Bullying Beyond the Classroom: When Bullies Age But Never Grow Up

True or False – Bullies Only Exist On The Playground.

False! Bullies can be found in almost any situation, from the grade-school playground to the college campus to your workplace office. Grade school bullying, though superficially less complex, is not psychologically that far from adult bullying. It appears that the parallels between school age bullying and adult bullying are more than surface deep. Taking a look at the psychology of bullying behavior can prove helpful in combating it, as well as changing our own behavior that may walk the fine line of bullying. 

Why Do People Bully Others?

The sources or causes of bullying behavior can be applied to both children and adults, as everyone was once a child, after all. 

There are many factors linked to bullying behavior including:

  • Problems at home
  • Parental bullying or abuse
  • Misplaced aggression or negative emotion
  • Jealousy
  • Insecurity
  • Immaturity in handling conflict 
  • Inability to appropriately express emotion
  • Outsider (perceived as different due to physical or mental differences, race, weight, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • Depresion
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem

Children and adults who are more likely to bully include two sides of the spectrum: those who are in a perceived place of power or popularity who use bullying to hold that place, and those who are isolated from peers, who are less involved and supported by their peers. 

What Is Bullying?

Bullying in school, on the playground, at work, and online is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with a tendency of the behavior being repeated. This behavior can be categorized into three avenues: verbal, social, and physical. In business, social bullying is a substantial problem, with a 2017 survey stating that 60.3 million US workers have dealt with bullying in the workplace. Social bullying hurts one’s relationships, whether friendships or business relationships, including online bullying or spreading rumors. This kind of bullying is often passive-aggressive. 

What Does School Age Bullying Look Like?

Although the psychology and causes of bullying may have similarities and parallels, there will of course be differences in how bullying manifests based on age and peer group. 

School age bullying may look like:

  • Physical bullying including pushing, shoving, kicking, hitting, poking
  • Verbal attacks such as name calling, teasing, coaxing others into repeating insults
  • Social bullying including keeping the child isolated, encouraging others to be mean, withholding friendships or controlling a group of people to negatively treat the child
  • Spreading rumors in person or online
  • Creating online hate groups or slander groups, encouraging the victim to harm themselves or worse

What Does Bullying Look Like in the Workplace?

In order for management to curtail bullying in the workplace, both by coworkers and by customers, we must first understand what it looks like.

Bullying in the workplace may look like:

  • Leaving a certain employee out of work lunches or lunch outings
  • Leaving a certain employee out of chain emails
  • Isolating or one person staying at their desk during group activities or discussions
  • Out right threats – manager holds promotion over your head – if you don’t do this then you wont get that…threats of loss of employment – and of course sexual harassment 
  • Inappropriate comments or unwanted touch
  • Use of authority position to warrant sexual harassment

What Does Bullying Look Like from Consumers to Business Owners?

Consumer bullying may present itself as:

  • Threatening to post negative reviews
  • Posting inaccurate, dishonest reviews despite a companies best efforts to satisfy a customer
  • Demanding that a discount given despite not meeting the criteria
  • Finding fault with a service provider without due reason
  • Taking anger out on a service provider when unwarranted
  • Harassment of service or office staff
  • Unrealistic expectations and unwilling to accept compromise

Bullying Affects Everyone: You Are Not an Exception to the Rule

Bullying comes in many forms. It’s no longer recognized as something only a school age child deals with. It appears in workplace relationships, patron-employee relationships, and across all socioeconomic spectrums. If you are experiencing bullying or know someone who is, know that you are not alone. Stay tuned for our next blog providing tips and information on how to handle a bullying situation.

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