Do workplace bullies intend to inflict pain? Most targets think so.

Frightened man under  the desk in the office

“As our legal education progressed, and we began to lobby lawmakers to introduce our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, we learned that the law did not require the discovery of motive if the action happens. That is, the wrongdoing — bullying acts — was evidence of intent. No one has to divine the hidden goals of perpetrators. If they committed the act, they meant to,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI).

Regardless, some bloggers and reporters like to suggest that most bullying is unintentional. So WBI polled workplace bullying targets in 2014 to find out the intentions of their bullies.

In 91% of cases, respondents said “the bullying was the result of the perpetrators’ deliberate personal decision to act. That is, individuals most directly affected by bullying, targets and witnesses, seem to believe the actions were deliberate and malicious. Malice involves the intent to inflict pain on others,” explains WBI. “Those on the outside looking in as disinterested observers are the only ones who like to say that workplace bullies are ‘misunderstood.'”


  1. toriiannbottomley

    My bully boss clearly enjoyed fantasizing, planning, and executing her tactics. There was a rhyme and a reason. She liked to attack on certain days: Fridays before vacations or long weekends, the last day of school, and when you appeared at your lowest mentally and physically; for example. The former was to insure that during a time of rest you would get none at all because you were left to process and recover from her latest psychological injury. It was also when everyone was racing home so often you were caught alone with her and her lynch mob. She could yell, bang on the table, say outlandish things and if you ever spoke about it you would have no evidence. Once a colleague bore witness to a scenario that she described as akin to a gang rape and I asked her to write down what she observed. She was called into the monster’s office and yelled at, “I can’t have anything written! Give it to me!” and she tore it up. The latter was to get deep into your wound because you are defenseless and hopefully solicit a word or action from you that could be construed as “insubordinate”. This happened on two occasions when teachers were caring for very ill parents, and once when a teacher returned to work after a miscarriage. It is easy to understand why colleagues called her EVIL.

    • Amy

      You reply made me see the pattern my bullies used. I had 2~my direct supervisor and the chief deputy (2nd in charge) which I believe were set up to do from the boss himself. One of their favorites, Friday’s after 4:30 when HR left for the weekend. That gave them 30 minutes and some days they’d call me in the office at 4:40-4:45 and make unreasonable demands that had never been done before. After 21 years on the job, it was amazing the petty crap they pulled and the costly tax mistakes they’d overlook. They knew I suffered from depression and times when I felt like they really played into it, always when I was at my lowest. If I tried to defend myself or question their actions it only made it worse and deemed insubordinate. Never had a write up, was thanked for being the “only honest employee”, knew my job, took pride in my work and stood behind it 100% along with top evaluations. I was fired over a doctors note, was out on FMLA & the dr extended my leave for another week. I spoke with the office on Tuesday, they requested a copy of the new dr note and I called the dr for them to fax it. On Friday of the very same week, a notice was taped to my door for my dismissal for unauthorized leave and insubordination. I called but it didn’t matter, the bosses mind had been made up a long time, he wanted me out. Even though FMLA requires the employer to give the employee 15 days to turn in a dr note, because he’s an elected official in VA, he’s granted sovereign immunity meaning “the King can do no wrong”. I was fired Nov 2014 and am still having nightmares about my job, depression is the worst it’s been and the thought of going back to work is enough to give me a panic attack. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy and can’t image treating people so bad. It helps to know I’m not alone and can only hope one day the politicians will see the damage it causes and do something about it. Going to work should not hurt!

      • Thomas

        If you never endured the trauma of workplace bullying, it is beyond comprehension! It is in some way reassuring that we are not alone, and there are very articulate, dedicated people working to rid society of the evils of workplace bullying.

  2. jan

    The manager that I most frequently refer to (there are a few) Deliberately cam into the work place on a weekend when office with the Director was closed, knowing that I would be alone. This was a planned visit. And the office I was in, only had one excit, so I felt trapped because I would have had to try to squeeze past her to get away from her….

  3. Charlotte

    My supervisor would send nefarious emails or texts like” I’d like to schedule a meeting with you on Tuesday. She’s do this late Thursday or Friday so you’d worry all weekend. When you’d question her about if something was wrong she’d lie and say it was no big deal.

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