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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: Strong Support for a New Law Against Abusive Conduct at Work

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Support for a New Law Against Abusive Conduct At Work


77% of Americans support a new law to address abusive conduct at work

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.

When the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying data were collected, legislation written to address abusive conduct in American workplaces – the Healthy Workplace Bill – had been introduced in 30 states and Territories. The bill had not yet been enacted into law in its complete form.

We asked all respondents [N = 1,008] whether they supported or opposed such a law.

Wording of the Support for New Law Question: Do you support or oppose enactment of a new law that would protect all workers from repeated health-harming abusive mistreatment in addition to protections against illegal discrimination and harassment?

It is clear that the American public wants to see worker protections against abusive conduct extended beyond the anti-discrimination statutes – 77% support specific anti-bullying legislation when strongly support and somewhat support proportions are combined.

Self-described political ideology was one of the demographic variables provided by Zogby. There were 242 liberals, 314 moderates and 369 conservatives. Table 12 shows the pattern of support and opposition for the new anti-abuse workplace law. The phenomenon of bullying ignores ideological boundaries (with the possible Trump effect being the exception, see the analysis of the final question). Nevertheless, liberals and moderates showed the strongest support for the bill. It is noteworthy that two-thirds of conservatives support enacting the law against abusive conduct at work.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Support for New Law findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: What Stops Workplace Bullying?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Stopping Workplace Bullying


65% of bullying stops when the target loses the job held when first bullied

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.

At WBI, we have been immersed in the lives of bullied targets for two decades. Ideally, employers would recognize the risks workplace bullying/abusive conduct pose and act rationally to stop it. However, we know from targets, this is not the case.

Bullying in its simplest manifestation is dyadic. There is a target and a perpetrator. This question explores how much each player contributes to stopping the bullying and through which personal consequences. [N = 350 with no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Stopping the Bullying Question: What stopped the abusive mistreatment?

This Survey question provided the response option: “It has not stopped” that was chosen by 25% of respondents. Thus, the sample was reduced to N = 263 when those respondents were eliminated. The subsequent percentages in the above Table are based on the new sample that excluded the 25%. The options were chosen only by those for whom the bullying had stopped, either for targets or witnesses.

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 54% 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 5 out of 10 chance of losing her or his livelihood. If one adds the 11% of targets who had to transfer to retain employment, 65% of targets had to leave the job they loved for no cause.

Furthermore, the target is driven to quit. Voluntary quitting (23%) is usually based on escalating health problems that families and physicians recognize, then encourage the target to leave the job. But 12% 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 (8%) of the skilled but 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 (11%), 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.

The pattern of results from this national sample stands in marked contrast with WBI studies asking the same question of a sample of only bullied targets. To them, the ratio of negative consequences experienced by targets is 7:1 when compared to negatives for perpetrators. The public overestimates the proportion of negative consequences suffered by perpetrators.

In this 2017 version of the national survey, we added the option for respondents to choose –employers stopped the bullying by doing something positive and proactive such as creating a policy or conducting credible investigations. Ten percent of respondents chose this option.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Stopping the Bullying findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: Reactions to Workplace Bullying of Employers and Witnesses

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Reactions to Workplace Bullying by Employers and Witnesses


71% of U.S. employers react to reports of abusive conduct in ways that harm targets
60% of coworker/witnesses’ reactions to bullying harmed their targeted colleagues

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.

EMPLOYER REACTIONS

Employers have the power to either sustain or eliminate abusive conduct. Anecdotal evidence suggests that American employers rarely take steps to assist the aggrieved employee (the target). This question asks what the public believes employers actually do. [N = 479; no experience respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Employer Reaction Question: Upon learning of the abusive conduct, what did the employer do?

For many respondents, employer reactions were obscured. Two sub-groups of respondents were eliminated – “employer never learned” and “not sure” – representing 56% of the initial sample. For a host of possible reasons (e.g., the target never reported it), employer actions were unknown to over half of the sample. It is also very difficult for observers to be certain what employers know and what they do because so many actions are shrouded in secrecy beneath the veil of “confidentiality.”

Respondents who were sufficiently certain of what employers did, the remaining 44% of the sample [N = 212], concluded that 71% of employers took steps that did not benefit the targeted worker. The most frequent negative employer reaction is to conduct what targets describe as “sham” investigations characterized by major shortcomings. Investigator biases are often legend. Coworkers, for understandable reasons, fail to corroborate their bullied peer’s account of alleged bullying incidents. Key individuals are not interviewed. Greater weight is given to perpetrators’ versions of incidents. Objective historical documentation is ignored or discounted. “Sham” investigations end with an inconclusive result but with inadequate or inaccurate execution. To be fair to investigators with integrity, the process is fraught with problems in bullying cases different than investigations of routine conflict or illegal forms of discriminatory misconduct. An endpoint of “she said/she said” is common. WBI survey respondents say it happens in 46% of cases.

Because abusive conduct is a form of workplace violence, the complainant has likely suffered long prior to requesting an investigation. Therefore, when no work environment changes to restore psychological safety for complainants follow an investigation, investigators necessarily should understand the perception of incredulity by victims of the psychological violence.

Employer apologists might argue that an employer’s decision to do nothing is an act of neutrality. However, this is wrong. Doing nothing or showing indifference to filed complaints or discovering a procedural technicality to justify not responding to the complaints is an act of complicity with the aggressor. By enabling bullying with impunity, the institution takes the side of perpetrators and provides shelter from the accountability they seek. Doing nothing happens 26% of the time, according to the survey respondents.

Positive employer actions resulted in 29% of cases. Perpetrators endured negative outcomes in only 6% of the cases.

WITNESS REACTIONS

Results from several WBI online surveys of bullied targets reliably show that coworkers rarely help their bullied colleagues. Several social psychological processes operate in the group setting to explain the failure to act prosocially toward colleagues. The question explored a range of positive and negative actions taken by witnesses to the bullying. [N = 362 with no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Question: How did most of the witnesses react to the repeated mistreatment of their targeted coworker?

Doing nothing was the most cited tactic (40%). Of course, doing nothing to help colleagues when they are distressed is not a neutral act. It is negative. However, it is not the same as betraying the target by siding with the perpetrator(s), believed by respondents from the general American public to happen in only 4% of cases.

Positive witness reactions occurred in 40% of cases, according to survey respondents. Negative actions were taken in 60% of cases.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Employer and Witness Reaction findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: How Rarely Bullied Targets Complain

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Notification by Bullied Targets


29% of targets remain silent about their abusive conduct
only 17% seek formal resolution

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.

A key enabling factor of abusive conduct at work is silence. No one talks about what they have either witnessed or directly experienced. Personal shame is frequently a large part of the experience for targets. Without overt sharing of the bullying incidents and the impact of those incidents, the organizational culture that fostered bullying remains unchanged. Perpetrators rely on silence to act with impunity.

This survey question queried who, if anyone, targets told about their experiences and whether informal or formal resolution was sought through employers. [N = 380; no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Notification Question: To what extent did the targeted person make the mistreatment known?

Over one-quarter (29%) of targets were believed to have remained silent over their embarrassing experiences as recipients of abuse at work. Over one-half (53%) of respondents who felt certain about their perceptions of what targets said and to whom believed that targets engaged in only informal notification. That left 18%, less than one in five bullied targets who pursued formal steps to stop the bullying.

Of course, a silent target is likely to suffer from prolonged exposure to distressful work conditions. In fairness, employers cannot be expected to curb bullying when they hear no reports of its occurrence. Targets, without necessarily making a deliberate decision, become their own worst enemies. It is noteworthy that a group of targets of unknown size do choose to not inform their employers out of a genuine fear of retaliation and reprisal.

Contrary to the myth that victims (targets) are “sue-crazy,” only 5% take their stories outside the boundaries of their employers’ world. Thus, bullying is a secret kept by employers within their organizations. A mere 3% use federal or state agencies to seek redress. A miniscule 2% ever file a lawsuit. The author of this report, in the role of expert witness in litigation cases, can confirm that only a small proportion of file lawsuits ever make it the courtroom to be tried on the merits of the cases. The vast majority are tossed by judges acceding to employer motions for summary judgment or dismissal.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Notification By Target findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: Health Impact on Bullied Targets

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Health Impact on Targets


40% of targets are believed to suffer adverse health consequences from bullying

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.

The power of the workplace bullying movement is derived principally from the impact on the health of targeted individuals. Bullying is the dominant psychosocial stressor in the work environment of targeted workers. That stressor triggers the human stress response. In turn, with prolonged exposure to frequent incidents, targets risk the onset of stress-related diseases. In other words, bullying is an occupational health hazard

This question queries the American public about whether health harm from bullying manifested. [N = 479; no experience respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Target Health Question: Was the health of the targeted person adversely affected by the mistreatment?

The split between respondents (targets and witnesses only) who were certain bullying had created health harm was 40%:60% with the latter being those who could not be certain.

Several factors could account for the 60% of uncertain respondents. Targets rarely publicly share their health problems with colleagues. Personal shame suppresses an outpouring. Also targets can endure bullying for long periods of time without awareness that the source of the ill health is their workplace with an attacking bullying in it. That is, the causal links take time to be recognized by targets themselves. Target-respondents could have been part of the 60% of doubters. See Figure 4 below.

Witnesses, too, rarely get into conversations about medical maladies with targets. They, too, may be unwilling or unable to perceive the causal factors which contribute to their friends’ ill health.

[See the WBI extensive survey of bullied targets (a non-scientific sample) of the effects of bullying on targets’ health.]

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Target Health Impact findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: Workplace Bullies Are Still Mostly Bosses

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Perpetrator Rank & Numbers


61% of bullies are bosses
in 63% of incidents the perpetrator operates alone

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.

Mobbing was the term adopted by Heinz Leymann to describe health-harming abusive conduct at work. Mobbing implies that there are multiple perpetrators, a “gang.” Mobbing preceded the term workplace bullying historically. However, WBI has consistently defined bullying as committed by one or more persons. Bullying nearly always escalates to engage more than one person who joins the instigator to torment the target.

For this Survey question, the response categories allowed respondents familiar with bullying either directly or indirectly as witnesses [N = 374 with no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted] to comment on both number of perpetrators and the organizational rank(s) of the bullies.

Wording of the Rank Question: Who was (were) the principal perpetrator(s)?

From the above table, we can say the following:

• 63% of cases involved single perpetrators
• 37% of cases involved multiple perpetrators

• 61% of perpetrators had a higher rank then their targets
• 33% of perpetrators were peers with the same rank as their targets
• 6% of perpetrators were subordinates who bullied targets with higher rank

In 7% of cases, the bullying was generated by a combination of perpetrators operating at different levels of the organization – bosses, peers, and subordinates.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Rank & Number findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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Trump Effect on U.S. Workplace Relationships: 2017 WBI U.S. Survey

Monday, June 26th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey: Trump Toxicity


46% believe the brutish 2016 election campaigns negatively impacted the workplace

The U.S. is unique among nations in the world when it comes to electing its political leaders. Candidates for the highest office, the President, spend nearly two years campaigning for the four-year post. The run-up to the election of November 2016 for President and members of Congress began in 2015. Media coverage was amplified by three major cable networks devoted nearly entirely to political campaigning. The role of social media online also drove the themes during the seemingly endless two years.

The saturation coverage magnified flaws in candidates. There was an unprecedented amount of rancor among candidates on the Republican side. Veteran Republican candidates seemed to coalesce into an anti-Trump coalition. Over the two years, Donald Trump showed a willingness to behave in a non-normative manner. There were several episodes during which his personal vulgarity was exposed. However, he paid no political penalty for these foibles. His shortcomings, read by most as evidence of bullying with a narcissistic flair, encouraged his supporters.

Pundits and commenters lamented the coarsening of political campaigns. Before the election, with nearly two years exposure to bullying and disrespect exhibited at the highest level, school bullying researchers noted the increase in aggression among school age children.

Ultimately, Trump was rewarded, not sanctioned, for his conduct. He had modeled bullying and given license for others to forego norms of interpersonal civility and kindness.

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.

This survey question asked the entire sample [N = 1,008] to opine about whether the American workplace had been influenced by the two-year bombardment of bullying messages manifested during the long electoral campaign.

Wording of the Question: How did the presidential and congressional elections of 2016 affect relationships in American workplaces?


(more…)

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Women Still Majority Targets of Abusive Conduct at Work: 2017 WBI U.S. Survey

Monday, June 26th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey: Gender & Race


Women are 66% of the targets of abusive conduct at work
Men are 70% of the perpetrator
Hispanics & African-Americans bear the brunt of bullying

GENDER

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. 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?

Wording of the Gender Question: Think of the perpetrator and target of repeated abusive mistreatment at work. What was the gender of each?


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2017 WBI US Survey: Infographic of major workplace bullying findings

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Infographic for 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey



Click on this link to view the 2017 WBI Survey Infographic

Download the Infographic in pdf format

Report Sections

You can download the COMPLETE REPORT here.

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2017 WBI U.S. Survey: National Prevalence, 60.3 Million Workers Affected by Workplace Bullying

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

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.]

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