The 6 Stages Of Workplace Bullying

Stages Workplace Bullying

5. Escalating Attacks and Mobbing

HR may place the target on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), offering vague reasonings and unattainable goals. At this point, rumors will often intensify, the sabotage increases, and the target will be uninvited to meetings and social events and then be penalized for missing information. Witnessing the abuse and fearful of being targeted next, most bystanders join in on the bullying and cut all friendly contact with the target.

As the stress compounds and the isolation intensifies, the target’s feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming. The WBI 2012 Study of Workplace Bullying found that most targets incur stress-induced physical and mental suffering that may include hypertension, gastrointestinal issues, migraines, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and symptoms of PTSD. At this point, many targets appeal to the bully’s superiors for help, yet due to the bully’s earlier priming, the target’s concerns are often minimized and dismissed.

Related: Six Tips for Speaking Up Against Bad Behavior

6. Final Resignation, Coverup, and Recovery

After approximately 6 to 12 months of unrelenting emotional abuse, 74 percent of targets will be transferred, terminated, or constructively discharged. In an effort to cover up the abuse, some organizations offer compensation packages in exchange for signing a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA), forever silencing the target’s story.

At this stage, most targets are left unemployed, financially strapped, and without health insurance, at the very moment when their health is most vulnerable. Following their departure, the bully may continue the character assassination, hampering the target’s efforts to secure new employment. Instead of addressing the toxic culture that sanctioned the bullying, some organizations will engage in Orwellellian “doublespeak,” such as “the stress was too much for him,” or “we wish we could say more, but it is a Human Resources issue.”

However, all is not lost. The target will find hope and redemption by securing a job at a new organization, with an innovative culture, whose values and mission align with her own. Many targets also find healing by lobbying for the enactment of protective workplace legislation and advocating for others who have had their dignity stripped at work.

It is important to understand the trajectory of workplace abuse because that which can be identified can be stopped. Bullying can be called out, bystanders can become upstanders, and creativity can thrive in the context of an organizational culture that insists on psychological safety on the job.

Copyright (2020). Dorothy Courtney Suskind, Ph.D.

If you want to get in touch with Dorothy Suskind, you can drop her a mail at


Carbo, J. A. (2017). Understanding, defining, and eliminating workplace bullying: Assuring dignity at work. New York: Routledge.
Davenport, N., Schwartz, R. D., & Elliott, G. P. (1999). Mobbing: Emotional abuse in the American workplace. Ames, IA: Civil Society Publishing.
Duffy, M., & Sperry, L. (2012). Mobbing: Causes, consequences, and solutions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Leymann, H. (1990). Mobbing and psychological terror at workplaces. Violence and Victims, 5(2), 119–126.
Namie, G., & Namie, R. (2011). The bully-free workplace: Stop jerks, weasels, and snakes from killing your organization. John Wiley & Sons.

The Healthy Workplace Bill.
Workplace Bullying Institute.

Written By Dorothy Suskind 
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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The 6 Stages Of Workplace Bullying
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