October 28th, 2011

Targets of workplace bullying define “victory”

The recent WBI Instant Poll, completed by 317 respondents, asked how bullied individuals defined “victory” in their personal campaign against workplace bullying. This would mean winning. In a broader sense, it is the justice they seek, perhaps a restoration of the fairness denied them during their bullying months or years.

29% chose the option: “Bullying becomes illegal (a law is passed)”

28% chose the option: “The bully is punished or terminated”

13% chose the option: “The bully quits”

13% chose the option: “I’m out of the situation permanently under any circumstance”

11% chose the option: “I get separated from the stressful situation/location”

7% chose the option: “I get a severance/separation agreement to leave”

Note: the percentages do not total 100% because respondents could choose more than one option.


The two options tied as the most frequent were the delight from seeing the bully punished/terminated and finally having a law against workplace bullying passed. Both are possible, but difficult to accomplish. First, in only 3% of bullying cases are bullies terminated or even punished, according to a 2009 WBI online study. They bully with impunity, no personal accountability.

Second, we know that according to the 2010 WBI national survey, 64% of the public supports the passage of anti-bullying laws for the workplace. At the time of this Instant Poll, 11 states did have current bills. (Visit the Healthy Workplace Bill website to track progress and to see which state may become the first in the U.S. to pass the legislation.) It is heartening to see the level of support for a law from those with experience being bullied. They know more than others how much having a law might have helped them.

Targets, known to be 98% of the people who complete surveys on the WBI website, may be holding out for rare events before they allow themselves to say “I won.”

It is not surprising that targets, hungry for justice, define negative consequences for the bully as the standard for success in 41% of cases. Either the bully quits or is punished or terminated. Again, in the real workplace, these outcomes are rare.

About one-third (31%) considered getting away from the toxic, health-injuring situation a victory. Separation is the most likely ending of the bullying (66% of the time for women, 49% for men, according to the 2010 WBI national data) — whether voluntary or as the result of target termination or constructive discharge (being driven out against their will).

From our experience at WBI meeting and coaching thousands of bullied targets, we know that in order for people to move on to their personal post-bullying lives, they must give highest priority to their health. Employers do not want to provide the safety required to work in abuse-free environments. So, it is important for individuals to reclaim control over their safety. If that means getting out, it can be perceived as having “won.”

The most beneficial separation is one in which the employer sends you off with a severance agreement. Only 7% think this connotes “victory.” In our experience, this is often the best outcome ever possible. Perhaps targets are not even thinking they can ask for severance. But you always should. In fact, demand severance for your years of loyal, excellent service. You are not choosing to leave. Your productivity has been prevented by the bully. For this, the employer should pay.

Severances are larger when there is a component of illegal discrimination among the tactics. Even without a basis to threaten a lawsuit, you can still demand severance. Don’t leave without trying.


Bullied targets, the majority of whom lose their jobs, are waiting for rare adverse consequences for their bully before they feel that they can claim “victory.” A less attractive set of options, though much more likely to happen, involving separation ranked second. Targets chose separation with severance as the least likely way to define “victory,” despite the positive benefits it carries for targets. The survey findings suggest that targets are unnecessarily hard on themselves waiting on unlikely outcomes before they believe they have “won.”

Note: This survey was an online, non-scientific poll. Characteristics of respondents necessarily restrict extrapolation of results to only bullied targets and not to the general population.


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This entry was posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 11:56 am and is filed under Bullying-Related Research, Tutorials About Bullying. 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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