July 7th, 2017

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

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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This entry was posted on Friday, July 7th, 2017 at 3:04 pm and is filed under Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, 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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