Instances of adults being bullied are more common than people think. People most often associate the word “bullying” with school children and teens who are being picked on by their peers or older siblings. Bullying is common in other areas as well. It can occur in colleges at fraternities, the workplace and social organizations. Governments have also been known to use bullying tactics to achieve their goals. Knowing and understanding the concepts used by bullies makes it apparent that it can happen at any time and place where individuals of different levels of maturity and strengths interact with one another.
By definition, a bully is someone who uses force, threats or other means to control or manipulate another person. Bullying tactics are used by individuals of all ages, sexes, gender, ethnic and religious persuasions. It can enacted against another person for financial gain, revenge, to simply control or to degrade. Whatever the circumstances, the results can cause lasting damage to the victims’ emotional, mental and physical health.
The fact is that bullying is not solely a problem that involves school age children and teens. Adults are bullied as well, only when it happens in older generations the more favored term is harassment. Children who grew up being bullied, often continue to be bullied throughout their adult life. Much of this stems from having low self-esteem or self worth. Just as children who were victims remain victims, those who bullied others and were allowed to do so without recourse, continue their patterns of behavior as well.
Caregivers, members of management in the workplace, law enforcement or individuals in any other environment can all be guilty of bullying at one time or another. Even individuals who may not normally be apt to try and manipulate or harass others are guilty of bullying at some point and time. It’s human nature. When a person gets angry, frustrated or upset, they can lash out at others. Individuals who are the objects of their outburst can easily become victims.
Many bullying tactics are learned in childhood by watching the actions of parents and other adults who influence a child’s development. Parents are often encouraged to limit the amount of time their children spend with individuals who may negatively affect the child’s way of thinking when it comes to the treatment of others. Continually being exposed to individuals who take pleasure in berating or controlling others can send signals to the child that those behaviors are acceptable.
Children can be repeatedly told that those behaviors are wrong, but when they watch adults continually act in a bullying fashion, the actions speak louder than words. Children often mimic the acts of adults and will begin to bully at a young age. Unless the patterns are stopped when they are first noticed, they can continue into high school and last throughout their lifetime.
Bullying in the Workplace
In the workplace, bullying takes several forms ranging from minor arguments between co-workers to sexual and verbal harassment from members of management. In the workplace, many types of bullying that occurs within the workplace is against the law and can result in the loss of a person’s job, large fines and mandatory jail time. Individuals who are known to bully others can be fined repeatedly, within an office environment with little or no positive results. The filing of criminal charges is commonly the only way to prevent this type of behavior.
Sexual harassment is against the law and company guidelines are strictly enforced regarding the circumstances and consequences of a person’s actions. Repeated offenses can result in the victim filing criminal charges. If the case is serious enough, a civil case may be filed where the defendant is forced to pay punitive damages to their victim. If the person repeatedly harasses their victim in a sexual fashion and the employer does nothing to stop it, the company and members of management may be held liable as well.
Members of management who go above and beyond what their roles call for can sometimes be considered to be overly aggressive or use bullying tactics to achieve their goals. Threats, extortion and bribery are not acceptable forms of treatment in most work environments, but are used none the less when deadlines are imminent. In some cases, it is difficult to report this type of behavior to superiors, due to the fact that the perpetrator often is one of the higher ranking members of management.
Exhibiting Dominant Behavior
Adults who assume a position of power over others, normally think highly of themselves and perceive themselves to be above the law. They often feel as if laws, regulations and guidelines do not apply to them. They refuse to follow guidelines and disrespect authority figures. Displaying dominant behavior is normally how they achieve their goals. They believe that if they can impose their power on others, they will be able to control and manipulate them to better achieve their goals.
Adults who use bullying tactics on a regular basis often choose “targets” just like children and teen bullies do. They will often choose victims who are depressed, have low self-esteem, feel as if they are worthless and normally have few friends or no support system. An adult bully will often chip away at their victim’s defenses by making verbal comments that are intended to belittle or degrade. Over time the continued insults and slurs can make the victim feel worthless and inferior.
Once the bully assumes control, they can do as they please and their victim will offer little resistance. As patterns are established, the bully can assume more and more control. Unless the progression of events are stopped, the patterns can continue and a vicious cycle is created. Bullies thrive on control and will continue to berate and manipulate until they reach the level of submission and compliance they desire.
A common place where adult abuse occurs on a regular basis, is within the caregiver industry. Individuals who work in nursing homes, adult day cares and group homes for special needs adults are prime areas where bullies can work and thrive without fear of repercussions. In most cases, the victims are frail, elderly or unable to care for themselves. Many are non-verbal and do not have the mental capacity to report the abuse. Reports made concerning various types of abuse in this type of work environment are often set aside because members of management either do not witness the event occur or are not willing to take the word of one of the patients.
Adult protect services carefully monitors facilities that house physically and mentally disabled adults. In some cases, when several reports are filed against a specific person or facility, adult protective services may send individuals into the facility under the guise of being a family member or guardian of a patient. They will closely observe how the caregivers interact with the patients and look for signs of abuse. They may also question staff members and patients to uncover information that may have not been reported.
Most healthcare facilities require new hires to pass criminal background checks that are specifically designed to uncover instances of prior abuse and harassment. Individuals who work in this type of environment are prone to burn out because of the high levels of stress that are common when working with individuals who require high levels of maintenance.
Working as a caregiver can be frustrating and overwhelming. People who work as health care aids and caregivers need to take sufficient care of themselves to prevent their frustrations from getting the best of them. When a caregiver gets extremely frustrated or upset while on the job, they can begin to bully their co-workers as well as the individuals they care for. While the co-workers can go to members of management to get the situation resolved, the patients and persons who are being cared for often have no voice and, because of that, have no way of letting others know about what is happening to them.
Bullying can happen anywhere at any time and involve any type of person. Age has no bearing on how one person treats another. Whether it is considered to be harassment or bullying, either one is wrong and should not be tolerated. As an adult, the person committing the act should know better and appreciate the fact that their acts will have consequences. Many, however, do not and continue to perpetuate the patterns that were established during the childhood.