How employers think they rate with handling workplace bullying

Uncategorized Jun 05, 2018

Most research from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) comes from targets. Through targets’ lenses, we’ve seen:

  • Only 4 percent of employers raised awareness of bullying (2010).
  • More than 80 percent of employers did nothing to stop the bullying. Of those employers, 46 percent were actually resistant to the topic (2010).
  • Nearly six percent of employers had a policy that covered bullying (2012).
  • Thirty percent of employers said bullying “doesn’t happen” (2012).
  • Around 88 percent of employers took no action against workplace bullying. They denied their responsibility to fix the problem (2012).

That picture of American employers is beyond unflattering.

So WBI surveyed business leaders themselves.

The results
What leaders said might be even more startling:

What is your opinion of workplace bullying?
Around 68 percent of leaders called workplace bullying “a serious problem.” Meanwhile, 76 percent of targets said their employers regarded...

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Targets’ versus business leaders’ perceptions of workplace bullying as a serious problem

Uncategorized May 31, 2018

Senior executives don’t think workplace bullying is a serious problem according to 76 percent of polled workplace bullying targets, says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) in a 2013 poll. “The basis for doubt is that targets typically attempted (unsuccessfully, according to other WBI surveys) to have senior management act as if it were serious,” explains WBI.

In a poll of business leaders, WBI found the opposite perception to be true: 68 percent of polled business leaders considered workplace bullying a serious problem.

Why the drastic difference in perception?

“Executives chose what they consider ‘socially desirable’ opinions,” explains WBI. “To report otherwise would make them appear unsympathetic.” In other words, when we reward image rather than actual behavior, we find people at the top who claim to support a positive image, but their actions don’t match the ideals they want to be viewed as holding. Sounds all...

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How workplace bullying targets offset the pain

Uncategorized May 31, 2018

Bullying causes pain. Workplace bullying targets look to both positive and negative vices to offset the pain. In a 2013 poll, the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that targets resort to, in order of popularity:

  • Social withdrawal (33%). Social withdrawal makes recovery more difficult. While social affiliation helps with distress, targets tend to disengage with shame and distress.
  • Self-destructive behaviors (32%). Overeating and drinking topped the list of destructive behaviors.
  • Positive behaviors (25%). A quarter of respondents reported using positive behaviors to offset the pain, including turning to religion, faith, and spirituality.
  • Displacement (10%). The remaining respondents reported taking issues out on family and friends.

WBI points out that rarely are coping mechanisms conscious at first. If they were, we’d only be engaging in exercise, engaging with family and friends, learning something new, and turning to faith. Stress limits...

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Why workplace mobbing is more common than workplace bullying

Uncategorized May 29, 2018

It’s no surprise that bosses are more likely to bully at work than coworkers or subordinates. But what may be surprising is that bosses alone aren’t most likely to bully. About 47 percent of respondents to a 2012 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) poll said a mix of people were responsible for their bullying (mobbing), while only 34 percent of respondents said they only had one bully with a higher ranking than theirs.

“Bullying always begins with a single instigator who nearly immediately recruits the assistance of others,” says WBI. “Those who aid and abet the bully do so either through a direct and explicit appeal or through implied coercion. Thus bullying becomes mobbing [involving multiple perpetrators who gang up on a single target].”

In other words, it’s an abuse of power that leads targets to isolation. Fear prevents the reverse from happening. Subordinates rarely join together to go against a boss out of fear of...

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How workplace bullying targets find justice without a law

Uncategorized May 29, 2018

Workplace bullying is an injustice. When a competent target poses a threat to a deeply insecure aggressor, “the disconnect between deservedness and the deep misery experienced is at the heart of the injustice. Years after targets are out of harm’s way, they still feel lingering pangs of unfairness, inequity, injustice,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). Without a law making workplace bullying illegal, targets are left with finding justice in other ways.

In a 2012 poll, WBI found that 54 percent of targets never found a sense of justice. However, 46 percent of respondents said they found at least some sense of justice by (in order of popularity):

  • Exposing the bullying to senior management
  • Prioritizing their health and career over that particular job
  • Becoming an advocate for the cause to end workplace bullying
  • Hiring an attorney and mounting a legal response
  • Telling their stories to the media


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Where first-time abuse took place for workplace bullying targets

Uncategorized May 24, 2018

“Targets with prior brushes with abuse in their lives do not necessarily risk being targets of workplace bullying. However, when targeted, emotional memories are quickly triggered, and those targets are subject to re-traumatization. The levels of emotional pain, shame, and distress are much more severe than for individuals experiencing abuse for the first time as an adult in the workplace,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). WBI adds that perhaps those who experience abuse for the first time at work take longer to recognize the behavior as bullying because the abuse doesn’t trigger any memories of prior abuse.

In a 2013 poll, WBI found that these options as the most frequent sources of initial abuse, in order of popularity:

  • Families: 44 percent
  • Work (no prior abuse): 33 percent
  • School: 19 percent
  • Strangers: 4 percent


“Within the family-of-origin (FOO), parents were the abusers for 69 percent of targets who claimed...

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How workplace bullying targets reverse emotional abuse

Uncategorized May 22, 2018

Researcher Loraleigh Keashly coined the term “emotional abuse at work” as a synonym for workplace bullying, says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). “All of one’s cognitive resources are deployed to cope with the psychological assault. In worst cases, there is trauma that must be dealt with. In all cases, the target is stigmatized, and social relations with coworkers strained…. Bullying triggers distress, the human stress response in reaction to the bully’s tactics, the stressors. If left unabated, prolonged distress leads to stress-related diseases, all sorts of health complications.”

How to mitigate against the negativity of workplace bullying

“The most effective stress mitigation factor is social support. Validating human support can reverse the deleterious effects of emotional abuse,” says WBI. “Isolation exacerbates the distress. Sometimes learning about the first-time experience can alleviate distress. After all,...

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It’s proven workplace bullying affects blood pressure

Uncategorized May 17, 2018

Harmful health effects from workplace bullying aren’t just self-reported. They’re proven.

In a 2003 study, Researchers Wager, Fieldman, and Hussey looked at the effects of workplace bullying on female healthcare workers’ blood pressure. Researchers separated the workers into an experimental group, who dealt with supervisors of two different interpersonal styles, and a control group, who worked under favorably perceived bosses only.

“Data revealed that working under a less favorably perceived boss resulted in significantly higher levels of systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure than for those subjects working under more favorably perceived bosses,” say Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman in their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article.”The results are intriguing and consistent with data from correlational, self-report studies.”


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How workplace bullying targets have to pay for treatment they didn’t invite or deserve

Uncategorized May 15, 2018

Bullying leads to stress, and stress leads to health problems. Health problems can then eventually lead to poor work performance. At that point, workplace bullying targets can either:

  • Take paid sick leave, which lets employees prevent, recover from, and manage illness
  • File for workers compensation
  • Take family medical leave
  • Seek disability insurance

As of last year, Massachusetts employers are required to provide their employees with 10 sick days, still worse than Norway, Germany, the UK, and Japan (all offering up to 26 weeks) but better than the rest of the U.S., where there is no federal paid sick leave law or provision for replacing lost wages.

In a 2013 poll, the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that slightly more than half of respondents took no sick leave, leaving them vulnerable to health problems, poor work performance, and worsened personal relationships.

That means that nearly half of respondents took some form of sick leave.

Types of sick leave targets...

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When fear from bullying at work costs lives

Uncategorized May 15, 2018

We talk about consequences for workplace bullying targets and their organizations. But what happens in an organization when a bully provokes so much anxiety in targets that targets have crippling fear of approaching the bully?

In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman point to the airline and health care industries to show how fear-based cultures created by toxic bosses can promote not just the deaths of efficiency, effective decision-making, communication, risk-taking, creativity, and innovation, but also people:

Airline industry. “In two separate incidents, in which aircraft personnel felt intimidated by their pilots and fearful of questioning his decisions, aircraft crewmembers failed to correct pilot errors that resulted in two separate air crashes, killing all on board,” they explained.

Health care industry. Nurses are often also reluctant to challenge poor decisions made by...

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