Workplace Bullying

Intro to Bullying

Definition:   Repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people by: verbal abuse, name calling, racial slurs or threats, intimidation, or humiliation work interference, sabotage or combination of the above.

Intentional—Always intentional, not accidental and is meant to cause harm

Hurtful—A negative behavior that may be physical, verbal or emotional. The types are varied, but they all cause harm to the victim.

RepetitiveBullying happens repeatedly. Both the bully and the target know it will happen again so that, over time, it becomes terrorizing and traumatizing.

Imbalance of power & power is perception. Bullies typically don’t target others of equal or greater power. But don’t confuse power and authority. Authority is power entrusted, but not necessarily power perceived.  It is NOT a personality conflict

Why Bully?

Because we want connection

Because having power over someone feels good to some people.

Bullies want attention and the common denominator is their sense of superiority and dominance over the target. They will always choose the target they know they can dominate, but the reasons and the circumstances can vary.

Bullies are not compensating for low self-esteem but often, bullies have been victims of bullying themselves.

Why are some people targeted and not others?

Bullies always choose people who won’t challenge them. To ultimately be successful though, a bully cannot do this in a vacuum. They MUST enlist help from others in the system or the system itself.

Scapegoating is a common form of bullying in a system where one person or group is identified as the problem to be annihilated. Fixation and rigidity prevent any change in perception and often the targeted person or group internalizes the shame and judgment leading to psychological consequences.

What happens to them?

Bullying and being targeted are both harmful to our development and sense of identity in the world.

  • People who have been targeted often struggle with Depression, Anxiety and sometimes PTSD later in life
  • People who have bullied also suffer from depression and anxiety
  • People who have experienced both often suffer more than either of the other two categories.

“Kids who both bullied other children and were bullied themselves had the biggest psychological consequences in young adulthood, the researchers reported online in JAMA Psychiatry. They had roughly five-fold risk of depression and greater than 10-fold risk of panic disorder, agoraphobia (for women), and suicidality (for men).” MedPage Today, February 20, 2013


The Language of Bullying:
The common theme of all bullying
is shame and contempt.

What does bullying feel like?

When someone is targeted it is a betrayal of all that makes the world “make sense.”  Fairness, equity and free will are simply not an option in this dance.  The target knows she will be bullied. She feels she can do nothing to prevent it and she feels like she is going crazy.

People who should have your back ignore you or don’t believe you.  It is isolating and terrifying.

Who do you think you are?? That question becomes more difficult by the day because who you think you are is slowly chipped away until it feels like there is nothing left. We learn who we are through our relationships and connection to others.

Invalidation of the spirit:

When a person is the victim of a crime the victim or target is recognized as a victim. There are laws, processes and systems created to offer help and support and more importantly to VALIDATE that their experience is real. (Not always, though, as we know the victim may be blamed as in the case of rape)

But when a person is bullied no systems exist yet. We are at the very early stages of recognizing what bullying is and that it is a very toxic and destructive scourge on our society.

Bullying is abuse – plain and simple – and without the validation of our experience it can’t be integrated into our life experience as real. Without integrating it we can’t move forward and heal.


Video that explains Workplace Bullying:


Reaching Out Vol 4 pg 1 Reaching Out Vol 4 pg 2