June 16th, 2014

Workplace Bullying: What Stops U.S. Bullying


Question: What stopped the abusive mistreatment?

This Survey question provided the response option: “It has not stopped” that was chosen by 18% of respondents. The percentages in Table 12 are based on a new sample that excluded the 18%. The options were chosen only by those for whom the personal bullying had stopped or the witnessed bullying had stopped.

The sad reality is that even the general public seems to know that it is the target, the victim of the abuse, who is asked to make additional sacrifices to stop the bullying. In 61% of cases, bullying stops only when the target loses her or his job. Remember that individuals do not invite this severe misery into their work lives. Therefore, once a person is targeted for bullying – a choice made by the perpetrator(s) – that person has a 6 out of 10 chance of losing her or his livelihood.

Furthermore, the target is driven to quit. Voluntary quitting is usually based on escalating health problems that families and physicians recognize, then encourage the target to leave the job. But 40% of quitting is based on decisions made after work conditions become untenable, so cruel as to drive a rational person to escape. Constructive discharge is the goal for many perpetrators. Terminations of the skilled and threatening-to-bullies targets are typically based on fabricated lies. Several WBI surveys of bullied targets substantiate this claim.

Accepting a transfer to retain a job, to bullied targets, is often a source of perceived injustice. Their reasoning is “I did nothing to deserve the abuse, why should I be the one
to leave the job I love and am best qualified to perform.” To many, transfers are punitive. On the other hand, it prevents economic devastation and might provide a degree of psychological safety.

When we consider only job loss and not transfers or punishment with job retention, targets lose their jobs at a much higher rate than perpetrators (82% vs. 18%). When bullies are men regardless of the targets gender the loss rate is equally high (See The Challenge of Same-Gender Bullying). However, when bullies are women, women targets lose their jobs 89% of the time. Notably women bullies, as perpetrators, suffer the highest job loss rate (30%) of any gender pairing.

Though the ratio of negative consequences for targets relative to perpetrators is 4:1, we interpret the rising percentage of negative outcomes for bullies over the years to indicate progress in public (and employer) awareness of bullying. Slowly, bullying is gaining a negative connotation. Perpetrators are starting to be stigmatized. Of course, given the paucity of employer reactions, there is still much progress to be made.

We do not suggest that progress requires demonization of bullies. Rather, employers need to feel ashamed when they condone bullying rather than condemn it. Eradication of bullying, the systemic destructive force within organizations, is the goal, not dealing with the personalities of offenders.

Download the What Stops the Bullying mini-Report

Gary Namie, PhD, Research Director
Research Assistants: Daniel Christensen & David Phillips

© 2014, Workplace Bullying Institute, All Rights Reserved

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 16th, 2014 at 9:56 am and is filed under 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. kachina2 says:

    I’m curious to know what “punishments” perpetrators who kept their jobs were subject to, and whether any were perceived sufficient to constrain abusive conduct within the workplace.

  2. LB says:

    Your 2014 Survey results do not seem to have changed much compared to 2004, which does not surprise me, the time I first began searching for answers to my first bullying experience a decade ago.
    Having been through the entire bullying gamut as a “target”, and after the long/slow recovery process (not fully recovered mind you) and resurrecting what remained of my emotional and mental condition, to a point where I was able to finally get back to work doing what I had worked hard to achieve, in a workplace free of bullies.
    There are some coworkers who are, let’s say, difficult…but at least there aren’t any backstabbing control freaks, and I can tell you, that my bully radar is tuned to the highest sensitivity setting.
    Unfortunately, in my opinion and based on my experiences, bullying will continue unabated until we change the way in which we perceive interpersonal relationships.
    There will always be those that abuse and those that don’t, and it seems that until we change our perceptions about civility and common decency, survey results will mirror the experience of the “mistreated” (to put it mildly).

  3. […] offices, dorms, halls and classrooms around us. We all see it. We all know it’s there. Right now, 29% of workplace bullying is stopped by the victim “voluntarily” leaving their job to escape mistreatment, 19% […]

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