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The Epidemic of Adult Bullies at Work

According to a recent research study, 31% of Americans have been bullied as an adult.

Bullying: What it is

I googled the word, Bully, and the dictionary described it as, “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable).” The synonyms noted include: persecute, oppress, tyranize, torment, browbeat, intimidate. As a Happiness Coach, people seek my services to explore what is keeping them from life fulfillment. Perhaps they are not the problem, and what they face daily is causing such distress, leading them to ingenuous relating to others, as a defense mechanism protecting their authentic self.

Control Factor

This is how bullies exert control, to cope with their own deficiencies by impacting the life of another negatively. Why all the happiness & resilience talks? I have been a subject of bullying all of my life. There is a Greek song, “The big fish eat the small fish,” …yes this is common sense and yet, true. For those of us who have experienced someone trying to belittle us, control how others see us, impact our work environment with fear, we are not victims. This does not diminish the truth that bullying in the adult workplace is real. Have you been blamed for others not doing their work, received shaming emails, told you had problems with your relationships? I was told straight to my face by a supervisor, ” I do not like…(a specific people group).” Fill in the blank for yourself. This was the actual belief system that I embraced and she knew this about me. There used to be a time when being authentic to who we were could include privacy from retaliation at work. In this digital era, who we are with our religious beliefs et all. is public, and this is the case for me. I have had some intolerant treatment from co-workers with clear statements questioning my character, and since the supervisor had bias, she empowered the behavior. What resulted was a group dynamic of ridicule, harrasment, and simple hostility to who I am based on what they stereotype me as. They do not like Conservative Christians, and yes this was clearly stated to me. This is not an excuse to bully. This is not ok.

Statistics & Health Decline: The Effects

Victims of bullying  reported significant negative impacts on their health. The poll found of those who have been bullied as an adult:

  • 71% suffer from stress
  • 70% experience anxiety/depression
  • 55% report a loss of confidence
  • 39% suffer from sleep loss, 26% have headaches and 22% experience muscle tension or pain
  • 19% reported a mental breakdown
  • 17% noted an inability to function day-to-day, i.e. calling in sick frequently

“Other health responses to the emotional strain induced by bullying include gastrointestinal changes, nausea, elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, according to osteopathic physicians.

Typically understood to be a problem children face and outgrow, the new findings show that bullying, and its subsequent impact on mental and physical health, continues long into adulthood—often in the workplace, home and educational setting.”

Could this be the root?

Could this be why we are seeing such a movement to teach happiness skills, optimism, resilience, & self actualization? What if the bullies were taught the value of a growth mindset? They may feel more in power of their actions with more positive emotions. Tolerance means acceptance of everyone. We each have a right to our individual belief systems. I have gravitated to the teachings of Positive Psychology, because this is the first time in the mental health world that a behavioral science has validated me as a woman of faith. In the study, “Satisfaction with life and character strengths of non-religious and religious people: it’s practicing one’s religion that makes the difference,” they found: People with a religious affiliation that also practice their religion were found to be more satisfied with their life and scored higher on life of meaning than those who do not practice their religion and than non-religious people. Also religious people who practice their religion differed significantly from those who do not practice their religion and non-religious people regarding several character strengths; they scored higher on kindness, love, gratitude, hope, forgiveness, and on spirituality.  This is only one of many studies. I only wonder if a person who has a need to intimidate, persecute, torment a person of faith, simply needs the very love that person of faith carries. Trying to discredit and get a reaction from them will, in their mind, validate their own cynicism towards a person who lives the tenets of Christianity. Honestly, I live my life according to what I value, and I respect others who do the same. Diversity is part of the world. Yes I have brought religion into a serious topic, as I have a clear point of reference to say perhaps a cause of bullying is a need for what religious people were reported to have more of: kindness, love, gratitude, hope, & forgiveness. Others studies have pointed to people living close to their beliefs embracing more optimism. I walk in peace, and to be in an environment where others are purposefully trying to take that from me, instead of gain it…this saddens me.


Grow

The growth mindset is one that focuses on getting our needs met, improving our relationships, and only then can we move onto our goals in life and even dreams. We are a divided nation in many ways. It is our daily choice to focus on what is going well, commonalities with those around us, with a focus on practicing gratitude. At work, let’s start the day saying something kind, praise for what is going well, recognition for our efforts. To say this will demotivate staff is an oxymoron. Motivating the team includes giving positives. This encourages healthy neuroplasticity, that will only lead to increase in productivity, with the much needed engagement that managers are seeking for our workforce.

A Challenge

Today let’s embrace those who think differently than we do. Maybe there is a lesson for us, and gift. What we do not like in others, we have in ourselves. Bullying is our own hatred towards ourselves projected onto others; an excuse relieving us of personal responsibility (in the brief moment), for our pain. There is hope, and that is found in embracing love, and yes this kind of love is appropriate in the place of work…the kind that is virtuous along with kindness, gratitude, and a life worth living.

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