Bullying is often associated with children and very seldom with adults but bullying among adults is quite common. The American Psychological Association defines bullying as a “form of aggressive behavior in which an individual intentionally and repeatedly causes another person harm or discomfort.” Bullying can be done through words, subtle actions, or using manipulative strategies. A bully can be a menacing colleague or intimidating boss, a dominating romantic partner, a patronizing family member, a social media troll, etc. It is important to understand the impact bullying can have when it comes to adult interactions. The effects of bullying can be as serious for adults as it is for children. It can result in feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, low confidence, and self-esteem.
Similar to a child bully, adult bullies may use tactics such as intimidation, exclusion, threat, and harassment. However, unlike children, adult bullies are more clever, subtle, and harder to expose. Because of the subtle nature of their harassment, these people often don’t consider themselves bullies. The motivation to bully can range from feeling threatened by someone, to exerting power to show dominance. Sometimes it’s triggered by the bully’s own insecurities and to boost their self-esteem, they put down others.
A bully may use one or more of the following ways to cause harm:
This type of bullying refers to physical intimidation, threatening, and harm. Examples of physical bullying include physical assault, simulated violence (making a fist as if to hit/strike, or throwing objects near a person), and domestic violence to name a few.
Making threats, hurling insults, shaming, hostile teasing, verbal abuse such as making racist or sexist remarks.
This form of bullying is more subtle. The bully behaves appropriately on the surface but indirectly causes harm. An example of passive-aggressive bullying includes negative gossip or false rumors, negative joking, sarcasm, sabotaging, social exclusion, causing embarrassment on purpose, etc.
Use of one’s title or status to intimate or overpower someone.
Any form of bullying mentioned above can also be carried out online either through social media, texting, or other digital platforms. Negative comments on social media, insulting, teasing, and threatening are a few examples of cyberbullying.
The one thing all the above-mentioned bullying have in common is if not addressed and dealt with appropriately, they become patterns of physical and emotional abuse. It’s a challenge to deal with bullies, but the first step is to recognize the problem in order to find a solution. It’s important to know that a bully won’t simply stop, the issue must be tackled one way or another. After recognizing the issue, the second step is to take some type of action against the bully; whether it’s complaining to a manager/human resource, documenting harassment, asserting yourself, or in a more serious case reporting the incident to the police. It’s also good to have a support system or seek counseling to overcome the effects of bullying.
Hashish, A. (2018, April 12). Dealing with Adult Bullying. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://psychprofessionals.com.au/dealing-adult-bullies/
Ni, P. (2017, January 22). 5 Ways That Adults Bully Each Other. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201701/5-ways-adults-bully-each-other
Riggio, R. (2014, December 03). Adult Bullying: It’s More Common Than You Think. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201412/adult-bullying-it-s-more-common-you-think