Tag Archives: Bullying

The Other Side of Bullying

In last week’s post we looked at the affect of bullying on adults (especially in the workplace).? This week, we’re switching to the other side of the equation and looking at the?bully.

While the research and knowledge about the effects of being bullied appear to be consistent, the data is not so clear about the effects of being a bully on the individual engaged in the behaviour. ?There is also conflicting information about how bullies are created, and if they are unhappy individuals, as is commonly assumed.

Is There a Payoff?

When we think about the inner life of a bully, there is a common perception that the bully is operating out of a place of sadness or past trauma. ?But is this?true? ?Are bullies miserable?

Not according to a?2015 study out of Simon Fraser University (cited in the National Post). When researchers surveyed a group of Vancouver high school students, they discovered that bullies were the least likely to be depressed. They also had the highest self-esteem in the survey group and the greatest social status.

The survey results were explained by the research study lead, Prof. Jennifer Wong, this way: ?”Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy. ?When you’re in a very limited arena in which you can establish your rank [high school, workplace], and climbing the social ladder to be on top is one of the main ways…Bullying is a tool you can use to get there.”

These results seem to confirm the belief that our?actions and ideas provide some type of payoff or fulfill a need. ?Therefore, if a bully thinks?that their behaviour is in their best interest, he or she will need to change their belief system in order to change their way of interacting with others.

Is Bullying Only a North American and Human Phenomenon?

In a guest blog published in the on-line issue of Scientific American, Prof. H. Sherrow (Assistant Professor in the Anthropology and Sociology Dept. at Ohio University) states that bullying occurs all over the world and in other animal species. ?Citing various research studies, Sherrow concludes that there are?no countries or cultures in which bullying was not occurring. As people tend to be people, I wasn’t surprised that bullying is world-wide and cross-cultural.

What did surprise me was that?bullying takes place in other species. ?Sherrow describes observations of bullying occurring in societies of primates (chimpanzees, baboons) as well as in groups of rats and mice. ?Bullying behaviour appears to be widespread.

Being a Bully in the Internet Age

According to Professor Sherrow, bullying, both in the animal kingdom and in human society, can be?a way to maintain social order–ensuring that no one acquires too much dominance, status or power. ?However, the crisis comes when our modern language and culture are combined with bullying.

Before the Internet, bullying was confined to our social groups (school, workplace, neighbourhood) and was done by people we knew. ?Bullies knew their victims, and that relationship alone may have been enough to limit the bullying activity as well as the number of people involved. ?Now, with the opportunity for?cyber bullying, we can be bullied on a global level, by strangers. Also, with the anonymity of the Internet and the creation of “virtual” relationships rather than “in-person” interactions, normal social inhibitions are removed. ?When on-line, individuals can say whatever they want without seeing the immediate results of their actions.

Where Do Bullies Come From?

As with many things in human development, the creation of bullies is a question of nature vs. nurture. ?Are bullies born or created? ?It can be difficult to untangle the two parts of the question. ?For example, one idea?regarding the creation of bullying behaviour is that children learn these actions by observing family members. ?However, is this method of interaction also passed on genetically from their parents or grandparents?

Much of the research seems to lay the blame for the creation of bullying behaviour on parents. ?For example:

  • Bullies are seen to be a product of strained parental relationships due to parents unreasonable?expectations around activities such as school, sports or social standing.
  • Bullies have experienced inconsistent discipline when growing up. ?In the September 2016?on-line issue of Scientific American MIND, psychotherapist Toni Rodriquez writes that both harsh and punitive parent styles, as well as overly permissive styles, can lead to bullying behaviour in children.
  • Children who have experienced?physical abuse and/or harsh physical punishment?often become bullies.
  • Parents of bullies often model aggressive behaviour in front of their children by using more forceful rather than cooperative means to settle conflicts.

Other suggested theories as to why?bullies are created include:

  • Watching violent television and/or playing violent video games raises individuals levels of aggression and normalizes anti-social behaviour.
  • Lack of supportive peer networks. ?Children who are isolated or feel disliked by peers often use bullying behaviour to gain some social control.
  • Bullies?have been victims of bullying behaviour.
Are You A Bully?

This is a difficult question, and somewhat insulting as no one likes to be perceived as a bully. ?If you’re wondering, here are ten?behavioural indications that you may be heading down that path–especially in the workplace.

  1. You expect others to run errands for you, such as picking up your lunch, coffee, etc., because you are in a position to do so.
  2. Your colleagues don’t look you in the eye–maybe due to fear.
  3. You often say “I paid my dues.”, and use that as an excuse to disregard the suffering of co-workers.
  4. You blame others for work problems–especially subordinates.
  5. You rarely take suggestions and often devalue the ideas of others.
  6. You actively ignore specific colleague(s).
  7. No one speaks at the meetings you attend?due to their fear of sharing their opinions in front of you.
  8. You don’t listen to others as your feel that your ideas are the best.
  9. You go out of your way to make others uncomfortable–and enjoy it.
  10. Your peer group is made up of people who don’t/won’t disagree with you.

If you see yourself in some of these behaviours, you can make changes. ?Awareness is the first step. ?If you can relate to the causes of bullying (for example, negative experiences when growing up) or you feel that it would be helpful to develop more pro-social communication skills; talk to a trusted person or therapist that you feel you can work with.

After self-awareness, the end of bullying behaviour starts with apologies and forgiveness; as well as having compassion for yourself.

Now for something to make you smile. ?Enjoy!






Bullying…It Doesn’t Only Happen to Children

When I was in Grade 1, I was bullied. ?In hindsight, I was a prime target–small for my age but with a big vocabulary. ?I was new to the school and stuck out like a sore thumb. ?This was a long time?before the Internet so my?bullying experience took the form of ?teasing and name-calling. ?I didn’t want to go to school and suffered from stomach aches. ?My parents’ attempts to solve the problem involved telling?me not to be so sensitive and to stand up for myself. I’m not sure if my teachers were aware of what was going on, but the common belief was that ‘kids will be kids’. ?I can’t remember how the bullying ended–maybe my abusers grew bored or found another victim. ?By second grade?I had learned to blend in, and was always aware that the bullying could begin again.

Adults and Bullying

While there is much research and many resources available about childhood bullying and the effects of childhood bullying later in life (higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide), until the late 1980’s there appears to be few resources on bullying experienced by adults. ?Thankfully that has changed.

What is Bullying?

Simply defined, bullying is various types of abuse (deliberate cruelty) aimed at another individual or group of people by another person or group. ?While childhood bullying can be easy to see, adult bullies tend to operate subtly. ?They may attack when no one else is around or find ways to justify their behaviour. ?A clear sign that you may have encountered a bully is if you consistently feel ‘off’ or uncomfortable after interactions with this person.

Types of Adult Bullies

While bullies come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders; they can be placed in one of the following categories:

  • Conceited Bully:?This type of bully is egotistical and shows little or no mercy for others. ?They feel good when in control or hurting others.
  • Imprudent Bully:?These bullies lash out at their victims and have no emotional control.
  • Somatic Bully: ?Bullies in this group aren’t always violent, but they may threaten physical harm.
  • Verbal Assault Bully:?These bullies use words as weapons. ?Verbal bullying can lead to feeling negatively about your life and ultimately to depression.
  • Ancillary Bully: ?While these people may not actively bully others,?they?side with the bully to avoid being bullied themselves.
A Real-Life Story

Stewart?(not his real name) worked for a mid-sized company. ?The employee demographic was mostly male between the ages of 25-40. ?Stewart?was a little older than the other men.

Stewart, married with two?children, was the sole wage-earner for his family. ?There wasn’t much extra money available for Stewart?to buy the latest gadgets?or go out for lunch with co-workers. ?He wasn’t able to afford contributions to the endless fundraising opportunities that circulated around the office, and usually had to decline buying chocolate bars, muffin dough, or other items that co-worker’s were selling on behalf of their children. ?Stewart appeared to be different from his colleagues.

Over time the other men in the office stopped asking Stewart?to join them for lunch or coffee. ?They didn’t include him in discussions about the latest technology. ?Stewart began to be isolated at work. ?Eventually, a new employee joined the company and the overt bullying started. ?Stewart was an easy target because he was already separate from the group. ?While previously, the other men may have thought Stewart?was ‘different’, but wouldn’t have voiced their thoughts to others; with the bully’s encouragement, it now became ‘acceptable’ to openly be cruel.

Stewart’s time at work became increasingly?difficult. ?A long-term employee, Stewart had always received?stellar performance reviews. ?However, once the bully arrived, his job performance began to decline. ?Stewart?started calling in sick on a regular basis. ?With?his doctor’s support, Stewart?took some time off of work on stress leave. ?Over time, and with support, Stewart?was able to talk to his supervisor about his experience and changes were made. ?Eventually, Stewart?decided to leave the company and found another job where he could start again in a new environment.

Signs of Workplace Bullying

Many instances of adult bullying occur in the workplace. ?According to the writer at nobullyiny.com, these are the signs of workplace bullying.

  • Being excluded from on-the-job social events
  • Co-workers excusing themselves from the work area when you come in
  • Others being late or absent to meetings you call
  • Receiving the ?silent treatment?
  • Having your presentations ignored
  • Colleagues refusing to assist when you ask for it
  • Having co-workers spread lies about you that no one refutes

Sound familiar?

If You?re Being Bullied…

If you?re being bullied, what can you do to stop it?? Bullies enjoy the results of their behaviour, so they often don?t have an incentive to stop.? While you can?t change how they act, you can change how you respond to them.? As bullies don’t usually choose to?pick on people who can fend for themselves or fight back, here are some ways to regain your power.

Keep Yourself Safe
Safety is the first priority.? If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, leave.? You can also ask for support from a trusted colleague so that you are not alone with the bully.? If necessary you can contact police or other emergency services.

Tell Someone You Trust
Find a safe person and tell them what has been happening.? Be open about who is doing the bullying and give clear examples of the occurrences.? Document what has been going on so that you have details if needed.

Confront the Bully
Bullies victimize those who they see as unable to defend themselves.? Either alone (if you feel safe) or with support (colleague, supervisor, police, lawyer) you can expose the bully and hold them accountable for their actions.? Having clear, documented evidence of the occurrences will be useful at this point.

Avoid Being Reactive
Bullies feed off the non-assertive reactions of their targets.? Depending on the situation, an assertive response is needed while others may be handled by you being ?unimpressed?.? Humour can often be useful…?I can?t believe you just said/did that?.

Use Effective Communication
Avoid personally interacting with the bully unless necessary.? Whenever possible, communicate with the bully either by putting things in writing (clear and concise language) or by having a third-party present.

Identify If There Are Other Victims of the Bully
Bullies often have more than one target.? If there are other people being victimized, consider a joint, formalized response. ?There is power in a group!

Being A Target Isn’t Your Fault

Being the target of a bully isn’t your fault. ?Often it’s a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the bully is looking for a victim. ?The responsibility for the negative behaviour lies with the bully.

Next week, we’ll explore bullying from the perspective of the bully. ? How and why does the behaviour start? ?Is it possible?to stop being a bully?

In the meantime, here’s a video showing?a social experiment about bullying. ?Warning…at times it’s difficult to watch.