June 26th, 2017

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

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


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?

Bullies were more likely to be men (70%) than women (30%). Both men and women perpetrators disproportionately chose women as targets for bullying. Women bullied women in 67% of cases; men in 65% of cases. Women were targets in 66% of cases overall.

The majority (46%) of bullying cases are one in which the perpetrator is male and the target is female. The rarest (10%) cases involve women perpetrators targeting men. The cases that pose the greatest challenge to women targets seeking protections from hostile work environments are the 20% of cases that are women-on-women since both actors are members of the same protected status group. Overall, 44% of cases are represented by same-gender pairs which have trouble being eligible for sexual harassment claims in workplaces.

The utility of the same-gender finding is its illustration of the inadequacy of current non-discrimination laws and employer policies to cover bullying cases. That means four in 10 cases are considered ineligible by HR gatekeepers in organizations. Complaints go unfiled, and bullying problems ignored or discounted. This allows bullies to bully with impunity.


Race is an important demographic variable that pollsters use to achieve a representative national sample for our U.S. Workplace Bullying Surveys. The proportion that occurs in the general population was matched in the sample for this Survey. In the sample of 1,008 individuals, there were 130 Hispanic, 120 African-Americans, 30 Asian-Americans, and 681 White respondents.

Below are the percentages within each ethnic group that had been bullied, witnessed it and the combined percentage to represent those “affected” by bullying. Race was crossed with the results of the Prevalence question.

The groups most bullied were Hispanics, African-Americans and Whites in that order. Non-White respondents are considered to be members of legally protected status groups. Employers have to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. That is, when they endure harassment, they would be eligible to demand protection from their employers in most situations. From the 2007 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, we know that in 20% of bullying incidents there is an underlying discrimination component.

Bullying, defined in this Survey, as abusive conduct, compounds discriminatory misconduct. In other words, bullying supplements, exacerbates, the mistreatment that may or may not have its basis in race of the bullied target. Bullying is cruelty that transcends race and gender boundaries.

There were only 30 self-identified Asian-Americans in the entire sample. The only conclusion to be drawn from that small group is that those respondents were more likely to witness bullying than claim to be a victim of it. And even that conclusion may be spurious given the small number surveyed.

The overall percentage of those affected across all races was 37%. The two credible non-White groups had higher rates than the national rate. African-Americans were affected at the 43% rate and Hispanics 39%.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Gender & Race 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 Monday, June 26th, 2017 at 12:10 pm and is filed under 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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