Bullying apologists -- who thrive in the business press -- have been quick to declare the end of workplace bullying. So, the Workplace Bullying Institute used a survey to answer the question: Are bullies swept up in current layoffs more than the targets they bully?
As an example, Joe Queenan wrote in the Wall Street Journal "The Fall of the Workplace Jerk" advancing the idea that employers would use the recession as an excuse to finally rid their organizations of destructive, oafish bullies.
But this violates everything known about timid employers, bloviating bullies, and the way the real world works in the trenches.
For the purposes of this survey, workplace bullying was defined as repeated sabotage that prevents work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, humiliation, or exploitation of a known vulnerability (psychological or physical).
The question about how bullying is being handled was answered by 422 respondents. In only a meager 1.6% of incidents, bullies lost their jobs for any reason. That's 7 people! By contrast, 31.3% of bullied individuals lost their jobs by layoff, termination, or by quitting. An additional 12.3% were off work long-term due to psychological injury. That's 43.5% of targets losing their jobs for no reason of their own making.
Doing nothing to the bully (ensuring impunity) was the most common employer tactic (54%). Whereas retaliation was the most common consequence for bullied targets (37% experienced escalated bullying, ostracism from group, suspension, demotion or being transferred).
Retaliation of targets was highest when the employer did nothing to or about the bully. The second highest retaliation rate occurred when the bully was rewarded or promoted for her or his misconduct.
Impunity (when the bully suffered no consequences for bullying) was twice as common an outcome as being rewarded or promoted. And the percentages of each were nearly identical for both men and women bullies.
Bullies are not losing their jobs during the recession, are not being purged. As always, targets are the ones banished from employment. Bullies (still) abuse with impunity!
Laid to rest is yet another employer-promoting myth.