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A review of the research suggests there are three reasons individuals become targets of workplace bullying:

1. Being outside of the group. Differences in age, race, gender, ethnicity, and educational levels may intensify conflicts and increase bullying behaviors because people do not understand the motivations and actions of people who are perceived as different.

2. Having low self-esteem and social competence.  Individuals who lack self-confidence or sufficient conflict management skills are more likely to be targets of workplace bullying, and;

3.  being an overachiever. People who are characterized as overachievers may  fall prey to a workplace bully because the bully feels threatened by the target’s competence. Bullying may result from a manager’s need to boost his or herself worth and undermine a subordinate as a result of feeling envious of a subordinate’s talents or work ethic.

Additionally, organizational changes, cultures, and leadership styles often contribute to the pervasiveness of bullying behaviors. For instance, restructuring, downsizing, and mergers mean people are often asked to do more with fewer resources.

* Source: A. Georgakopoulos et al, Workplace Bullying: A Complex Problem in Contemporary Organizations, 2 International Journal of Business and Social Science 3, Special Issue – January 2011.



  1. I remained independent, refused to be controlled. (70%)
  2. My competence and reputation were threatening. (67%)
  3. The Bully’s personality. (59%)
  4. My being liked by co-workers and customers. (47%)
  5. In retaliation for my reporting unethical or illegal conduct, whistleblowing. (38%)
  6. I was focused solely on work and ignored the politics. 36%)
  7. Bully had personal problems. (35%)
  8. I am nonconfrontative and easily overrun by others. (33%)
  9. I was at a time of personal medical or life vulnerability or changes. (30%)
  10. I could not afford to leave the job and the bully knew it. (30%)

*Survey by Workplace Bullying Institute (2003)(non-scientific sample of 1,000 volunteer respondents who visited WBI web site).

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