Midlife correlates with an increased risk of being bullied at work, suggest the results of a Workplace Bullying Institute instant poll released earlier this month.
The instant poll asked visitors to the WBI website who have experienced workplace bullying to respond to a single question, “How old were you when the bullying at work began?” WBI collected 663 responses and reported the following:
The average age was 41.9 years. Targets in their 40’s comprised 30% of all targets; in their 50’s were 26.4%; under 30 years of age were 21.3%; those in their 30’s were 18.9%. The prime productive years are also the prime years for being [targeted] for bullying.
Dr. Gary Namie explained the rationale for conducting the instant poll:
For the 16 years of WBI operations, we have noticed that telephone callers seeking help with their workplace bullying problems are rarely young. They tend to be veteran workers with long careers. For a variety of reasons documented by other WBI studies older workers make ideal vulnerable targets. An earlier WBI study found the average age to be 41.
Triple jeopardy: Bullied and job seeking
It telling that so much of WBI’s contact base and website traffic comes from older workers who have taken the time to research and learn about what is happening to them. The implications of the bullying/middle age correlation are significant and daunting.
We have long known that job loss is the most common result of unresolved workplace bullying situations. The target either “chooses” to leave in order to avoid further abuse or is pushed out as the final step of a long course of mistreatment.
In addition, in this era of the Great Recession, older workers who lose their jobs face significant challenges obtaining comparable employment. Statistical data and anecdotal accounts relating to unemployment at middle age refute any assertion of a genuine economic “recovery.”
It follows that middle-aged bullying targets who lose their jobs often face a triple whammy:
First, even after leaving their jobs, many must confront the mental and physical health impacts of being treated abusively.
Second, they re-enter a job market increasingly hostile to older workers, while carrying the baggage of that terrible experience.
Third, these challenges often have a significant impact on their personal finances, requiring them to draw heavily upon savings and retirement accounts to stay afloat.
A good number of faithful readers of this blog fall into this general description. Their accounts pepper the comments to many posts.
Although “middle aged” is a term that few in their 40s and 50s are eager to embrace, this phase of life typically is marked by high levels of personal and occupational achievement and productivity. The specter of workplace bullying during the ongoing economic crisis, however, tells a very different story.
You can read the full WBI instant poll report by Gary Namie here.