Research Summary

Everyday Work Life and Retirement Transition

by Teresa M. Amabile


My current major research program is a broad study of people’s everyday experiences, including involvement in creative activity and intergenerational collaboration at work, and the role those experiences (as well as other factors) play in their attitudes toward and adjustment to career transitions. Our main focus is on the transition to retirement and the extent to which individuals identify with their work or profession. The purpose is to discover how people think and feel about their work experiences across the lifespan, and what determines successful adjustment to retirement. Our data collection uses multiple methods, including surveys, daily diaries, and extensive semi-structured interviews. We are collecting data from current and retired employees in three companies, in four broad groups: (a) employees in the first 5-10 years of their careers; (b) employees in the last 5-10 years of their careers; (c) employees with a planned retirement date in the coming 12 months (who are being interviewed several times as they approach and move through the retirement transition); and (d) retirees of those companies, who retired in the past 5-10 years. Our research team endeavors to contribute new insights that will be valuable to scholars, organizational leaders, and individual employees as they move through and past their careers. The research team includes Lotte Bailyn (MIT Sloan), Kathy Kram and Tim Hall (BU School of Management), Marcy Crary (Bentley University), Hayley Blunden (Harvard Business School doctoral student), and Jeffrey Steiner (Harvard Business School research associate).

Keywords: career; psychology; creativity; identity; retirement; Meaning;