Workplace bullying in the non-profit sector

Not always so rosy (Image courtesy of clipartsign.com)

Not always so rosy (Image courtesy of clipartsign.com)

It may be tempting to tag the big bad corporate world as the main locus of workplace bullying. But many who have toiled in the non-profit sector will tell you that work life in the land of crunchy granola and dreamy mission statements is not a picnic.

During the 15-plus years that I have been involved in the anti-bullying movement, I’ve heard dozens of accounts of employee abuse in the non-profit sector — including some of the worst situations imaginable. I don’t know if bullying is more frequent in non-profit organizations than in private companies or government offices, but it would be a huge mistake to ignore its prevalence and severity in the do-gooder realm.

After all, workplace bullying transcends social and political beliefs. You’ll find workplace aggressors of all different political stripes, income levels, and faith traditions. There’s no reason why the non-profit sector should be immune from them.

But why?

The non-profit sector is all about helping people, making a difference, and righting wrongs, correct? So how can such devastating behavior be commonplace in the philanthropic world? Here are some possible circumstances that plant the seeds, in no particular order:

First, non-profits often are hierarchical, top-down organizations, with scant managerial accountability. Such organizations may, rightly or wrongly, feel like they’re too busy to bother with adopting and practicing effective feedback mechanisms on their leadership.

Second, some do-gooders believe that the nobility of a mission justifies overlooking the building of positive employee relations, especially when time and resources are in short supply. It’s all about the cause, and we’re all in this together, right?

Third, non-profit boards may exercise very little oversight or care when it comes to how workers are treated. Impressions of employee productivity and morale are often filtered mainly through the executive director (or equivalent senior administrator).

Fourth, the non-profit sector is as susceptible as any other to falling for glib, quick-witted, charismatic types who are great at working the room during an interview. Some of these folks talk a great game but turn out to be all about themselves. The worst of them demonstrate deeply narcissistic behaviors and don’t hesitate to bully, exclude, and/or marginalize those in their way.

Fifth, non-profit managers are not always selected because of their leadership ability. More than a few are great at advocating for folks in need, a safe environment, or all the shelter cats and dogs whose pictures adorn Facebook, while being lousy at leading and working with others on an individual level.

Finally, non-profits often are expected to do more with less. Bullying can erupt when managers and co-workers feel the squeeze.

Part of a bigger picture

In a great 2007 piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Guess Who’s Socially Irresponsible?,” fundraising consultant Mal Warwick noted that “philanthropy — the love of humankind — is missing from the practices of many nonprofits.” He especially criticized those organizations that deny their workers living wages and use “strictly hierarchical, command-and-control” management techniques.

Warwick didn’t talk specifically about workplace bullying in his article, but it would’ve made for a perfect addition. After all, his message was that non-profits must “come to understand that philanthropy begins at home.” Treating workers with dignity is a pretty good start.

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This post was revised in August 2016.

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HR and workplace bullying: A revealing online conversation

In a recent blog article assessing the anti-bullying movement in 2010, I stated that we saw both breakthroughs and backlash during the past year. This post reports an example of the latter.

I call to your attention a recent, revealing online exchange about workplace bullying, employers, and human resources that took place on the discussion board of Workforce Management (link here). Several self-identified HR folks suggested that:

  • concerns about workplace bullying are greatly exaggerated;
  • many claims about bullying at work are without merit; and,
  • the anti-bullying movement is a “fad” — like sexual harassment and diversity concerns generally — that eventually will go away.

Two individuals who urged that workplace bullying be taken seriously, workplace consultant Catherine Mattice (“catmattice” on the discussion board) and mediator Debra Healy (“mgoose12”), were cuffed around by those who said they were trying to cash in on bullying concerns for the benefit of their practices. Fortunately, they more than held their own. (It helps to have the facts on your side.)

Later on, Catherine posted a lengthy commentary on this exchange to her blog.

If a sign of progress for an emerging movement is resistance and criticism, then I guess you can say this exchange reflected that. Still, it shows that we have a lot of work left to do in order to persuade employment relations stakeholders of the destructive impact of psychological abuse at work. The tone of dismissiveness, annoyance, and even derision from some of the folks who posted to that thread was palpable.

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For related commentary (and one of this blog’s most popular posts), see “HR was useless”, explaining the realities of HR’s role in the workplace.

Dealing with “gatekeepers” at work: Beware of Dr. No

(image courtesy of clipartpanda.com)

Every organization needs individuals who can sign off on new ideas. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But what happens when these people are obstructive gatekeepers who stand in the way of innovation and creativity?

Defining a gatekeeper

In his excellent book The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (2010), Chris Guillebeau defines a gatekeeper this way:

Gatekeeper. n. 1. A person or group with a vested interest in limiting the choices of other people. 2. An obstacle that must be overcome to achieve unconventional success.

Sound familiar? If so, read on.

Human hedgerows in organizations

Guillebeau encourages people to find more independent ways to work, and many would benefit from considering that possibility. But what about the vast share of people who, by choice or circumstance, work in conventional organizations?

Mediocre, underperforming, and dysfunctional organizations are filled to the brim with gatekeepers. They sap creative and entrepreneurial energies, discourage innovation, and chase away — literally or figuratively — those who bring generosity of spirit and mind to the enterprise.

Dealing and negotiating with a Dr. No can be a maddening experience. He may be limited in terms of his own performance and presence, but often he functions as a mighty human hedgerow at blocking positive change.

Groups, too

Groups functioning as gatekeepers — such as committees with oversight and approval authority — often are driven by shared desires to control organizational agendas. They are master practitioners of groupthink. In worst case scenarios, a gatekeeping group can become a mob, acting out against an innovator or a non-conformist.

It gets personal — and sometimes passively-aggressive

Many gatekeepers resent “live wires” who bring originality and fresh energies into the room. Accordingly, the bureaucratic, gatekeeping mindset resists both new ideas and those suspected of harboring them. It is likely that someone regarded as a non-conformist will experience extra heavy gatekeeping resistance to a proposal or suggestion, simply because of the source.

In darker situations, gatekeeping can be a form of intentional exclusion, perhaps a passive-aggressive, bullying-type tactic. It’s a way of keeping someone in their place, blocking them from advancement, or preventing them from making a unique contribution. A manager who resents a talented subordinate can use gatekeeping as a way to keep them down, while maintaining plausible deniability that the decision was on the merits.

What gatekeeping is not

Okay, there can be another side to the story.

Some ideas just aren’t very good. At times, an individual proposing an initiative may lack the judgment, ability, or even trustworthiness to pull it off successfully. And even the best of organizations have dealt with individuals who cloak naked, clawing ambition and outright power grabs under the guise of being innovative. 

Troubleshooting proposals at the outset can save organizations a lot of frustrations and blow-ups later, not to mention time and money. Good organizations wisely and fairly vet new ideas, as well as the individuals who offer them. Good ideas and good people can pass an honest review of asking what can go wrong.

How to cope with them

When confronted with genuinely obstructive organizational gatekeepers, what are your options? Consider these questions and possibilities:

1. What can you do on your own authority, without running afoul of gatekeepers and putting your job in jeopardy? For example, maybe your idea or project doesn’t need gatekeeping approval under the protocols and policies of your organization.

2. Can you go around gatekeepers through intelligent and strategic manipulation of your bureaucracy? Perhaps you can get the green light from someone above them. That said, consider such options very carefully. It can burn bridges and leave you defenseless.

3. Is there a way of packaging your idea that makes it seem less innovative? Boldness is threatening to the average gatekeeper. Maybe you can pitch your proposal as more run-of-the-mill stuff.

4. If you’re not in the good graces of the gatekeepers, can you enlist the support of someone who is less threatening to them? Perhaps a colleague who is perceived as less of a threat can be out front in obtaining the go ahead.

5. Is this an idea that will keep until a gatekeeper is removed or you change your situation? Delaying implementation of an innovative idea creates the risk that someone else will beat you to it. But sometimes you can bide your time until circumstances change.

As you can see, there are no easy answers concerning how to navigate these dreamkillers. But sometimes it is possible to work around them, and hopefully that will be the case when you have an awesome new idea worth pursuing.

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This post was revised in August 2020.

In recovering from adversity, past adversity can fuel our resilience

Many readers find and follow this blog because they have had a difficult or even traumatic experience related to work, such as workplace bullying or a job loss.

If you are in this position and trying to cope with it, you may find helpful the information contained in this article by Benedict Carey for the New York Times, “On Road to Recovery, Past Adversity Provides a Map” (link here). It also may be helpful to those studying how to recover from bullying and violence at work.

Past adversity builds resilience, to a point

Carey examined research studies on the ability of people to recover from severe adversities or setbacks and found that “the number of life blows a person has taken may affect his or her mental toughness more than any other factor.”

However, it may come as a surprise that the most resilient individuals, overall, were those who had experienced some, but not too many, highly stressful events in their lives, such as severe illness, deaths in the family, and marriage breakups. According to a study by university researchers of personal resilience using 2,000 adult subjects:

It was those in the middle, those reporting two to six stressful events, who scored highest on several measures of well-being, and who showed the most resilience in response to recent hits.

It turned out, the study suggested:

…that mental toughness is something like the physical strength: It cannot develop without exercise, and it breaks down when overworked.

Most can recover

Carey concedes that “when people are truly sinking, because of job loss, illness, debt or some combination of ills, they have no idea what mix of character, connections and dumb luck will be enough to pull through.” Furthermore, the resilience study indicated that those who had experienced 12 or more adverse events faced an especially difficult road to recovery.

However, Carey notes that “(i)t is clear that with time, most people can and do psychologically recover from even devastating losses….”

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For the abstract of the resilience study by researchers Seery, Holman, and Silver, go here.

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Related posts

Adversity, resilience, and trust

Empathy AND resilience: Keys to combating workplace bullying

“Work is broken” (Can we fix it and remake it?)

Work is broken. This line was invoked by several speakers during opening sessions of the annual meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA), held on January 6-9. It stood as a repeated acknowledgment of the deterioration of the employment relationship, the loss of good jobs, and the overall state of work in America.

LERA (website here) is the nation’s leading non-profit, interdisciplinary research and education association for scholars and practitioners in fields concerned with workplace relations. Work is broken was a telling admission from folks who have been researching and practicing for decades.

Let me count the ways

Of course, work may be broken in different ways to different people.

To workers who have been unable to obtain work for months or perhaps longer, we’re talking about the enduring effects of a recession that economists claim ended in June 2009. (That reminds me of a certain President who stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a big “mission accomplished” banner behind him….)

To workers who have been bullied or harassed out of their jobs while company executives or HR officers turned the other way, we’re looking at work environments so bereft of ethics that basic human dignity has been cast aside.

To workers who now are hearing that their pension plans may go under, we’re witnessing the breach of a social and legal contract that offered a decent retirement in return for many loyal years on the job.

Fixing work

Straight jobs

We need to rebuild our base of what some call straight jobs. By that I mean conventional jobs in the service, retail, and manufacturing sectors that provide a fair day’s pay for a good day’s work. Solid jobs where people are treated decently — some perhaps short on thrills and challenges, but at least paying for life’s expenses while providing the dignity of a paycheck.

Straight jobs anticipate working in offices and cubicles, factories and construction sites, and retail outlets of various shapes and sizes. They are fine for many people. After all, conventional employment can provide security, stability, and built-in resources — not a bad deal!

Recovering a balance of power

On a systemic level, we need to re-embrace the 3-way structure of employment relations in which workers, management, and government have a voice at the table in determining workplace governance. This was the case during the heyday of the American economy, covering roughly the late 1940s through 1960s. Our system reflected a better balance of countervailing power between major stakeholders in the employment relationship.

Labor movement

Accordingly, we need to rebuild our labor movement. Intense employer hostility to unions, weak government enforcement of labor laws, and changes in the labor market have resulted in that balance going way out of whack, especially in the private sector where individual workers are largely on their own to secure better pay and working conditions.

Unions are not a panacea. The bad ones are no more virtuous than lousy corporations, and I have heard many, many complaints from workers who were let down by theirs. Nevertheless, strong, effective, and inclusive unions remain the best way to channel concentrated employee power and voice for the largest number of workers.

Something different…

Equally important, we have to empower the creative and entrepreneurial instincts of those who want to do something different. Here’s why:

Our economy badly needs the jump start effects of new businesses. Supporting the creation of small businesses is a means to that end.

Furthermore, for some, straight jobs are limiting or even stifling. The 9 to 5 thing may be a long-time American staple, but it’s not for everyone.

In addition, many of these traditional work settings are, by their very nature, breeding grounds for dysfunctional and unethical behaviors. For example, unchecked workplace bullying rarely occurs in a vacuum; those who bully typically have been enabled by their organizations. Similarly, organizations where executive pay has become excessive usually have created the conditions that allowed it to happen.

Increasingly I am skeptical that most organizations with entrenched, dysfunctional cultures are capable of significant change. Perhaps a “marketplace” of ethical behavior can supplant some of the bad apples with entities capable of both productivity and decency.

Remaking work

So, what are some of these new ways of working? To encourage your brainstorming and visionary thinking, take a look at these resources, the first two of which I have mentioned before on this blog. Together they raise a world of possibilities:

Freelancer’s Union

The Freelancers Union (link here) is an advocacy and support organization for America’s 42 million independent workers, who represent roughly 30 percent of the workforce. These include “freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contingent employees, and the self-employed.”

Seth Godin

Godin (blog here) is a bestselling author of books on work, careers, and entrepreneurship. His pithy works, in the forms of books and free online materials, encourage us to think imaginatively about how we spend our time working. For previous posts on Godin, go here.

Chris Guillebeau

Guillebeau (website and blog link here) is a writer on a crusade to encourage people to follow their dreams, not what others suggest for them, even if it puts them at odds with the mainstream.

He is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (Perigree 2010). Although the book suffers from a touch of youthful arrogance (he appears to be in his early 30s), his message may resonate strongly with folks experiencing a midlife crisis who are in search of inspiration and guidance to do something different with their lives. It’s a quick and excellent read.

Much of the book was developed out Guillebeau’s much-downloaded free pdf, A Guide to World Domination. He has a lot of great ideas, and I’ll be returning to his work in future posts.

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Panel on Psychological Health at Work

If we’re going fix and remake work, then psychologically healthy workplaces must be part of the mix. Thus, I appreciate that LERA hosted a panel I organized titled “Psychological Health at Work: The Roles of Law, Policy, and Dispute Resolution.” I’ll have more to say on the subject matter of the presentations in future posts, but for now, here was our lineup:

Moderator

Heather Grob, Saint Martin’s University

Panelists

John F. Burton, Jr., Rutgers University (NJ)—Workers’s Compensation Benefits for Workplace Stress

Krista Hoffmeister, Colorado State University (CO)—Beyond Prevention Through Design: Perspectives from Occupational Health Psychology

Debra A. Healy, Healy Conflict Management Services (OR)—Mediating Workplace Abuse: Does It Work?

Tapas K. Ray, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (OH)—Costs of Stress at Work: Who Bears Them?

David C. Yamada, Suffolk University (MA)—Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Harassment: Emerging Legal Responses


Recycling: On core groups, workplace bullying as torture, and organizational cultures

From the archives of this blog, here are three previous articles of possible interest:

1. Do “core groups” reveal who is in charge and who is not? A Boston perspective, here (February 2009).

2. How do workplace bullying targets describe their experiences? It’s a form of psychological torture, according to an important study, summarized here (February 2009).

3. What kind of organizational culture do you have? For more on a framework that yields remarkable insights, go here (April 2009).

[Editor’s Note: In addition to maintaining a list of articles that have remained very popular on this blog — see the Popular and Notable Posts page — every month or so I’m going to be recycling relevant posts from more than a year ago. Hopefully they will be of interest to newer readers.]

So what’s your road warrior kit?

I’m not a high-tech kinda guy, but over the years I’ve found myself packing more gadgets into my bags when I’m traveling for work. Here are my thoughts on what we need to take with us. I’d welcome yours.

Bare bones

Cell phone + charger

Duh. Even for me, a cell phone while traveling has become a staple.

However, I won’t even try to make a recommendation. It took me until late 2005 to get a low-end cell phone, and I’ve still got it. Some folks have smart phones; mine is a Neanderphone, replete with antenna. It doesn’t take or receive pictures, and I have no idea how to text. But when it comes to making and taking phone calls, it does the job.

Laptop + memory stick

Computer access while traveling for work is close to becoming a necessity for many. If your work involves a lot of writing with a word processing program, or even e-mails heavy on text, a lightweight, full-fledged laptop makes much more sense than a netbook or tablet.

Laptop prices have dropped considerably in recent years. For $500-$750, you can set yourself up with a PC laptop; for about $400-$500 more, an Apple MacBook.

A couple of years ago I took the Mac plunge, and I’m glad I did. I travel with a 13-inch MacBook, and my back is grateful.

A memory stick or some other data backup option also is a requirement if you’re producing and saving work.

If Internet use, including some light e-mailing and surfing, is all is you need, then an inexpensive netbook or tablet computer probably will do.

Extras

Internet connection

If you’re staying in a place with free WiFi, great. If not, some hotels have free Internet use in their lobbies. Otherwise, plan on paying $10-15 a day for an in-room connection.

Increasingly, airports are providing free Internet connections as well. This is a very nice thing.

Another option is to consider the new plans for portable 3G connections, using a portable stick modem. It’ll cost you around $40/month for unlimited use, but it may be worth it if you travel a lot and find yourself paying for airport and hotel Internet connections.

If you’re stretched for dollars, pay-as-you-go Internet cafes and airport kiosks may seem like an affordable choice. But beware, the per hour charges can add up fast, as I learned last spring when I was stuck in Germany after a short conference because of the Iceland volcanic ash situation. Foolishly I didn’t bring my laptop, so I spent huge amounts of money at the local Internet cafe!

MP3 player

I love listening to music. but I’ve never developed the habit of carrying around an i-Pod. Mine usually stays at home, along with the cassette Walkman I still use on occasion.

But such a tiny gadget delivers a lot of relatively affordable enjoyment, and it’s a painless addition to your road warrior kit. Another option is to listen to music stored on your laptop — though it definitely runs down your battery.

E-reader

I love to read and I love books. But I can’t stay within the carry-on limit if I want to lug a bunch of books around. An e-reader is a worthy compromise for me. I’ve opted for an Amazon Kindle.

The genuine low-tech, low-maintenance option is to drop a few good paperbacks in your bag. I still do that too.

Expectations and Budget

Of course, some of these choices will be shaped by the expectations of your business or workplace, as well as your personal budget. It is safe to say, however, that travel costs have increased in this category in terms of the technology and communications that many are expected to maintain even when they’re not working in a main office.

Convenience goes with all this as well. It’s easier to keep in touch with people. It’s possible to do “real” office work while on the road.

And a laptop computer can become a mini-movie theatre with a few DVDs or a Netflix account. In a standard-issue hotel room with the usual cable menu and overpriced movies, that can be a welcomed option.

Workplace bullying, stress, and fibromyalgia

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations, in person and online, with three women who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and each has experienced severe bullying and heavy-duty stress at work. If you’re unfamiliar with fibromyalgia, here’s a chance to learn something about it.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, disabling medical condition marked by widespread pain and fatigue that afflicts women far more often than men. Compared to many other serious maladies, research on fibromyalgia is an early work in progress, but we’re learning a lot about it. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points — places on your body where slight pressure causes pain.

Fibromyalgia occurs in about 2 percent of the population in the United States. Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there appears to be no triggering event.

In other words, we’re talking about severe, ongoing pain and the power of a knockout punch.

Gender implications

The gender implications of fibromyalgia are significant. Let’s juxtapose some numbers: If the Mayo Clinic is correct in stating that fibromyalgia will occur in 2 percent of the population, and if studies such as this one suggesting that 9 in 10 sufferers are female are even close to hitting the mark, then we have a hidden epidemic among women.

Bullying connection

The Workplace Bullying Institute recognizes that fibromyalgia can be a consequence of workplace bullying (link here). Research is making the link: For example, a 2008 study led by Canadian researcher Sandy Hershcovis (news coverage, here) found that workplace bullying targets were more likely to develop fibromyalgia. A 2004 study led by Finnish researcher Mika Kivimaki (abstract, here), found that stress at work “seems to be a contributing factor in the development of fibromyalgia.”

Anecdotally, here’s a blog post from a nurse manager who suffers from fibromyalgia and is grasping the link to her experiences of bullying at work:

But, it is affecting my health.  She is a bully and she wants me out of the office- end of discussion.  How do you deal with people like this?  Just this morning, there walks one of her patients right into our office.  Do I say anything, like “See, you have patients in here!”  No, I did not say a thing!  I just turned around and kept working!  I think that is why some of us are so sick!

Connections to law reform

The bullying/fibromyalgia connection bolsters the argument for legal reform. When the Healthy Workplace Bill is enacted into law, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia may be sufficient to establish a showing of physical harm in support of a legal claim.

Furthermore, the fibromyalgia/bullying connection relates to the work of two Florida law professors who have been writing on other aspects workplace bullying and the law:

  • Professor Susan Harthill of Florida Coastal School of Law has written about possible applications of occupational safety and health law to workplace bullying (abstract, here).
  • Professor Kerri Stone of Florida International University College of Law has written about how workplace bullying has discriminatory impact on women, even if on its face it is an “equal opportunity” form of mistreatment (abstract, here).

Sadly, it’s not as if we need to add another disabling condition to the list of those that can result from workplace bullying. Nevertheless, the more we understand the destructive nature of bullying, the stronger our arguments will be to respond to it.

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Note: Both Susan Harthill and Kerri Stone are scheduled to present on a panel about workplace bullying & the law with me, Dr. Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, and Prof. Lea Vaughn of the University of Washington Law School at the biennial Congress of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (link here) next July in Berlin.

The press discovers the coming Boomer retirement crisis

I’ve been beating the drum on the coming crisis of the Baby Boomer generation’s lack of financial readiness for retirement. Recent posts have discussed the retirement crisis in general, pension fund problems facing public sector employees, and the health of Social Security.

That’s why I’m glad that as 2010 came to a close, we saw a swell of recognition of the retirement crisis in the popular press. For example:

10,000 a day

Dave Carpenter, writing for the Associated Press (via the Boston Globe, here), reports on the sheer number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and the likelihood of a diminished standard of living:

Through a combination of procrastination and bad timing, many baby boomers are facing a finance disaster just as they’re hoping to retire. Starting in January, more than 10,000 boomers a day will turn 65, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years.

…Some 51 percent of early boomer households, headed by those ages 55 to 64, face a retirement with lower living standards, according to a 2009 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Middle class savings woes

Helen Kearney, in a piece for Reuters (via Yahoo! Finance, link here), reports on the vastly inadequate retirement savings levels for America’s middle class:

The average American has saved less than 7 percent of his desired retirement nest egg and will likely have to keep working in retirement to supplement his income.

…”Too many Americans have their heads in the sand in the face of obvious savings deficits,” said Laurie Nordquist, director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement Trust. “Barring a miracle, a winning lottery ticket or a big inheritance, they’re going to be forced to dramatically cut back their lifestyles after retirement.”

Granted, the study cited in the piece was sponsored by Wells Fargo, an investment brokerage, but these figures are very consistent with other studies and analyses.

Wear & tear

John Waggoner, in a feature for USA Today (link here), examines the challenges confronting older workers who cannot afford to retire but who are physically less able to work:

However, a significant number of people won’t be able to work much past the age of 65. Some won’t be able to keep up with the physical demands of their jobs. And amid a recession, others with outdated skills or relatively high salaries are finding it increasingly difficult to get or keep desirable jobs.

“My view is that 75% of the population can work longer and would be better off doing so,” says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But 25% will have health problems or skills not matched to the existing jobs, and they will have a hard time working longer.”

Empty-nesters: Save more

Gail MarksJarvis, writing for the Chicago Tribune, urges empty-nesters to save more money for retirement:

Many parents have the ability to save significantly once their children are grown and leave home, but they squander the opportunity, according to research by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Clearly, saving is difficult while raising children. . . . But, eventually, parents reach a point where they aren’t spending on schooling or piano lessons any longer, and that’s when they hurt themselves needlessly.

Public sector pension plan goes broke

Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh, writing for the New York Times (link here), report on how national attention has been drawn to the town of Prichard, Alabama, as a harbinger of things to come concerning underfunded public pension plans across the country:

This struggling small city on the outskirts of Mobile was warned for years that if it did nothing, its pension fund would run out of money by 2009. Right on schedule, its fund ran dry.

Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.

Politics

The Economist, recognizing the political influence of the Boomers, has weighed in with a piece examining how the retirement crisis will relate to politics and policy making (link here):

FROM the moment they entered the workforce in the 1960s, baby-boomers began to shape America’s economy and politics. They will do the same as they leave. The first of the estimated 78m Americans born between 1946 and 1964 turn 65 in 2011, the normal age for retirement. As their ranks swell in coming years, the burden of financing their retirement will mount. So will their electoral importance.

More to come

This is not a fun subject, but it is too serious to sweep under the rug. I’ll be sharing more in future articles. I predict that this will be one of the dominant U.S. news topics during 2011.

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Bookmark this: Three of the excerpts above reference the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, and with good reason. CRR’s studies on retirement planning and readiness and accompanying policy implications constitute the most important body of work on this evolving topic.

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My magnum opus post on this topic: When Boomers retire (or try to): America’s coming train wreck

Minding the Workplace in 2010

Dear Readers,

Here is a slightly edited summary of a short report on Minding the Workplace sent to me by the host site WordPress.

Thank you for your readership and helping to grow this little blog in 2010. I look forward to sharing more commentary and further exchanges in 2011.

Sincerely, David

***

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2010.

In 2010, there were 218 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 468 posts.

The busiest day of the year was August 23rd with 939 views. The most popular post that day was NBC’s Today Show on bullying-related suicide of Virginia journal editor Kevin Morrissey.

Where did they come from?

Top referring sites in 2010 included:

facebook.com, workplacebullying.org, and huffingtonpost.com.

Visitors came searching mostly for articles about workplace bullying, suicides related to bullying at work and school, and work & the economy.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

NBC’s Today Show on bullying-related suicide of Virginia journal editor Kevin Morrissey August 2010
7 comments

2

Jobs, Unemployment, and the Great Recession: Articles Worth Reading February 2010
2 comments

3

Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven? February 2009
11 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com

4

The school bullying suicide of Phoebe Prince, age 15 March 2010
5 comments

5

The workplace bullying suicide of Jodie Zebell, age 31 April 2010
17 comments

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