On Adult Bullying

October 31, 2013( San Diego) I have been having this internal debate of whether to post this in the writing blog I run, or here. I decided after much thinking that this is a matter that belongs in this blog.

We are all familiar with bullies and children. We know it is a serious issue in the United States. What most Americans do not realize is how serious it is among adults. So first let me make a promise. This is a safe site. Anybody comes to attack you, or attack me, well I got the tools to stop them and I have. Those comments never saw the light of day. Moreover, they would qualify as the textbook definition of cyber stalking.

So first lets start with definitions. What is bullying? Because it goes well beyond violence, and trust me, having been on that end, I am familiar with that aspect of it.

When it comes down to it, bullying is about the misuse of a power imbalance that occurs between two or more people. The bully has an element of power that their target does not have (or is not aware they have). Typically, we think about the power of physical strength, and the bully being physically stronger than their target. Again, physical violence should not be taken lightly; however, there are other elements of power that a bully can use to intimidate, ostracize, and harm another person or group of people. 

This is a critical point. What bullies engage in, especially online, is in a series of micro aggressions. They are constant and unrelenting,  With children they involved a lot of the social media outlets, and parents should monitor those to protect their children. With adults, they are common in social media sites, and in this case when a social media owner is alerted to it’s presence it must be put in there as a non acceptable form of behavior.

Adults can be just as cruel as children.

We also know the behavior is culturally ingrained and in the US it is tolerated. Forbes wrote on this telling us that much of it is part of our high performance culture. They write that:

What emerges is that such actions as shouting, loading certain employees with too much work or consistently highlighting their mistakes may be seen in some countries as boosting productivity. This makes bullying more acceptable in so-called “high performance orientation” cultures which value accomplishments, a sense of urgency and explicit communication. This is true of the Anglo group of countries (England, US and Australia). Workplaces in such countries are more likely to tolerate bullying IF this is seen as a means of achieving better results. Ironically, the bullying behaviour seen in ‘Anglo’ countries as keeping employees on their toes actually often has the opposite effect. The study implies that bullying might bring greater productivity in the short-term in certain cases but at a longer-term cost. This is because constant criticism, unfair division of labour or excessive monitoring can cause emotional exhaustion or even physical trauma. As a result, workers can feel depleted of energy and lose their initiative, but they can also feel trapped, develop anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Little wonder that such a scenario can lead to problems of motivation, fall in the standard of work, or good employees leaving.

There are elements already noted on the effects of this constant bullying on adults. Depression is a very real possibility as well as suicidal ideation. It is, let’s not coddle the term, let’s not call it boys will be boys, or any other term we use. Bully behavior is a form of abuse. According to Mark Dombeck there are other effects of bullying, which are very much long term.

There are two ugly outcomes that stem from learning to view yourself as a less than desirable, incapable individual. The first ugly outcome is that it becomes more likely that you will become increasingly susceptible to becoming depressed and/or angry and/or bitter. Being bullied teaches you that you are undesirable, that you are not safe in the world, and (when it is dished out by forces that are physically superior to yourself) that you are relatively powerless to defend yourself. When you are forced, again and again, to contemplate your relative lack of control over the bullying process, you are being set up for Learned Helplessness (e.g., where you come to believe that you can’t do anything to change your ugly situation even if that isn’t true), which in turn sets you up for hopelessness and depression.

So what about the bully? What are the characteristics of an adult bully? Well the most common aspect is that we are dealing with narcissist, who feel threatened and will play victim when confronted. Bullying statistics is an amazing resource if you are either an adult or child victim. And that is one of the things they raise.

What is critical for the victim to understand is that you are not the problem. They are. Bullies do this because:

A bully will never run out of targets. Not only is he envious, jealous and hateful of those who achieved more than him, but he also holds deep prejudices toward certain people, especially against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, and many others, but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of his personality secret. His trail of devastation to individuals, organizations, and communities, his need to control, manipulate and punish develops into an obsession. Bullies are the parasites of our world.

These people also lack empathy and will look for new targets.

It is time to make it a non tolerated behavior. This is not about political correctness, or about how things should be. It is about what it is. It is abuse, let’s talk openly about it. and it is not limited to the school yard.

And on Halloween this seems a very proper scary subject to deal with. After all, we as a society do not want to talk about it. It is scary, and it is part of the social fabric, like a cancer that metastasizes. It is best to deal with it in childhood. After all, children who are bullies will grow up to be bullies, that is a pretty good chance of it. Or worst, will enter the legal system. This we were told by San Diego Officials.

We must encourage a culture of tolerance across ages and places of study, work and online social interaction. Or we will continue to have violence derived from it. Chiefly, it is time to believe the victims a lot more. Which is actually a serious problem. We do not believe the victims, and blame them regularly.

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