Bullies are bad for you.
This is why, from time to time, I cover this topic on a natural health site.
A huge number of people encounter bullies at work. These toxic people cause immense personal and professional destruction.
Adults who bully others like to do so amidst a great deal of chaos and confusion, which they create. So their target is caught off guard.
Some adults may not even realize they’re being bullied That’s because it’s not always easy to discern.
Adult abusers often operate on the sly.
They’ve spent decades learning how to claw their way to the top of the heap. This skill set was most likely first learned on the playground, and honed through the years. Researchers now know that childhood bullies often grow into mean adults.
As they “mature,” these “adults” have developed ingenious ways to cover their tracks. In addition, they’ve discovered novel and more sophisticated ways to torment others.
A fist-in-your-face approach won’t work in a professional setting, so what you get are sneak attacks from the rear.
Workplace Bullying Behaviors
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This type of narcissistic abuse is particularly insidious because often the only one who sees it is the victim. If a victim tells someone else about it, he or she is apt to be met with disbelief. Consequently, the innocent target could easily be labeled as the troublemaker.
Bullies typically come across as charming and likable. He or she is the last person anybody would suspect of behaving so horribly.
So how do you spot them?
Keep reading and I’ll describe some of the telltale signs you could have an adult bully in your midst.
So What is Adult Bullying?
Bullying is any type of intimidating behavior that leaves another person fearful, such as the threat of physical violence.
Or it may be exclusively emotional. Such as a veiled threat of job loss or another negative consequence.
Blocking someone from obtaining something important to them, or making them believe they’ll lose something that means a lot to them, is also considered bullying.
Verbal insults that demean or humiliate someone are other forms of abuse.
Female bullies try to ostracize a target. This is achieved through what’s known as relational aggression, in which social situations are manipulated to isolate and exclude someone.
In fact, relational aggression is one of the main ways adult female bullies torment their victims.
Humans are social creatures and being left out hurts. If this happens in a social setting it simply stings.
However, when this kind of bullying happens in the workplace, the victim is often left jobless. That’s because the adult female successfully undermines her target’s credibility.
Workplace Bullying Advice
For instance, in a corporate setting, the targeted individual may not be made aware of an important meeting. An office bully may also invite everyone else out to lunch, except her victim. She’ll usually make sure the person left out hears about the luncheon, usually after the fact.
Succeeding in the workplace depends on access. You need certain information to do your job. You need the support and respect of others in order to succeed.
Instead, targets are marginalized, to the point they either quit or find themselves fired. Did you know that 75 percent of the time, on-the-job bullying leads to loss of employment?
Workplace Bullying by Co-Workers
So why do people you once considered your friends decide to turn on you?
Because the bully spreads rumors that portray the target in a bad light. To make it more believable, the lies are often mixed in with some truths. Adult narcissists are also very convincing. Lying is as easy to them as breathing.
Workplace Bullying and Gossip
So your coworkers may have heard unsavory gossip, which, unfortunately, they believe. Or they may desperately want to be part of the inner circle. Fraternizing with an outcast will hurt their social standing. (Because we humans are social creatures who don’t like to be marginalized.)
Other people may want to come to your aid, but don’t, because they’re concerned about their jobs. Above all, they’re terrified of becoming the next victim.
How To Know if You’re Being Bullied
So, given that adult bullies are sneaky, how do you know there’s a bully in your midst?
Is there any way to spot a bully?
Or, even better, learn the warning signs so you can avoid them in the first place?
- One of the first clues is that people start treating you differently. Normally friendly people may abruptly walk away from you. Or, they may fail to return your smile.
- Being excluded. This can happen in social settings or at work. Make no mistake. It’s bullying, as much as being punched in the face.
- Look for Chaos. Bullies are very good at recruiting others to dole out punishment. This creates a lot of confusion, making it especially difficult to get a handle on the issue. The target may realize the workplace has become hostile. She may dread coming to work. What she doesn’t know is that there’s a single bully behind the scenes pulling the strings. Co-workers will be probably clueless as to what’s taking place. The aggressor is very careful to present a charming face to the rest of the world.
- Gossip. I’ve yet to meet an adult bully that wasn’t a profligate gossip. Someone who talks about others behind their backs will invariably talk about you to others. That you can bank on. In my own personal experience with adult bullies, this is the number one red flag to watch for. If you meet someone who trash talks other people, run in the other direction. Don’t get involved. They are bad news.
- Sneaky Gossips. Not everyone who gossips does so in an overt way. As adults, they realize that destroying people’s reputations isn’t a good look. So they’ve found ways to subtly work it in. For instance, they may start to share unsavory information about someone else, but then “catch themselves” and stop. Meanwhile, they’ve just dropped a bomb.
- Sympathy Getters. Adult bullies likely suffer from narcissistic personality disorder. Malicious narcissists are really just socialized sociopaths. Researchers such as Martha Stout, PhD., have found there’s no reliable way of spotting a sociopath, except when someone plays the sympathy card right away.
- Lack of Empathy. Adult bullies are deficient in the empathy department. Or else their conscience would prevent them from trying to destroy someone’s life.
- Heightened Sense of Entitlement. Being highly entitled doesn’t mean you’re a bully or a narcissist. But I’ve yet to meet a narcissistic person that didn’t think the world revolved around them, and that other people exist solely to suit her needs. If you meet someone who is highly demanding proceed carefully. You might be dealing with a highly entitled person. Or you might be dealing with a dangerously disordered individual, who WILL wreak havoc..
Difficulty Pinpointing the Bully
Anyway, adult bullying is a whole different ballgame than schoolyard bullying.
It’s much more sophisticated.
The main bully may make himself known to you.
But not to others. So he or she ruins your life, right out in the open, but people don’t see it.
Or there may be a sinister twist.
The chief bully stays in the background and recruits foot soldiers to carry out her orders. This may be part of the confusion and chaos.
The main bully smiles at you, while it’s others who may be overtly aggressive.
Workplace Bullying and Escalated Incivility
In a particularly deranged twist, the main bully may even befriend you.
He or she gives you a shoulder to lean on as you describe the details of your psychological assaults.
Proceed very carefully if someone suddenly warms up you in the midst of such a struggle, and she seems very eager for you to share the details of your ordeal. Or if she somehow has a special insight into the details of what’s happening.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to recognize adult bullying until a lot of time has passed, and you can now look back on that trauma from the perspective of a survivor.
Workplace Bullying and Gaslighting
So, you’re now a survivor. (Welcome to the club.)
Forgiving the bully is essential, in order to move on with the life.
Yes, this nasty person has made life messy.
He or she may even have engaged in gaslighting. This is very evil, because it’s a calculated attempt to make you doubt yourself.
Gaslighting typically involves a series of lies. The aim is to convince the target of something that isn’t true. The term comes from a vintage movie. The villain was a wicked husband who tried to drive his wife crazy by shifting things in their home, and then denying he did this.
How Do You Pardon a Bully?
But, once you pardon a bully, he or she loses control over you. I always urge readers to forgive the bully (or bullies) in their lives. This is the only way to reclaim your peace. Plus, staying angry at someone is really bad for your health.
Please understand that I’m not a mental health professional. So this article is not intended as advice of any sort. I write from the standpoint of personal experience only, after encountering an adult female bully. She caused immense destruction, while presenting a saintly face to the rest of the world. I did forgive her. You can read more about my personal experience in the book below.