Why you’re a workplace bullying target

Sad businesswoman

Don’t worry – we’re not about to blame you for being a workplace bullying target. Just the opposite. It’s narcissism that’s the root of why bullies bully. And when those in power operate on jealousy and insecurity, their biggest threats are the ones with targets on their backs.

Your strength is a threat

“Targets’ strengths threaten bullies,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) based on findings in their 2012 poll. “Technical prowess and personal popularity posed a threat to their bully (chosen by 34.5 percent of respondents).”

Other reasons why you’re a target

Nearly 39 percent of respondents — around the number of respondents who said target strength was the reason they’re targeted — cited factors outside of targets’ control as the reason for the bullying: personality of the bully, instigator of a mob, and organizational incentives.

About 28 percent of respondents said that bullies perceive a vulnerability in targets. Bullies consider targets weak and not political game players.

These other reasons might cause you to feel flawed and weak. But don’t let them. Vulnerability is never a weakness. It’s a strength. Narcissists are terrified of vulnerability. And while a certain level of political game-playing may be necessary at work, focusing entirely on politics detracts from your greater purpose at work: to work together toward a common vision as a team.

The bottom line

Narcissists view work differently than you do because they’re insecure. That’s it. There is NOTHING you can do to change them. While we may post articles about how you can react to a bully, we simply suggest coping strategies to address the problem: the bully. Whether or not our suggested tactics work have nothing to do with any flaws in you and everything to do with getting you to a healthier place when dealing with these abusive bosses. You are not the problem.

Their insecurities are not your flaws.


  1. toriiannbottomley

    I was skilled and ethical. In reflecting on the article I would say I had 2 weaknesses: my students and my naiveté. In regard to the latter, I was naive about workplace bullying and I … am…..was ?…..an idealist.

  2. Linda Crockett

    Great idea to post some info on targets. I’ve been working with targets the workplace bullying for the last eight years, prior to that I did my masters research in this area and also training with the workplace bullying Institute. I have probably seen a few thousand targets. What I can say from my hands on experience is that the research is valid. What all of these targets have in common is their dedication, loyalty, high standards, skills, strong ethics, intelligence, and a tendency to go above and beyond the call of duty. I would definitely hire about 97% of the targets I see. In my opinion they are an employers dream. I am not stating that targets are perfect, everybody has their own flaws, and everyone has some lessons to learn and some areas to improve on or heal. None of them were bullied because of their flaws, most of them were bullied because of their strengths. Unlike schoolyard bullying when kids go after the weak, an insecure narcissist will go after the strong. Anyone who could make them look bad! We can’t forget that not all bullies are narcissist. There are many different types of bullies. But for those that are narcissists, their goal is to look like the best and get rid of the rest. Another common characteristic that I see in targets is that because they are so strong, determined to prove their worth by working harder, they just keep on trying to fix it themselves. By the time they finally come in for help, the most strongest people you could ever imagine, now hit rock bottom. They are in a terrible state. Please don’t wait, ask for help the moment you feel something is not right. Become knowledgeable in this area. Understand what is and what is not workplace psychological abuse / bullying. You don’t have to wait to become sick. Linda Crockett ABRC.ca

    • Donna

      I had this happen to me and ptsd brought on from trauma inflicted and projected on me by a clinical mental health supervisor who works with people in trauma, which is very dangerous. Even when I reported it, nothing got done. There needs to be compliance from an outside organization when working in this field, especially when there is no safety within the organization when it is addressed and ignored. Clients can be in danger by having harm done from this type of practice. My therapist who does EMDR said my case in all her years was one of the worst she has ever heard. She told me that this person was very good at what she did and how unethical her practice was with what I shared with her.

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