Most research from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) comes from targets. Through targets’ lenses, we’ve seen:
That picture of American employers is beyond unflattering.
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...
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.
“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...
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:
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...
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...
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):
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“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:
“Within the family-of-origin (FOO), parents were the abusers for 69 percent of targets who claimed...
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.”
“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,...
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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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:
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...
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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