BY: John “Hennry” Harris
Depression in the workplace is a concern for many employers in which the focus of concern has been placed on employees at the bottom of the company’s hierarchy. The presumed stressors derive from those employees being tasked with redundant, menial duties, a lack of say in the scope of their jobs and lack of mobility in their jobs, whether real or perceived.
- decreased productivity, missed deadlines and sloppy work
- change in disposition
- social withdrawal
- lack of cooperation or perceived bad attitude
- safety problems or accidents
- absenteeism or tardiness
- frequent complaints of being tired
- unexplained aches and pains
- alcohol and drug abuse
A new study from researchers at Columbia University have found that there is actually a higher percentage of employees in middle management suffering more depression than blue collar workers, owners and executives.
Columbia University studied nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions) which revealed 18% of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression, compared to 12% of blue collar workers and 11% for owners and executives.
Researchers suggest that the woes off middle management come from what they call “contradictory-class location”.
Middle managers receive higher pay and more freedom than they workers they manage, but they earn less than their superiors and still do not get the opportunity to make meaningful decisions. These middle managers also have to enforce policies that they did not develop to subordinates who may object to these policies, which leads to the stressful task of being the target of discontent from both higher-ranking superiors and lower level workers.
“Employees in the middle have dual roles that embody aspects of ownership and front-line labor, without the full benefits of being one or the other—they get flak from above and below,” says Seth Prins, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. “Unlike standard approaches, which would predict less depression and less anxiety for every rung up the income or education ladder, the idea of contradictory-class location led us to our hypothesis about more depression and anxiety in the middle,” says Prins.
Prins also points out that there may also be more solidarity and social support among front-line workers than among the managers which lends to lower self-esteem and internalization disorders like depression.