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 losing their jobs or becoming targets themselves.