes of one ‘generation’ and claiming it possesses some unique characteristic that must be accommodated in the workplace. If we were to be cynical we might say that these ‘findings’ promote a certain type of business – that of telling managers how they must / can manage this accommodation.

A recent paper published this summer reports on a meta-analysis of 77 studies and 105 different measures of work ethic in different ‘generations’ : Zabel, K. L., Biermeier-Hanson, B. B. J., Baltes, B. B., Early, B. J., & Shepard, A. (2017). Generational Differences in Work Ethic: Fact or Fiction? Journal of Business and Psychology, 32(3), 301-315.

The article is behind a pay wall but see here in Science Daily for a useful synopsis: ‘The analysis found no differences in the work ethic of different generations. These findings support other studies that found no difference in the work ethics of different generations when considering different variables, such as the hours they work or their commitment to family and work. Zabel’s team did however note a higher work ethic in studies that contained the response of employees working in industry rather than of students.’

This is the latest in a line of papers that suggest that so-called ‘generational differences’ have been over-stated at best and at worst are the product of sloppy methodologies.

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