There is a lot in the news about bullying, which seems to have accelerated with social networking sites – however, I’m not sure there is more bullying, cyber bullying is just another method and a public one.  Bullies of school yard and office space often work in a more isolating and secret way against their victims, now the pain of public humiliation gives rise to an extra dimension to this evil practice.

It has been said – a little harshly perhaps? – That there would be no bullies if there were no ‘victims’ to torment.  Hmmm.., it is true to some degree:  (There will also always be the perpetrator victims themselves of course). Bullies aren’t born, they develop due to what they learnt, and how they learnt about their lack of value in the world, usually from early childhood, they almost always lack any empathy with others.  Enough about them, more about YOU as a target of bullying.

3 Things to know about Bullies:

  • They ‘need’ POWER to make themselves feel better about their own empty sense of who they are.
  • They may be People with particular PERSONALITY DISORDERS-e.g. sociopaths, psychopaths – those having no compassion for others.
  • Bullies are usually COWARDS at heart and usually need a group of *cronies around them to applaud them for their perceived power and control.

*Cronies = people who also feel empty inside but don’t have the disposition to be the main bully but need a ‘gang’ to validate their very existence.  ‘Who’ would they be otherwise….?

3  Things to know about being a Victim:

  • May have:- Low self-esteem, low sense of any importance as an individual, sometimes ‘learnt’ from earliest childhood by experiencing abusive, neglectful, chronically ill, alcohol/drug addicted, mentally ill, or otherwise non-functional parenting.
  • May be:- Lacking in socialising skills, making friends; nervous or sensitive personalities; regarded as ‘different’ from the greater group at school or office;Aspergers, Gifted,  or Autistic children/adults.
  • May be: – Simply in the wrong place at the wrong time!
  • Victims always try to RESPOND to the bullying, perhaps in an over-defensive, sometimes aggressive manner.

For children and adolescents of school age, the most effective way of managing the bully is to simply DO NOTHING.  By that I mean give no response i.e. ‘entertainment’ for the bully and his/her group.  Bullies target their victims – often choosing a child on their own. The child who yells, cries, tries to kick out etc will be identified as the ‘perfect victim’.

Consider the scenario where a playground bully taunts a child who is on his/her own.  Visualise that child making no response (maybe even yawning in a bored manner), and walking away.  The bully knows he is not going to get any ‘entertainment’ there, on the contrary, he/she may end up looking very silly in front of the cronies.  Time for them to move on to find a better, more responsive ‘victim’.

Now we all know how much courage it will take for a single child to act in that way in the face of a group of would-be ‘torturers’! However, keeping that picture in mind is very important for all ‘victims’.  Considering too why certain other children are NOT targeted, observing those who may also be a little isolated and yet don’t become victims. It’s very likely that they will not allow others to manipulate them.

Now think of a string puppet – the puppet master is the bully who attaches and then pulls the strings on that puppet to do his bidding.  Consider one very large pair of scissors and cutting those strings and walking away – or –shutting down that particular social network site without making ANY response at all, this is the ‘cyber yawn’!

There are countless ways that bullies at school, in the work place, in social groups, operate.

The key thing is safety – before attempting any non-response behaviour, you need to know you are not at risk from physical harm.  At school, you do need to walk firmly and fast to the school office and stay there until the principal or another senior teacher listens to you.  I met one young lady once who found it difficult to get teachers to listen to her. She was often told to go back out there and say ‘STOP’ – not terribly effective with big time bullies I’m afraid.  On the occasion when the bully pulled out a knife and got hold of her hair, she ran to the Office and repeated over and over “Help, help, help, help, help…..”  Until she was given serious attention. Sad it took this to get the help she, and others, needed to stay safe from bullies.

In the work place there can be a great deal of bullying either from the Top down, sometimes within a work Team.  But exactly the same pattern occurs.  (Keep in mind that bullies do get jobs!)  The targeting of a victim is done to see whether a worker will respond by either allowing the manipulation to continue beyond the first ‘trial run’ by the bully, or by being isolated and offered ‘special’ favours by a senior staff member.  This ‘grooming’ may lead to pay back on favours accepted.

EXAMPLE:   A young worker started her first job within a work team, she was nervous, lacking confidence and was overly thankful for a seemingly kind, benevolent Team Leader (TL), who took her under her wing.  Little by little her family realised that she was working ‘all the hours’ – quite voluntarily but not paid Overtime – to please the TL.  Only she never did manage to please the TL, instead she became tired, snappy, irritable and often close to tears at nothing in particular.  She was being very effectively manipulated to produce a whole lot more work than the others, and to give her TL a huge amount of ‘power’ satisfaction- covert workplace bullying.  Her fellow staff members were unimpressed with her seemingly boot-licking behaviour and excluded her.


Firstly – to check with her family and/or experienced working friends, whether it was OK to be asked to do all the extra hours work which no-one else was asked to do.  Reassured that this was quite wrong, she needed to say “Sorry, no” – with a smile is really good (and yes this may take a bit of practice.) And then to politely explain that she wasn’t prepared to work over-time and that if the TL felt she wasn’t fulfilling her role, perhaps they could have a meeting with the Manager present to discuss it since she clearly wanted to improve at the job – finished with another smile, if at all possible. This is basic assertion.


This takes courage but also a realistic view of a stress-filled, imagined, worst case scenario:

Getting the sack? Talking (calmly), with the Manager is a mature and responsible step to take and is never a sack-able action.

Putting the TL offside? The TL in this case isn’t ON her side. There’s nothing to lose.

Bullying is a form of violence, and within a relationship that is Domestic Violence (DV).  Neither bullying behaviour, nor DV need to include any physical violence. Many who have experienced DV will often say physical violence would have been easier to manage than psychological/emotional violence. The latter is very hard to report or describe accurately enough for the police, family or friends to act appropriately to keep you safe. It is insidious and can lead the victim to doubt her or himself, questioning that perhaps it IS her or his fault as the perpetrator may suggest, constantly.  NOT true.

Assertion works – but ONLY when there is no personal risk involved.  Making it known to friends and family members and letting the perpetrator know that it’s no longer secret will also help.  Finally, if all else fails  – shout ‘HELP, HELP’ to school staff repeatedly if you’re at school, report the bullying to Human Resources staff if it’s happening at work, call the Police if it’s happening within a relationship.  Remind yourself that you will NOT be a VICTIM and ‘feed’ a bully’s sense of power.