Age Bias in the Workplace: The Impact of Ageism and Causal Attributions


  • 1The authors thank Rosemary Hays-Thomas, Terry Schell, Sam Mathews, as well as the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments regarding this paper. They also thank research assistants Silke Holub, Seth Spain, Koren Aragaki, and Demetria Gallagher for their help with various project elements. Portions of this paper were presented at the 18th annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Orlando, FL, April 2002.


This study considers the roles of managerial ageism and causal attributions in the age bias process. Specifically, we predicted that employee age and manager ageism would interact in predicting the severity of recommendations made about an employee's performance errors, such that ageist managers would be more likely to engage in age bias. Second, we proposed that age bias is caused partially by differential attributions made about the performance errors of older vs. younger workers. Results indicated that older employees received more severe recommendations for poor performance than did their younger counterparts. Also, some ageist attitudes moderated the relationship between age and performance recommendations. Stability attributions mediated the relationship of employee age on endorsement of the more punitive recommendations.