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

Casual businesswoman resting head on desk

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, hen 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 too familiar?

A more optimistic possibility is that business leaders are catching onto the idea that workplace bullying hurts businesses. While our individual stories show workplace bullying as alive and real, the trend of workplace bullying incidents is what indicates an evolving culture. And changes in incidents could include such factors as more awareness of what workplace bullying is, more comfort in admitting to being a target, or increased action from business leaders.

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One comment

  1. Steven

    Senior executives understand that they are ultimately responsible and liable for workplace culture, including harassment, bullying, and/or mobbing. If these executives admit to a problem then they cannot rely on scapegoating, and claiming that they were unaware. It is willful blindness and intentional ducking of responsibility. That is why we need laws which go outside and above the executives and the organization. I also believe that these workplace behaviors are a kind of corruption and that there is an “agency problem” in terms of executives legally bound responsibilities to improve enterprise value. These behaviors reduce value of the enterprise and only enrich negligent or corrupt management practices.

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