It’s not just child’s play…
We read and hear so much nowadays about children being bullied, especially in schools and online. But what about grownups?
Those who are bullies in childhood often continue to be bullies as adults. The victims of adult bullying may find little or no sympathy from their co-workers, friends and family members. After all, we are big now; we should not let silly things like bullying bother us. Or should we?
What Is It?
In the simplest terms, bullying means one person, or group of persons, being deliberately cruel to another person or group, for any reason. Although childhood bullies are usually quite easy to spot, adult bullies can be sly, subtle, and difficult to expose. A life-long bully has had years of practice. Some have learned to be very cunning indeed. Some hide behind masks of authority, superior knowledge, money or other type of power. Some are good at finding plausible excuses to justify their cruelty. But all bullies have one thing in common: they want to hurt someone. Being the victim of a bully can be a devastating experience, and can affect every aspect of a person’s life long after the bully has moved on to another victim.
Why Does It Happen?
Much time and effort are spent trying to discover what motivates a person to bully others, especially in childhood, where this type of behaviour usually begins. On-the-spot amateur psychology, however, probably won’t spare you any hurt when a bully comes to call. Remember that, if you find yourself the victim of bullying, a bully’s bad behaviour is entirely his or her responsibility, not yours, no matter what the bully may tell you. Compassion has an important role in rooting out the causes of bullying, but in practical terms, it is unproductive to waste time trying to ‘mend’ a bully, or ‘understand’ how he or she came to enjoy such cruel behaviour, whilst you are being made a victim. When faced with a bully, your responsibility is to protect yourself from the emotional, social, or physical harm that the bully intends to cause.
How Do I Spot A Bully?
Frequently, bullying behaviour is obvious, even if the victim feels he or she can do nothing about it. Physical, verbal or sexual assaults are hard to mistake. But identifying someone as a bully is not always as easy as it sounds. The cruelty meted out by bullies can be subtle, insidious, and cloaked in the most plausible of disguises. If you know someone, perhaps even someone you love and respect, who usually leaves you feeling worse for having been in his or her company (even if you can’t put your finger on the exact reason), you may be the victim of bullying. It is well worth examining the situation closely to find out.
What Can I Do To Stop It?
When someone is bullying you, it is unlikely that there is anything you can say or do to make the bully feel like being nice to you. The best strategy is to change how you respond to the bullying behaviour. Bullying behaviour cannot continue to have its desired effect if the intended victim successfully stands up to the bully. Once you have identified a bully and know what to expect from him or her, you must choose not to be a victim, if you want the bullying to stop. Expose the bullying for what it is. Take a stand, and don’t back down…
The anguish, fear, and dread a bully is trying to make his or her victim feel can get in the way of a successful defence for the victim. Bullies tend not to pick on those who can fend for themselves; a bully’s enjoyment depends on a victims’ inability (or unwillingness) to fight back. Most bullies are careful to do their bullying when no witnesses are about. Making a creditable complaint against a bully who is generally liked, admired, or respected for some position of authority, can be extremely difficult, and possibly hazardous, for the victim. If you are a bully’s victim, and you perceive, for whatever reason, that you cannot defend yourself, all is not lost.
Tell someone you trust. Find a safe person and tell him or her what’s been happening to you. Name names and give details. Make your situation very clear. This may require a bit of courage, but you can find it.
Arrange for a witness to the bullying. For instance, if you know that the person who bullies you picks certain times or situations to victimise you, ask someone you trust to watch or listen when the bullying takes place. This works best if the witness is physically present for the event, and the bully is unaware of being watched or overheard. If, however, you must use any type of technology to record the bullying, find out first whether or not what you are doing is legally admissible. In some instances, CCTV footage may already be available. Do your homework and be prepared.
Confront the bully. You can do this yourself if you feel able; your trusted person or witness can do it on your behalf; you can hire a solicitor; you can go to the police or other authority. The important point here is to expose the bully and call him or her to account. Confrontation and exposure, with evidence to support a victim’s accusations, are what the bully tries hardest to avoid. Once exposure happens, the bullying is likely to stop.
Don't Try These:
Getting into a fight. Avoid physical confrontation. Someone will get hurt. You might go to jail. It is likely that nothing will be resolved. If there is no immediate threat to life, don’t jeopardise it by brawling.
Returning the abuse. Becoming a bully yourself is an easy trap to fall into when you feel hurt and angry. Resist the temptation to lower yourself to the level of your abuser; be the stronger person.
Acting out in frustration. It’s the old story of the nasty boss, who humiliated the worker, who went home and shouted at the wife, who smacked the elder son, who punched the little sister, who pulled the dog’s tail, who ran down the path and bit the postman… Cruelty spreads like a contagious disease. It rapidly becomes epidemic. Wash your hands of it!
Suicide. It may stop you from enjoying anything else, ever again, but it won’t stop the bully from finding a new victim. If you are having thoughts about ending your own life, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY. Click here or here, and talk to someone about how you are feeling.
…Am I A Bully?
Do you recognise yourself as a bully? Most bullies have, in fact, been victims of bullying in the first place. Bad experiences from the past are not valid excuses for subsequent bad behaviour; nevertheless, such experiences are often the causes of bad behaviour. Understanding the cause of one’s own bullying behaviour is the beginning of change. If an honest personal assessment tells you that you need to adjust the way you treat others, now is the time to discover the joys of a cruelty-free life. Read everything you can find about the causes and consequences of bullying. Talk to someone about it. Ask your G.P. to help you obtain therapy, if necessary. You will be giving yourself and your children a real chance for happiness and future success.
Want To Know More?
For further information about bullying, click on the links in this article. You may also wish to explore the following academic studies, books, eBooks, online articles, podcasts, videos and websites cited in the list below:
Cowie, H., Jennifer, D., Neto, C., Angula, J. C., Pereira, B., Del Barrio, C., & Ananiadou, K. (2000). Comparing the nature of workplace bullying in two European countries: Portugal and the UK. Transcending boundaries: Integrating people, processes and systems, 128-33. Available on:
Einarsen, S. (2013) The nature, causes and consequences of bullying at work: The Norwegian experience, 1- 14. Available on:
Adult Bullying: Perpetrators and Victims (Peter Randall)
Beat the Bully: A Guide To Dealing With Adult Bullying (Alex Gadd)
Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome it (Andrea Adams)
Bullying from Backyard to Boardroom (Paul McCarthy)
Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand and Deal with People Who Try to Control You (Patricia Evans)
Insight into Child and Adult Bullying: Waverley Abbey Insight Series (Helena Wilkinson)
Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for managers and employers (Acas advisory leaflets) [Kindle Edition] (Acas Expert)
Insight into Child and Adult Bullying: Waverley Abbey Insight Series (Helena Wilkinson)
Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing [Kindle Edition] (Janice Harper)
The Bully Exposed: The Secrets of Dealing with Bullies at Work [Kindle Edition] (Jonas Warstad)
Child bullying victims still suffering at 50 - study (BBC)
BBC article weblink (April 2014)
Various articles on workplace bullying [Huffington Post]
Link to articles
Workplace Bullying Institute Podcasts (iTunes)
Podcasts link - click here
NAESP Webinar: Adult Bullying (YouTube)
YouTube video - click here
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