March 29th, 2013

WBI Study: Timing & Results of Targets Confronting Bullies at Work

WBI 2013-D Instant Poll

Individuals unfamiliar with details of the workplace bullying phenomenon but who declare themselves workplace experts suggest or insist that workers targeted for bullying directly confront their assailants. In a large-sample 2012 survey [WBI-2012-Strategies Effectiveness], 70% of 1,600 individuals said they attempted to confront their bully. The torment ended in only 3.5% of situations. Confrontation was ineffective.

This 2013 Instant Poll survey investigated whether the timing of a confrontation would affect effectiveness. WBI Instant Polls are online single-question surveys that rely upon self-selected samples of individuals bullied at work (typically 98% of any sample). No demographic data are collected. Our non-scientific Instant Polls accurately depict the perceptions of workers targeted for bullying at work as contrasted with the views of all adult Americans in our scientific national surveys.

We asked 554 target-respondents to answer the following question.

For bullied targets only. When did you confront your bully, telling her or him that the abusive conduct was unacceptable to you?

Percentages of each response were:

.312 I never confronted my bully directly

This meant that 68.8% of respondents (n=381) did confront their bully, matching the percentage of targets who reported confronting their bullies in the 2012 study.

Because respondents could make only one choice, those who chose the responses below represented a sub-sample independent of those who reported that they never confronted. Subsequent percentages were based on the group of 381.

.021 Immediately during the first incident and the bullying stopped

.228 Immediately but the bullying worsened

.021 Early in the process within weeks, but not immediately and it stopped the bullying

.315 Early in the process within weeks but it did not stop the bullying

.024 Much later, several months after the bullying started, and it stopped

.391 Several months later but it did not stop the bullying

Of those targets who did confront, the majority (42%) waited until several months later. Another 34% confronted within weeks and 25% of targets immediately confronted their bullies. Regardless of the time targets chose to confront, the assertive acts failed to stop the bullying. The overall failure rate was 93%. On those rare occasions when targets were able to stop their bullies, the rate did not exceed 2% despite timing of the confrontation.


The results of this study conformed with the prior larger sample study — approximately 70% of targets actually do confront their bullies. Most targets procrastinate and wait until months after the onset of bullying. Despite traditional advice telling bullied targets to confront, suggesting that rational abusers will stop when faced with resistance from their targets, the reality is that confrontations by targets do not and cannot stop bullies and the bullying.

Gary Namie, PhD
Research Director, WBI

Do not use any of the above findings without properly citing the source as the Workplace Bullying Institute.

© 2013, WBI, All rights reserved.

Download a copy of this report.


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This entry was posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013 at 12:11 pm and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Mary says:


    I have experienced workplace bullying for almost 17 years. Two of the worst bully coworkers retired. I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong. Then, we got a new boss. I had worked with him for years, and never realized, he was a wolf in sheep clothing. I made the mistake of telling him the truth about a situation. Truth to a fool, is equivalent to “Casting your Pearls to Pigs”, and trample them, he did. This same person, that had built me up over the years, was now devaluing me. He made it impossible for me to do my job. If I couldn’t juggle the work of five, it’s labeled as a performance issue. If I asked for help, I was punished for it. Then, a good many of the other managers, and coworkers jumped in, and the mobbing began. My health was suffering. I couldn’t sleep for months. My doctor wrote me out on FMLA, until reevaluation. The worst part, is that I never saw it coming. On the surface, people don’t know he’s a bully. He’s well respected. I pray that I can rise about this mess, so that it does not have power over me. However, I’m not there yet. Due to the stress, I’m not fit to go on interviews, yet. I have applied to several places. The very thought of returning to that same department, causes severe panic. I don’t want to be sick, but I can’t go back to that toxic office. The scary part, is that this bully & the others, work with kids. I want to grow better, and not bitter. Any advice would be most appreciated.

    Kindest Regards,


    • Gerardo says:

      I had never experienced this. Now I have, for about a year, but I wasn’t aware of it. I have some money saved (to survive a couple of months), I quit this job, I believe that I can rest for one or two weeks and be free of this horror, and then go on, I’ll find some job or business that allows me to be happy and in peace. I rather die of hunger, than die in here because I didn’t take the risk of looking for something else. One of my bullies is maybe a dangerous person, but I rather die outside figthing to be in a better situation, even if it is in a retaliation by him, than die here in this hell my workplace became. Be strong and have faith in God. I wish you the best.

      • Veronica says:

        First congratulations for your bravery you are absolutely right it is better to be far from the bully. In October 2014 i sold most of my personal things at a cheap rate, pack 8 suitcases, put my dog in the car and drove north far from my bully. It took a year to heal and finally I started to heal when I encountered another bully in another industry in another state. But you know what I am stronger and I learned it has nothing to do with me, I did not do anything so I am fighting back. I may lose but I will not make it easy for the bully. Hang in there you are not the only one bullied.

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Gerardo, I agree with you. I too have experienced bullying, it worsens when i stood up against my bully by proving to him and his accomplices that I am not what they gossip of me and its the other way around. It is quite challenging when most of the co-workers are brain washed.I know that they cannot do anything about it because they are also afraid that they might be targeted by the so called “leader”. Worse part is gossip is spread out through the industry like wild fire that sometimes out of nowhere a complete stranger would stare, glare, to intimidate me since my tormentor is pretty much connected with his so called “friends with benefits”. I did not have the courage like you did, Im afraid that it would be same when I transferred to another job. Same with Veronica – “I may lose but I will not make it easy for the bully”. Only God knows where this road leads, have faith and keep cool.

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