Bullying is typically associated with behavior that happens during childhood; unfortunately, adults are subjected to this type of cruel behavior as well. Although you may not hear about bullying adults, the truth is it happens frequently and most often in the workplace or home. When adults are targeted by adult bullies, the abuse is often more likely to be verbal than physical, however, the effects can result in serious health problems, loss of work and some cases, suicide.
Different types of adult bullies
Bullying adults, at the workplace, home or anywhere else is unacceptable behavior. Bullying is the repeated hostile and hurtful actions of one person to another with intention of mistreating, controlling or decreasing the other person’s self-worth. Bullying can be verbal, non-verbal or a combination of both. Some examples of bullying may include spreading rumors, persistent criticism, repeated insults, verbal threats, humiliation, removal of responsibility, taking credit for others work, assigning projects with impossible deadlines, sexual comments and/or physical assaults. There are a number of different types of adult bullies and it is often helpful to know how they operate.
- Sadistic/narcissistic bully-this type of adult bully lack empathy for others, is self-centered and shows little anxiety about the consequences. This type of bully typically appears to have a high self-esteem, but in reality their brittle narcissism is dependent on belittling others.
- Impulsive bullies are more spontaneous and less likely to plan their bullying behaviors. This type of bully typically has difficulties restraining their behavior, even if it is likely that authorities will step in. Their behavior is often unintentional and occurs when stressed, upset and/or concerned over something that is not connected to the victim.
- Physical bullies are those who hit, kick or punch the victim. Physical bullies may also take or damage a victim’s property. A physical bully may also threaten physical harm to the victim or their belongings. This is one of the easiest types of bully to identify.
- Verbal bullies are those who use words to cause psychological and emotional pain on their victims. Adult verbal bullies are notorious for starting rumors about their victim and they use words to dominate, demean or humiliate others. Verbal bullying is often the damaging form of bullying and the results can often cause depression, poor job performance and isolation.
- Secondary bullies are those who do not initiate bullying, but joins other bullies in order to avoid becoming a victim themselves. A secondary bully usually feels bad about their behavior, but have more concern over their own protection.
Bullying in the workplace can occur regardless of where you are on the corporate ladder, whether you are a man or a woman and in blue collar or white collar careers. Workplace bullying happens when an individual or a group of people intentionally singles out one person with intentional, intimidating, embarrassing and unreasonable treatment. The bully is typically someone who is in an authority position and feels threatened by the victim, however, in some situations the bully may be an insecure or immature coworker. Bullying adults in the workplace can be either a single person acting out with bullying behaviors or even a company whose culture allows and/or encourages the behavior. Bullying in the workplace can include:
- Practical jokes, especially when they are repeatedly towards the same person
- An employee being singled out for criticism that is unjustified or unjustly blamed
- Swearing at an employee, verbally abusing another person or shouting
- Being excluded from activities in the company or for company employees
- Having work and/or contributions intentionally ignored
- Embarrassing or humiliating actions and/or language
Bullying adults in the workplace is not a laughing matter; in fact the effects can be extremely serious to the health and welfare of the person being bullied. The results of bullying can include mental health problems, physical illness and loss of a valued job. The effects of adult bullying in the workplace can cause financial devastation due to being fired, quitting or being demoted. The physical illnesses that result from being bullied can be quite serious and in some cases, fatal. Illness from bullying may include:
- Clinical depression
- Panic attacks
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Heart attack
- Eating disorders
- Sleeping disorders
Bullying Adults: Dealing with workplace bullying
It is important to note that most adults who are being bullied in the workplace feel as though there is no one they can turn to in the workplace and many feel as though they are unable to handle the bullying themselves. Getting help is not only beneficial for your well-being, but there is no shame in asking for help. The person who is bullying others is manipulative, deceptive and devious. The first place to start seeking help is with the HR department. If at all possible talk to a close friend or family member about your thoughts, fears and feelings. Keep a journal of all incidents including the date, time and names of any witnesses. Keep the journal in a safe place at home and never take it to work with you. It is also helpful to make copies of all journal entries and documents that pertain to the bullying. Make copies of all letters, emails and memos that are in reference to the bully or the bullying behavior.
If you have previously been or currently are the victim of bullying, remember this is not your fault. Victims of bullies often blame themselves for the behaviors of others, but the bully is responsible for their actions, not the victim. A bully thrives on the reactions they arouse in their victims and they thrive on negative emotions. In the majority of situations a bully is only making others feel bad in order to help raise their own low self-esteem. Stand your ground and remember that an adult bully is simply a coward.