Workplace abuse

Workplace abuse (also called workplace bullying) is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of targets by at least one perpetrator that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Sabotage, which prevents work from getting done
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating

The Facts

A 2017 national survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute
and Zogby International found that:

38% of workers have experienced or witnessed workplace abuse. That's 60.4 million Americans.


71% of employers who received complaints about workplace abuse made the problem worse.


61% of workplace abusers are supervisors.
70% of abusers are men.


60% of targets are women. Hispanics are the most frequently bullied race.

Basics of workplace abuse

From the Workplace Bullying Institute

Workplace abuse is often subtle. It's driven by a perpetrator's need to control the targeted individual(s). The perpetrator chooses targets, timing, place, and methods and often escalates it to involve others who side with the abuser, either voluntarily through coercion. Targets are usually capable, dedicated people.

Workplace abuse undermines legitimate business interests when abusers’ personal agendas take priority over work itself. We call it domestic violence at work — where the abuser is on the payroll.

  • False accusations of mistakes and errors
  • Yelling, shouting, and screaming
  • Exclusion and “the silent treatment”
  • Withholding resources and information necessary to the job
  • Behind-the-back sabotage and defamation
  • Use of put-downs, insults, and excessively harsh criticism
  • Unreasonably heavy work demands
  • Spreading rumors and gossip
  • Making offensive jokes or comments, verbally or in writing
  • Discounting achievements and stealing credit for ideas or work
  • Disciplining or threatening job loss without reason
  • Taking away work or responsibility without cause
  • Blocking requests for training, leave or promotion
  • Pestering, spying, stalking, or tampering with personal belongings and equipment
  • Enforcing workplace policies and procedures
  • Evaluating or measuring performance
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Denying training or leave requests with good reason
  • Discussing disciplinary action in private
  • Dismissing, suspending, demoting, or reprimanding with just cause
  • Sideline someone they feel is a threat (the target)
  • Further their own agenda at the expense of others
  • Deny responsibility for their own behavior
  • Mask their lack of confidence and low self-esteem
  • Stress disorders of all types, including anxiety
  • Shock, anger, frustration, and helplessness
  • Clinical depression or suicidal thoughts
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of focus, confidence, morale, and productivity
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Impaired immune systems
  • Symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Destructive impact on family and personal relationships

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