Is it more than just a number? Understanding age in the workplace

Managing Age in Organisational Context: A Comparative Study of the Meaning of Age among Managers

Many Australian organisations are failing to effectively manage older workers, prompting researchers at the University of Melbourne to set out to discover the role language plays in our understanding of age and how it impacts on the ageing workforce.

Lead by Laureate Professor Cynthia Hardy, this research project compares two divisions of a global engineering firm and their management of employees of diverse ages.

With long-held attitudes associating old age with decline, the project investigates how the firms talk about age and whether it affects their ability to recruit and engage older employees, as well manage age diversity – when older and younger employees work together.


By comparing the different ways in which the two focus divisions manage age, our researchers will develop strategies to help employers better develop the capabilities of their age-diverse workforce, ensuring that all employees, regardless of age, feel included and valued.

The research also aims to  provide a deeper understanding of the complex processes that cause age to become associated with particular meanings, enabling employers, managers and policy-makers to move beyond conventional, negative stereotypes and develop solutions  that are sensitive to different age cohorts and tailored to particular organisational contexts.


Ainsworth, S, Cutcher, L,Hardy, C & Thomas, R. (eds), Special Issue of Organisation Studies on 'At a Critical Age: The Organising of Age and Ageing', 35(11), 2014

Thomas, R, Hardy, C, Cutcher, L & Ainsworth, S, 'What’s Age Got to Do With It? On the Critical Analysis of Age and Organisations', Organization Studies, 35(11): 1569-1584, 2014. Also reprinted in Work and Organisational Psychology (eds.) GJ Boyle, JG O'Gorman & GJ Fogarty as part of the SAGE Benchmarks in Psychology series and nominated for the 2015 Roland Calori Prize - awarded bi-annually by EGOS for the best article published in Organization Studies over the previous two years.

Hardy, C & Thomas, R, 'Discourse in a Material World', Journal of Management Studies, 52(5): 680-696, 2015

Academic Presentations

Cutcher, L, Hardy, C, Ainsworth, S & Thomas, R, 'A Critical Analysis of Temporal Work: Time, Space and Identity in a Global Engineering Firm', presentation at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, August, 2015

Hardy, C, 'Materializing Discourse: Discourse, Materiality & Action', keynote presentation at the Workshop on Words and Things, University of Sydney, November, 2014

Hardy, C, 'Entering the TARDIS: Age across Time and Space in a Global Engineering Firm', Keynote presentation at the 11th International Conference on Organisational Discourse, Cardiff UK, July, 2014

Hardy, C. 'Materializing Discourse: Discourse, Materiality & Action,' parallel plenary presentation at the 29th EGOS Colloquium, Montreal, Canada, July, 2013.

Conference Streams

Hardy, C, Cutcher, L, & Reed, C (co-convenors): subtheme on 'Identity Work through the Ages: Unexamined Lives?' at the 31st EGOS Colloquium, Athens Greece, July 2015.


Professor Susan Ainsworth

A/Professor Leanne Cutcher, University of Sydney

Professor Robyn Thomas, Cardiff University

Chief investigator

Laureate Professor Cynthia Hardy
Management and Marketing

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