What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators: abusive conduct that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse, or
  • Threatening, intimidating or humiliating behaviors (including nonverbal), or
  • Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done, or
  • Some combination of one or more.

Why is it a Problem?

It is a problem that has invaded the life of 27% adult Americans without invitation (see the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey). In its more severe forms, it triggers a host of stress-related health complications -- hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety to PTSD. The person's immediate job and often career are often disrupted.

To read more about the health harms from Bullying please visit the target section at the WBI website.

For employers it's a problem, too. Often, it is the least skilled who attack the best and brightest workers because of the perceived threat they imagine. When the perpetrator has the power to deprive her or his target of a livelihood, and the economic and health security the job represents, bullying is an abuse of authority. U.S. employers are loathe to stop bullying, let alone acknowledge its existence.

What is Currently Being Done about it?

American employees are stuck when working as at-will employees. Given that there are six candidates for each job opening during this recession, people stay in miserable work conditions getting sicker each day from stress-related health complications. While working in less than desirable jobs in toxic work environments, they see the few workers' rights eroded.

Some brave, early-adopting employers realized that stopping bullying is good for business. Sioux City Iowa is the first school district in the nation to address workplace bullying for their adult employees. They have voluntarily created policies and credible enforcement procedures to purge destructive individuals. But these pioneering employers are few and far between.

American unions have also begun to learn about bullying and some have even been trained to provide peer support for their bullied members. Bullying is a vexing problem for most unions when the mistreatment is member-on-member. Canadian unions have a mixed record from exemplary responses to eliminate bullying to denial.

Why Do We Need a Law?

Employers react to laws with internal policies. The real value of a law, and the true purpose of the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill, is to get employers to prevent bullying with policies and procedures that apply to all employees. The Bill, crafted by law professor David Yamada for the Healthy Workplace Campaign, gives good employers incentives to do the right thing by avoiding expensive litigation.

For a more in depth discussion about why a law is necessary, please visit the FAQ section.

What Can I Do to Help


Share with Friends

Spread the Word! Do you know someone who has been bullied? Share this website with them. There oughta be a law!   More→


Comment on Articles

Have you read an article in your local paper or online? Use the opportunity to comment, tell your story and tell others about the campaign to get a law passed.   More→


Become a Citizen Lobbyist

Volunteer to work on the Healthy Workplace Campaign in your state.   More→

There are many different ways you can help out, please visit our Take Action page for more information.

What about Outside the United States?

The U.S. is the last of the western democracies to not have a law forbidding bullying-like conduct in the workplace. Scandinavian nations have explicit anti-bullying laws (since 1994). Many of the EU nations have substantially more legal employee protections, which compel employers to prevent or correct bullying.

Britain, the home of the term "workplace bullying," has broader anti-harassment laws than the U.S. to cover bullying. Ireland has a strong health and safety code (2005) to address bullying.

Canada's first provincial law was enacted in 2004, the second in 2007, another in 2010, and the occupational health code for federal employees in 2008.

Read more about the international movement.

Is There Any Scientific Research on the Topic?

Research on workplace bullying began in the late 1980's in Sweden. Heinz Leymann was the pioneer. The field has since exploded exponentially, including articles and books in psychology, occupational health and medicine, epidemiology, and management research. We track past and current research in the Research sections of the WBI website. As scientists ourselves, we conduct and publish research for the general public, as well as for the academic community.

For a more comprehensive collection of research please visit the WBI Research Section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please visit the FAQ section.