Age differences in feedback reactions: The roles of employee feedback orientation on social awareness and utility

J Appl Psychol. 2015 Jul;100(4):1296-308. doi: 10.1037/a0038334. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


Organizations worldwide are currently experiencing shifts in the age composition of their workforces. The workforce is aging and becoming increasingly age-diverse, suggesting that organizational researchers and practitioners need to better understand how age differences may manifest in the workplace and the implications for human resource practice. Integrating socioemotional selectivity theory with the performance feedback literature and using a time-lagged design, the current study examined age differences in moderating the relationships between the characteristics of performance feedback and employee reactions to the feedback event. The results suggest that older workers had higher levels of feedback orientation on social awareness, but lower levels of feedback orientation on utility than younger workers. Furthermore, the positive associations between favorability of feedback and feedback delivery and feedback reactions were stronger for older workers than for younger workers, whereas the positive association between feedback quality and feedback reactions was stronger for younger workers than for older workers. Finally, the current study revealed that age-related differences in employee feedback orientation could explain the different patterns of relationships between feedback characteristics and feedback reactions across older and younger workers. These findings have both theoretical and practical implications for building theory about workplace aging and improving ways that performance feedback is managed across employees from diverse age groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Awareness
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation*
  • Social Perception*
  • Work Performance*
  • Young Adult