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!






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