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Reliable and unproductive? Stereotypes of older employees in corporate and news media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2016

Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Address for correspondence: Anne Kroon, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, 1001NG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands E-mail:


Older employees face a severe employability problem, partly because of dominant stereotypes about them. This study investigates stereotypes of older employees in corporate and news media. Drawing on the Stereotype Content Model, we content analysed newspaper coverage and corporate media of 50 large-scale Dutch organisations, published between 2006 and 2013. The data revealed that stereotypical portrayals of older employees are more common in news media than in corporate media and mixed in terms of valence. Specifically, older employees were positively portrayed with regard to warmth stereotypes, such as trustworthiness, but negatively with regard to competence stereotypes, such as technological competence and adaptability. Additionally, stereotypical portrayals that do not clearly belong to warmth or competence dimensions are found, such as the mentoring role stereotype and the costly stereotype. Because competence stereotypes weigh more heavily in employers’ productivity perceptions, these media portrayals might contribute to the employability problem of older employees. We suggest that older employees could benefit from a more realistic media debate about their skills and capacities.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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