How Old I Feel Matters: Examining Age-Related Differences in Motives and Organizational Citizenship Behavior


  • Yung-Kuei Huang Tamkang University
  • Jacqueline McDowell George Mason University Prince William Campus
  • Patrick Vargas University of Illinois


age differences, motives, organizational citizenship behavior, subjective age identity


Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is characterized by discretionary acts, such as helping colleagues, voluntarily taking initiatives, or showing exceptional commitment to work. Employee engagement in OCB is a building block for public park and recreation agencies to respond well to the demands for flexibility, adaptability, and innovation that characterize the volatile business environment. Alternatively, it is estimated that by 2018, nearly one quarter of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of workers age 55 and older (Toossi, 2009). Therefore, motivating an age-diverse workforce to engage in OCB might emerge as a compelling issue to public park and recreation agencies and require an astute understanding of age-related effects. Will the aging workforce make managing OCB more complicated? This question deserves empirical examination; and thus, the purpose of the current study was to explore the role of chronological age and subjective age identity in shaping OCB-specific motives (prosocial and impression management motives) and OCB among public park and recreation employees. Moreover, the mediating effects of the motives in the relationship between the age measures and OCB were investigated. Chronological age has been the most prominent operationalization of the age construct in existing research; however, it is argued that subjective age identity, which reflects one's actual feelings of his/her aging experiences, may provide useful insights into effects of aging on OCB-related motivational processes. A cross-sectional survey design was used to collect data from full time employees at municipal park and recreation agencies in the state of Illinois. The data from 571 usable responses suggests that younger employees are more driven by impression management reasons for OCB as opposed to their older counterparts. However, a positive relationship of age with prosocial motives was not confirmed. In addition, employees with greater prosocial motives tended to report greater levels of OCB, whereas employees with greater impression management motives tended to report lower levels of OCB. Greater impression management motives observed among younger employees were found to provide an explanation for their lower engagement in OCB. The mediation analyses also suggest that employees with a more youthful identity may perform greater levels of OCB because of their greater emphasis on prosocial reasons and less concern for impression management reasons. The findings of the current study have several implications for managing employees in municipal park and recreation agencies. For example, managers should consider age differences in motives and behavior when managing and communicating expectations to employees. Based on the findings of subjective age identity, strategies that could help employees to secure and maintain a more youthful identity may foster prosocial motives and OCB. To reach this end, managers could develop a positive, energetic work climate or ensure that established policies or benefits programs provide timely assistance for employees to better manage their physical and psychological well-being.