January 16th, 2013

WBI Survey: Rank & Numbers of Perpetrators of Workplace Bullying

WBI Research: 2012 – H Instant Poll

Workplace Bullying Institute Instant Polls are online single-question surveys that rely upon self-selected samples of individuals bullied at work (typically 98% of any sample). No demographic data are collected. Our non-scientific Instant Polls accurately depict the perceptions of workers targeted for bullying at work as contrasted with the views of all adult Americans in our scientific national surveys.

In the eighth IP of 2012, 81% of the 806 respondents declared that a boss (higher-ranking person than the target) was involved than bullying.

We asked:

When you were bullied, who did the bullying? Check 1 best answer.

The rank order and percentages for each response option were:

Order Percentage Response
1 .344 One person who held a higher rank than mine
2 .172 More than one person — a mix of higher rank & peers
3 .156 More than one person — all with higher rank than mine
4 .136 More than one person — a mix of peers, bosses & subordinates
5 .113 One person who was a peer, same rank
6 .052 More than one person — all peers
7 .026 One person who held a lower rank than mine

In the vast majority of cases of bullying, the boss is involved.

.808 Bullying by boss
.473 Bullying by peer coworkers
.162 Bullying by a subordinate

Compared to the 2010 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, responses are roughly comparable. In that scientific survey, the proportions added to a full 100% because only 3 response options were available to respondents. Bosses comprised 72% of bullies, coworkers 18% and subordinates 10%. Using the results of this Instant Poll, the percentage of bullies who were solely peers and coworkers was 16.5%.

It is easier for a boss to bully a subordinate. Lower-ranking individuals are socialized to not challenge authority. Bosses can have greater impact on their targets’ economic livelihood by depriving them of jobs. Coworkers can leverage social exclusion and ostracism to harm targets. Subordinates can tactically destroy careeers through sabotage of work of higher-ranking targets.

Mobbing and Workplace Bullying

Many people distinguish the concepts of workplace bullying and mobbing. To them, the distinction is that Workplace Bullying (Andrea Adams, England begun in the early 1990’s) involves only one-on-one interpersonal mistreatment, while Mobbing (Heinz Leymann, Sweden begun in the 1980’s). In line with that thinking, bullying is done by a lone perpetrator; mobbing necessarily has multiple perpetrators who “gang up” on a single victim/target.

Results of this Instant Poll:

.483 Solo perpetrator
.517 Multiple perpetrators

The WBI position is that bullying always begins with a single instigator who nearly immediately recruits the assistance of others. Those who aid and abet the bully do so either through a direct and explicit appeal or through implied coercion. Thus bullying becomes mobbing.

Gary Namie, PhD
Research Director, WBI

Download as PDF file.

© 2012 Workplace Bullying Institute. Do not use without proper citation of WBI as the source.

See the complete set of WBI Studies


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 at 11:10 am and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying, 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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  1. Renata says:

    Bullying in schools will never stop until the hhrceaiy system, grades and the corporate modeled social system in schools change. Grading kids, from A-F, causes bullying. It oppresses kids. The principal is the CEO of the school, the teachers are the bosses, and you have to address them as Mr, and Mrs. while the kids privacy is lost, and teachers do not have the respect for children back. Teachers call kids by their first names. Anytime you have an oppressed group, children in school, they will be worse to each other than the people oppressing them. The slaves did the same thing, they were worse with each other than they were with their masters, their oppressors. When you don’t have the power to rise up against your oppressors, you take it out on your peers. We call it bullying.I think psychologists have failed children by not pointing this out and saying school is unhealthy for children.

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