Journal Article

Reluctance to Retire: A Qualitative Study on Work Identity, Intergenerational Conflict, and Retirement in Academic Medicine

Michelle Pannor Silver and Sarah A Williams

Edited by Barbara J Bowers

in The Gerontologist

Published on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America

Volume 58, issue 2, pages 320-330
Published in print March 2018 | ISSN: 0016-9013
Published online September 2016 | e-ISSN: 1758-5341 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw142
Reluctance to Retire: A Qualitative Study on Work Identity, Intergenerational Conflict, and Retirement in Academic Medicine

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Abstract

Purpose of the Study

Some professions foster expectations that individuals cultivate their work identity above all other aspects of life. This can be problematic when individuals are confronted with the expectation that they will readily terminate this identity in later-career stages as institutions seek to cycle in new generations. This study examines the relationship between work identity and retirement by examining multiple generations of academic physicians.

Design and Methods

This study used a multimethod qualitative design that included document analysis, participant observation, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with academic physicians from one of the oldest departments of medicine in North America.

Results

This study illustrates how participants were predisposed and then groomed through institutional efforts to embrace a career trajectory that emphasized work above all else and fostered negative sensibilities about retirement. Participants across multiple generations described a lack of work-life balance and a prioritization of their careers above nonwork commitments. Assertions that less experienced physicians were not as dedicated to medicine and implicit assumptions that later-career physicians should retire emerged as key concerns.

Implications

Strong work identity and tensions between different generations may confound concerns about retirement in ways that complicate institutional succession planning and that demonstrate how traditional understandings of retirement are out of date. Findings support the need to creatively reconsider the ways we examine relations between work identity, age, and retirement in ways that account for the recent extensions in the working lives of professionals.

Keywords: Retirement; Workforce issues; Work identity; Intergenerational relationships

Journal Article.  8063 words. 

Subjects: Geriatric Medicine ; Biological Sciences ; Psychology ; Care of the Elderly ; Gerontology and Ageing

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