June 23rd, 2017
2017 WBI U.S. Survey: National Prevalence, 60.3 Million Workers Affected by Workplace Bullying
2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
19% of Americans suffered abusive conduct at work
another 19% have witnessed it
63% are aware that workplace bullying happens
The Workplace Bullying Institute commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct the 2017 national scientific U.S. survey across two days in late April. The stratified random sample of 1,008 individuals represented all adult Americans. [Zogby methodology and sample details here.] It was WBI’s fourth national survey.
We used the definition of workplace bullying that matches perfectly the definition codified in the Healthy Workplace Bill. Bullying is repeated mistreatment but also “abusive conduct.” We asked American survey respondents to consider only the most serious forms of bullying.
Wording of the Prevalence Question: At work, what has been your personal experience with the following types of repeated mistreatment: abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or verbal abuse? [Response choices are non-italicized phrases in the Table below.]
Using the stratified random sample of 1,008 adult Americans (see the Methodology section at the end of this report), one-fifth of adult Americans (19%) said they directly experienced abusive conduct at work – currently (9%) or earlier in their work life but not in the last year (10%).
This 2017 Survey is the fourth national survey conducted by WBI. As we did in 2014, we incorporated the term “abusive conduct” in the question.
The “witnessed” category was split into those who had seen the bullying of others and those who knew that others were bullied. Both groups would have experienced the bullying vicariously. Recent research of those who vicariously experienced bullying found that the severity of emotional injuries were similar in severity to injuries suffered by bullied individuals.
The most important change was to split the “I have not experienced or witnessed it” category into three separate subgroups. For the first time, respondents were asked to declare if they were aware that bullying happens despite not having personal experiences with it. This subgroup (16%) we call the “Aware & Believers.” They are not in denial. The “Aware & Disbelievers” subgroup (9%) would be those in denial. The third subgroup is comprised of individuals who know nothing, see nothing and are completely unaware of misconduct occurring in their workplace, approximately 37% of all Americans.
The partitioning of the “I have not experienced or witnessed it” group also allows us to clarify to refute the axiom that one must have first-hand knowledge of bullying to recognize its existence. In fact, the 62% of the adult American population that claims to have no experience is split into those who are aware (25%) and those who profess to know nothing (37%).
The percentage of adult Americans aware that abusive conduct/workplace bullying happens at work is the sum of those with direct and vicarious experience plus those with no experience but who believe it happens and those who choose to rationalize abusive conduct as “routine.” That estimate is 63% of adults. We at the Workplace Bullying Institute take some credit for the high level of public awareness. Our work began 20 years ago with the steadfast commitment to raising public awareness and the myriad of activities and programs has expanded to drive that awareness.
The April 2017 survey was conducted when the U.S. laborforce was approximately 161,616,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By applying the prevalence proportions (in the above Table), we are able to estimate the equivalent number of working Americans that correspond to each bullying experience category. Thirty million American workers have been, or are now being, bullied at work. Another 30 million have witnessed it. These proportions are epidemic-level.
The number of U.S. workers who are affected by bullying – summing over those with direct bullying and witnessing experiences – is 60.3 million, the combined population of six Western states.
Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director
View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.
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