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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  1. kachina says:

    I have a different take on the results. My desire to see bullies outed is not to restore a sense of justice or fairness (I don’t expect to get those back…they were delusions from which I have been delivered). Nor is it involve elements of retribution or punishment, neither of which lead to the kind of changes I would like to see. The reason that I would like to see bullies removed from their positions is to prevent future occurrences of devastating destruction to individuals, their families, their workplaces, and their communities.

    I know that the escape of the target from the workplace doesn’t solve the REAL and larger problem. I guess I have such poor personal boundaries that I don’t get to feel the “win” unless I bring others with me. Or maybe I just have framed it in such a way that I never really believed that the problem was mine in the first place. I am grateful to have escaped, but still suffer survivor guilt because others are still marinating in a toxic culture.

    I understand that none of us get through this life without suffering in some way. I believe that I have a personal responsibility to use that suffering to create value. That is a true source of triumph and joy from my perspective.

    • I like your perspective. Wanting a law to pass does nothing for the individual target (no retroactive rights), but does help avoid others from suffering. You remind me to never underestimate the altruism of targets. They are the best.

      • kachina says:

        I also believe that if people are happy, they don’t feel a need to demean others. I don’t feel badly about trying to assist a bullying individual toward circumstances in which they have a new opportunity to create value and happiness in their own lives. It is all too frequent that the workplace culture triggers those who are manifesting their worst potentials!

        EVERYBODY is miserable in a toxic environment…it just looks different depending on the predispositions and positions of the players. We all deserve an opportunity to be our best selves.

    • J. says:

      I agree. Part of me does want to see some punishment, but I don’t really believe that punishment would have much impact on those who bullied me. I would like to see them outed to put an end to years of an abusive administrative regime that has harmed many people and will continue to cause harm. Also, I am beginning to believe that people who engage in long-term, serial bullying should be made examples. If nothing else, open/public condemnation of the behavior might have some benefits.

  2. kachina says:

    I live in Canada, and don’t have a lot of confidence in our governments following the law lately. It will take more than policy and law to stop this epidemic of bullying. http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/government-guts-its-own-anti-corruption-law

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      Sometimes it seems that the bad guys have all the cards and the good guys get abused.

      I know that I do too little, but there is little for me to do. The abusers simply ignore my rhetoric.

      • kachina says:

        Inspiring words from Wikipedia…

        Trade union address by Nicholas Klein:
        And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
        Proceedings of the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1918), p. 53

      • experienced one says:

        I totally agree with you. Most excellent workers are branded, the lazy, insecure, & incompetent personnel are very busy with their berating ways. Take “power” away from a bully they are NOBODY! Give them “power” and they abuse it!

    • kachina says:

      The good news is that I am not alone in my perspective…the current challenge is to find ways to keep the pressure on to demand accountability and transparency wherever immoral behaviours and environments are flourishing. It is critical that our numbers increase and the volume of protest increase until our voices are heard and evoke an appropriate response.


  3. experienced one says:

    Hello everyone,
    My justice would be to prove this bully is one responsible for employees to be stressed, causing mistakes at work,accidents, low morale, poor job performance, and increse in sick calls. I wanted to possibly move up to management , but now my charactor is defamed by this bully. I am definitely qualified, but now that I am the target of this bully, esp. that he was removed from management position, the attacks will be increased and lethal , esp.presently filing a grievance for the admonishment that I can prove are false allegations and esp write-ups instigated by this bully, it was his removal present to me, as mentioned before that administration placed the bully and now removed him is protecting him. I do fear I will get further write-ups for my personality instigated by worst nightmare too late!

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