If you think bullying is something that only happens on a playground and among kids, think again. From bosses who bully, to neighbors who bully, bullying can continue way beyond the playground years, and sadly, experts say adult bullying is on the rise. Recently, a popular television news anchor made national headlines after a viewer bullied her over her weight! And singer Adele was reportedly cyber bullied after the birth of her son. While adults are more likely to engage in verbal bullying over physical bullying, the fact of the matter is, adult bullying exists, big time.
To talk about adult bullying, how to identify it, handle it, and stop it, national anti-bullying speaker and psychologist, Dr. Joel Haber stopped by “The Shine”.
[Related: The Kind Of Bullying We Don’t Talk About]
How does one identify a bully? Dr. Haber says “If you find yourself being excluded, marginalized in some way, or made to feel less than a person that you shouldn’t have to feel less than, you wonder what’s going on there." Statistics reveal that 41% of adult bullying occurs in the workplace, so how do you identify bullying from harassment? Bullying is when one person uses their power to go after another, but harassment, as Dr. Haber points out, is actually a legal term which usually refers to sexual misconduct or a work practice that feels in some way unsafe or is hostile. To that end, we wondered what steps a person can take to stop a bully before taking any legal action or seeking the HR department. Dr. Haber says the first thing is that you have to know yourself. Then, directly confront that bully in a non-threatening way. Ask them “is there something I did? Because maybe I’m misperceiving it.”
When it comes to handling a bully outside the office, say a neighbor or a peer at a sporting event or town activity, first realize it’s not your fault. It’s the bully that has the issue. Use your head to talk to the bully. Let your emotions settle first before you approach them so you can speak with a clear head. If your emotions are really high, walk away and regain your composure before approaching them.
So why do adults bully? Dr. Haber says that bullies are looking for support and also power. They feel as if they connect more with people through their nasty behavior. And if the support system - or bystander as they're called - would do something about it, the bully might stop, but that hardly ever happens. The bullies are rewarded and there's this incredible cycle that reinforces the bullying.
Have you ever been bullied as an adult? How did you handle the situation?
What the...? Dr. Haber, by asking the bully what you did wrong, you are admitting to the bully that IT'S YOUR FAULT! Whether that's your intention, that's how the bully will perceive it. Screw the non-confrontational approach.
I handled two bullies in the last month. Now, while this was in a game environment, they were still bullies. They attacked my characters, stole supplies and then sent me a threatening message. Their message was: " Your Alliance (group of gamers who get together to help each other out in the game) and my alliance are at war. Leave your Alliance, join my alliance, or get mowed under with the rest of them."
My response was "Dude, I'm playing the game to enjoy it. My alliance invited me in with offers of help and protection against bullies like you. You are a representative of your alliance, officially or unofficially, and the first thing you do is steal from my characters in the game and then threaten me? That tells me that you're a bully and your alliance isn't worth joining. I've already identified your location and name. I'm not backing down from you, and my high-powered Alliance knows exactly where you are. Your move."
Interestingly enough, they backed down.
For real life scenarios, do something similar. Point out exactly what they are doing and that it's bullying and intimidating behavior. Then take steps (document the incident and make higher ups in the company aware of the behavior) to end it. Even if nothing is done the first time around, you will have identified the bully, and if they do it again, there will be a record that they will not stop. If your higher up does not stop it, go to the person above them. and the next one. If you go as high as you can go, then take legal action, both against the person bullying, and the company allowing them to continue.
Most importantly, don't back down. Stand firm and refuse to let them keep bullying you. You don't have to get in their face and scream, but just firmly state your side. Then document everything. If you are fired for standing up to them, you have yourself lawsuit fodder.