April 28th, 2014
Workplace Bullying: Perpetrator Rank & Number in the U.S.
PERPETRATOR RANK & NUMBER in 2014
Mobbing was the term adopted by Heinz Leymann to describe health-harming abusive conduct at work. Mobbing implies multiple perpetrators. Mobbing preceded the term workplace bullying. However, WBI has consistently defined bullying as committed by one or more persons. Bullying nearly always escalates to more than one person joining the main instigator to torment the target.
Question: Who was (were) the principal perpetrator(s)?
Respondents said the following:
- 77% of cases involved single perpetrators
- 23% of cases involved multiple perpetrators
In 14% of cases, the bullying was generated by a combination of perpetrators operating at different levels of the organization – bosses, peers, and subordinates.
With respect to perpetrator’s rank, not counting the combined sources cases:
- 56% held a higher rank, was a boss, top-down
- 33% abuse came from peers, lateral or horizontal, same level
- 11% bullying from subordinates, bottom-up
This pattern is consistent with previous WBI national Surveys.
No interactions between rank and race or rank and gender were found.
When perpetrators enjoy a higher organizational rank than targets, opportunities to abuse authority present themselves. Further, the likelihood of targets being able to confront the boss about her or his unacceptable conduct approaches zero, given the difficulty of crossing the “power gradient.” Coworker, peer-to-peer, bullying may not involve power differences, but the health harm caused by social exclusion/ostracism that peers employ poses an equal, if not greater, threat to the target’s safety.
Research Assistants: Daniel Christensen & David Phillips
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