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.

Download the Perpetrator Rank & Number mini-Report
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Gary Namie, PhD, Research Director
Research Assistants: Daniel Christensen & David Phillips

© 2014, Workplace Bullying Institute, All Rights Reserved

Download the complete Report | Access individual sections of the Report

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 28th, 2014 at 3:18 am and is filed under 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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