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Study: Older workers better than younger workers, but what about 'institutional' bullying?

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

A study says workers in their 50s are at the peak of their vitality.

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Andrea Kay in USA Today talked about how older workers are better workers and at the peak of their creativity and vigor: "So says a recent study conducted at the University of Haifa in Israel. It shows that managers demonstrate their highest levels of professional vitality in their 50s and that the older managers are in their 50s, the higher their professional vitality."

Why?

"They are the ones who built businesses that have survived four recessions," Kay writes. "They have learned how to change with the times and are making money, creating jobs and keeping the economy going today."

The University of Haifa said in a press release that "vitality is defined as the ability to carry out tasks with passion, vigor, and competence, and to gain satisfaction from his or her work performance."

The University of Haifa reported on how vitality changes with workers over time: "The researchers also examined whether age is linked to vitality — and found that there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between the two factors. The older the manager, the higher his or her professional vitality, reaching a peak at 50-59 and 57 being the highest point in this sample group. The manager's vitality then begins to drop."

Meaning, it drops down to the level of say, a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old.

All that vitality may cause some jealousy, or worse, as Misty Harris with Postmedia News writes: "Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute finds nearly one-third of people between the ages of 50 and 64 have been bullied on the job. … 'It's institutional bullying: Let's get rid of our older, higher-paid workers so we can reduce our payroll and hire someone younger and cheaper,' says Gary Namie, a social psychologist and director of the WBI."

Loraleigh Keashly, an associate professor at Wayne State University in Michigan, told Postmedia News that the most common forms of bullying at work are verbal hostility, exclusion, sabotage and physical intimidation. "If you look at these behaviours individually, you go: 'Yeah, so someone ignored you. So they didn't say hello. So they glared at you.' But it becomes bullying when it's a pattern over time, and not just a bad day," Keashly told Postmedia News.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that older workers in Europe are finding it hard to retire: "Leaders have increased the legal retirement age to reduce pension costs, passed anti-age discrimination laws and rolled back early-retirement plans, all to keep more seniors in their jobs."

For Italian Beppe Grillo, a comedian-turned-politician, this has a bad effect. "Raising the retirement age to 67 means (keeping) the young out of the workforce," Grillo wrote on his blog, according to Bloomberg.

Ben Popken with Today, however, says studies show this isn't true in the U.S.: "Researchers analyzed data from 1977-2011 from the Current Population Survey, a large annual labor market survey. They found a 1 percent increase in the employment of older workers actually increased employment of younger workers by .21 percentage points. It also increased hours worked per week by .13 percentage point."

When older people work, they have more money and they buy more things and, as Popken writes, "That in turn creates more jobs, for both young and old."

Somebody should tell that to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Vanessa Blum with The Recorder reports on how a judge has said a jury can hear a discrimination claim from 130 employees laid off from the laboratory in 2008. The fired workers had an average age of 54.

At the peak of their vitality, no less.

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