Bullying: When Adults Are the Victims

Reviewed Jun 26, 2018

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Consider the motivation and the psychological state of the bully.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions.
  • Remain calm.

When we think of bullies, most of us think of kids being the victims—bullied on the school bus, on the playground, over the Internet, or through text messages. But adults can be bullied too.

Take stock of your life. Do you see rude, selfish, jealous, manipulative, or frustrating people in your family, at work, in your neighborhood, at your child’s school, or in the stands at a sporting event?

Examples of adult bullying

A mother-in-law who finds fault with your parenting, a neighbor who blows leaves into your yard while cleaning up his, the parent of your child’s teammate who starts rumors about your child, a rival sports fan who yells profanity and spills beer on you during a game—these are all examples of adult bullying behavior. 

Consider this situation:

You volunteered to be in a group to plan a fundraiser for your child’s school. You met weekly with parents to share ideas and to pool skills and resources to plan the event. One of the parents often criticized your ideas and cut you off in mid-sentence. Before each meeting your stomach hurt and you would hope that parent would not attend.

Why does it happen?

Adult bullies target victims in many of the same ways kids who bully do. Bullies are opportunistic and prey on people they see as a threat or that they dislike because of differences. They often choose targets who excel and are capable, dedicated, popular, smart, and attractive and who tend to be non-confrontational. A bully’s goal is to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid through the use of verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, and teasing; threatening; mocking; insulting; ignoring; or discrediting the person by spreading rumors.

Bullying is a learned behavior. As kids, adult bullies were likely not taught how to express their needs in healthy ways. Their parents may have modeled bully-like behaviors with others. Many adult bullies were either bullies or bullied as kids.

Fight bullying

  • Take stock. How important is the relationship you have with the bully or the activity that you are in with this person? As you take stock, consider your roles and values.
  • Think about the reason and the mental state of the bully. Many bullies have been bullied or abused themselves. They may feel insecure or inadequate and be putting you down to make themselves appear more powerful.
  • Don’t take the bully’s actions personally. His actions have nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own pain.
  • Record what’s happening. Where and when does the behavior happen? Record the words the bully has said to you. If email or texts have been sent, print or save them. Although each event is significant, it is the pattern that cannot be explained away. If the bullying happens at work, talk with your manager about an intervention.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions, and stay calm. Does your heart race, your stomach get knotted, your head pound? Do you feel afraid, nervous, or uncomfortable? Take deep, slow breaths and see yourself staying relaxed in the presence of the bully. Bullies are looking for an emotional reaction, not a calm, problem-solving response.
  • Decide what course of action to take. If you get angry, your judgment gets clouded and you may say something you will regret later. If you withdraw, the cycle keeps on. Ask yourself if you can distance yourself from this person. If your tie is through a volunteer job, might you find another committee? If the person is a member of your family, might you choose to spend less time together?
  • Assess your nonverbal actions. Keep an open body posture (don’t cross your arms or glare). A calm, direct voice tone conveys assertiveness. 
  • If you decide to assertively face the bully, talk to the person privately. 
    • Use “I messages” to calmly and fairly tell an example of the person’s actions and your feelings, and to ask for a behavior change. In the school committee example above, the person might say, “At the last meeting, when I suggested having a silent auction, you interrupted me and said, ‘That will never work!’ I felt devalued and disrespected. When I have a suggestion, I would like you to listen, acknowledge my idea, and let the group talk about it.”
    • Tell her why this will be better for both of you. A common goal works well: “This way our group can be more successful with the fundraiser.” 
    • When communicating, having both of you seated is more effective than standing.
  • If you take a different course, try creating a distraction, changing the subject, or “killing him with kindness.” Try using humor or a well-chosen word or kind action to disarm the bully. For example, if a bully says, “You are stupid!” You might say, “I get you being annoyed by this problem, but let’s focus on talking about the best answer for this issue.”
  • Remove yourself from the situation. You must work to change your own response to bullying by being assertive and setting healthy limits.
  • Get support. Talk with someone you are close to. Also, an employee assistance professional can coach you in skillfully handling strong negative feelings such as anger, shame, worry, and depression that can result from bullying.
By Kristen Hooks, M.Ed., L.P.C., L.M.F.T., C.E.A.P.

Summary

  • Consider the motivation and the psychological state of the bully.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions.
  • Remain calm.

When we think of bullies, most of us think of kids being the victims—bullied on the school bus, on the playground, over the Internet, or through text messages. But adults can be bullied too.

Take stock of your life. Do you see rude, selfish, jealous, manipulative, or frustrating people in your family, at work, in your neighborhood, at your child’s school, or in the stands at a sporting event?

Examples of adult bullying

A mother-in-law who finds fault with your parenting, a neighbor who blows leaves into your yard while cleaning up his, the parent of your child’s teammate who starts rumors about your child, a rival sports fan who yells profanity and spills beer on you during a game—these are all examples of adult bullying behavior. 

Consider this situation:

You volunteered to be in a group to plan a fundraiser for your child’s school. You met weekly with parents to share ideas and to pool skills and resources to plan the event. One of the parents often criticized your ideas and cut you off in mid-sentence. Before each meeting your stomach hurt and you would hope that parent would not attend.

Why does it happen?

Adult bullies target victims in many of the same ways kids who bully do. Bullies are opportunistic and prey on people they see as a threat or that they dislike because of differences. They often choose targets who excel and are capable, dedicated, popular, smart, and attractive and who tend to be non-confrontational. A bully’s goal is to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid through the use of verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, and teasing; threatening; mocking; insulting; ignoring; or discrediting the person by spreading rumors.

Bullying is a learned behavior. As kids, adult bullies were likely not taught how to express their needs in healthy ways. Their parents may have modeled bully-like behaviors with others. Many adult bullies were either bullies or bullied as kids.

Fight bullying

  • Take stock. How important is the relationship you have with the bully or the activity that you are in with this person? As you take stock, consider your roles and values.
  • Think about the reason and the mental state of the bully. Many bullies have been bullied or abused themselves. They may feel insecure or inadequate and be putting you down to make themselves appear more powerful.
  • Don’t take the bully’s actions personally. His actions have nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own pain.
  • Record what’s happening. Where and when does the behavior happen? Record the words the bully has said to you. If email or texts have been sent, print or save them. Although each event is significant, it is the pattern that cannot be explained away. If the bullying happens at work, talk with your manager about an intervention.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions, and stay calm. Does your heart race, your stomach get knotted, your head pound? Do you feel afraid, nervous, or uncomfortable? Take deep, slow breaths and see yourself staying relaxed in the presence of the bully. Bullies are looking for an emotional reaction, not a calm, problem-solving response.
  • Decide what course of action to take. If you get angry, your judgment gets clouded and you may say something you will regret later. If you withdraw, the cycle keeps on. Ask yourself if you can distance yourself from this person. If your tie is through a volunteer job, might you find another committee? If the person is a member of your family, might you choose to spend less time together?
  • Assess your nonverbal actions. Keep an open body posture (don’t cross your arms or glare). A calm, direct voice tone conveys assertiveness. 
  • If you decide to assertively face the bully, talk to the person privately. 
    • Use “I messages” to calmly and fairly tell an example of the person’s actions and your feelings, and to ask for a behavior change. In the school committee example above, the person might say, “At the last meeting, when I suggested having a silent auction, you interrupted me and said, ‘That will never work!’ I felt devalued and disrespected. When I have a suggestion, I would like you to listen, acknowledge my idea, and let the group talk about it.”
    • Tell her why this will be better for both of you. A common goal works well: “This way our group can be more successful with the fundraiser.” 
    • When communicating, having both of you seated is more effective than standing.
  • If you take a different course, try creating a distraction, changing the subject, or “killing him with kindness.” Try using humor or a well-chosen word or kind action to disarm the bully. For example, if a bully says, “You are stupid!” You might say, “I get you being annoyed by this problem, but let’s focus on talking about the best answer for this issue.”
  • Remove yourself from the situation. You must work to change your own response to bullying by being assertive and setting healthy limits.
  • Get support. Talk with someone you are close to. Also, an employee assistance professional can coach you in skillfully handling strong negative feelings such as anger, shame, worry, and depression that can result from bullying.
By Kristen Hooks, M.Ed., L.P.C., L.M.F.T., C.E.A.P.

Summary

  • Consider the motivation and the psychological state of the bully.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions.
  • Remain calm.

When we think of bullies, most of us think of kids being the victims—bullied on the school bus, on the playground, over the Internet, or through text messages. But adults can be bullied too.

Take stock of your life. Do you see rude, selfish, jealous, manipulative, or frustrating people in your family, at work, in your neighborhood, at your child’s school, or in the stands at a sporting event?

Examples of adult bullying

A mother-in-law who finds fault with your parenting, a neighbor who blows leaves into your yard while cleaning up his, the parent of your child’s teammate who starts rumors about your child, a rival sports fan who yells profanity and spills beer on you during a game—these are all examples of adult bullying behavior. 

Consider this situation:

You volunteered to be in a group to plan a fundraiser for your child’s school. You met weekly with parents to share ideas and to pool skills and resources to plan the event. One of the parents often criticized your ideas and cut you off in mid-sentence. Before each meeting your stomach hurt and you would hope that parent would not attend.

Why does it happen?

Adult bullies target victims in many of the same ways kids who bully do. Bullies are opportunistic and prey on people they see as a threat or that they dislike because of differences. They often choose targets who excel and are capable, dedicated, popular, smart, and attractive and who tend to be non-confrontational. A bully’s goal is to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid through the use of verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, and teasing; threatening; mocking; insulting; ignoring; or discrediting the person by spreading rumors.

Bullying is a learned behavior. As kids, adult bullies were likely not taught how to express their needs in healthy ways. Their parents may have modeled bully-like behaviors with others. Many adult bullies were either bullies or bullied as kids.

Fight bullying

  • Take stock. How important is the relationship you have with the bully or the activity that you are in with this person? As you take stock, consider your roles and values.
  • Think about the reason and the mental state of the bully. Many bullies have been bullied or abused themselves. They may feel insecure or inadequate and be putting you down to make themselves appear more powerful.
  • Don’t take the bully’s actions personally. His actions have nothing to do with you and everything to do with his own pain.
  • Record what’s happening. Where and when does the behavior happen? Record the words the bully has said to you. If email or texts have been sent, print or save them. Although each event is significant, it is the pattern that cannot be explained away. If the bullying happens at work, talk with your manager about an intervention.
  • Pay attention to your physical and emotional reactions, and stay calm. Does your heart race, your stomach get knotted, your head pound? Do you feel afraid, nervous, or uncomfortable? Take deep, slow breaths and see yourself staying relaxed in the presence of the bully. Bullies are looking for an emotional reaction, not a calm, problem-solving response.
  • Decide what course of action to take. If you get angry, your judgment gets clouded and you may say something you will regret later. If you withdraw, the cycle keeps on. Ask yourself if you can distance yourself from this person. If your tie is through a volunteer job, might you find another committee? If the person is a member of your family, might you choose to spend less time together?
  • Assess your nonverbal actions. Keep an open body posture (don’t cross your arms or glare). A calm, direct voice tone conveys assertiveness. 
  • If you decide to assertively face the bully, talk to the person privately. 
    • Use “I messages” to calmly and fairly tell an example of the person’s actions and your feelings, and to ask for a behavior change. In the school committee example above, the person might say, “At the last meeting, when I suggested having a silent auction, you interrupted me and said, ‘That will never work!’ I felt devalued and disrespected. When I have a suggestion, I would like you to listen, acknowledge my idea, and let the group talk about it.”
    • Tell her why this will be better for both of you. A common goal works well: “This way our group can be more successful with the fundraiser.” 
    • When communicating, having both of you seated is more effective than standing.
  • If you take a different course, try creating a distraction, changing the subject, or “killing him with kindness.” Try using humor or a well-chosen word or kind action to disarm the bully. For example, if a bully says, “You are stupid!” You might say, “I get you being annoyed by this problem, but let’s focus on talking about the best answer for this issue.”
  • Remove yourself from the situation. You must work to change your own response to bullying by being assertive and setting healthy limits.
  • Get support. Talk with someone you are close to. Also, an employee assistance professional can coach you in skillfully handling strong negative feelings such as anger, shame, worry, and depression that can result from bullying.
By Kristen Hooks, M.Ed., L.P.C., L.M.F.T., C.E.A.P.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2018 Beacon Health Options, Inc.