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Why do people bully?

Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, fault-finding, exclusion, isolation, being treated differently, being shouted at, excessive monitoring and much more

Bullying has nothing to do with managing; good managers manage staff and bad managers’ bully. Bullies project their inadequacy on to others to avoid facing up to their inadequacy, to avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour and to reduce their fear of being seen for what they are. Despite a confident or self assured facade bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted in many studies of bullying.

Types of workplace bullying

  • Shouting or swearing
  • Coercing employees to work overtime
  • Sending personnel officers to an employee’s home to interrogate the employees whilst on sick leave
  • Viewing an employee who suffers from stress as weak and inadequate whilst ignoring and denying the cause of stress (i.e. bad management and bullying)
  • Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about their colleagues
  • Workloads are increased, work schedules are changed, roles are changed, career progression paths are blocked or terminated and all of this is without consultation.
  • The misuse of email systems or social networking sites such as Facebook for sending aggressive emails.
  • Ignoring or ridiculing achievements
  • Trivial fault-finding
  • Undermining, especially in front of others
  • Making false allegations
  • Raising concerns or doubts over a person’s performance or standard of work when the doubts lack substantive and quantifiable evidence
  • Being singled out and treated differently
  • Regularly being the target of offensive language, personal remarks, or inappropriate bad language
  • Being taunted and teased where the intention is to embarrass and humiliate
  • Having been set unrealistic goals and deadlines which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason
  • Denied information or knowledge necessary for undertaking work and achieving objectives
  • The silent treatment: communicating only via email or memos
  • Forced to work long hours and often without pay
  • Find requests for annual leave have unacceptable and unnecessary conditions attached.
  • Subjected to unwarranted and unjustified verbal or written warnings

Why me?

  • You’re good at your job
  • You’re popular with colleagues, customers or clients
  • The bully fears exposure of their inadequacy and incompetence and your presence and competence fuel that fear
  • You get more attention than the bully
  • You have a strong sense of integrity
  • You refuse to join an established clique
  • You showing independence of thought or deed

Events that trigger bullying

  • The previous target leaves
  • A new manager is appointed
  • Your performance unwittingly highlights an unfavourable comparison with the bully’s lack of performance
  • You may have unwittingly become the focus of attention whereas before the bully was the centre of attention
  • Obvious displays of affection, respect or trust from co-workers
  • Speaking out about incompetence, malpractice, illegal practices, breaches of procedure etc.
  • Experiencing illness or injury
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Gaining recognition for your achievements
  • Gaining a promotion

Personal qualities that bullies find irresistible

  • Popularity
  • Competence
  • Intelligence
  • Honesty
  • Being trustworthy
  • Success
  • Determination
  • Ability to master new skills
  • Difficulty saying no
  • Diligent
  • Tolerant
  • An inability to value oneself and attributing greater importance to other people’s opinions of oneself
  • A desire to always think well of others
  • Having high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise
  • A tendency to self-deprecation and approval seeking
  • Low assertiveness
  • Quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty
  • Perfectionism
  • Naivety
  • A tendency to internalise anger rather than express it

Bullying and health

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frequent illness such as colds or coughs (stress plays lower your immune system)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Tiredness
  • Sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early
  • Flashbacks and replays as you find it difficult to get the bullying out of your mind
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Eczema, psoriasis
  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks
  • Tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Being constantly on edge
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem

Counselling, psychotherapy and CBT for bullying

Work place bullying is a major cause of work-related stress and emotional problems. While work place bullying and harassment is an often under recognised cause of job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and staff turnover, it also has a huge and often enduring effect on the victim. Many people continue to suffer from the emotional wounds inflicted by work place abuse of various forms, long after they have left the work place where they were originally victimised.

Bullying experiences can lead to a range of different psychological difficulties and in some cases these can persist indefinitely without psychological therapy.

Counselling for victims of work place bullying typically involves two components: (1) training in strategies to face and deal with the practical issues confronting you in the work place, and (2) strategies to manage the emotional effects of bullying.

Counselling can assist you in the decision making process about who to speak to at work if anyone, whether to stay at work and becoming assertive in situations where you feel you need to stay and cope with a situation.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been shown by many research trials to be the treatment of choice for many bullying-related emotional problems such as posttraumatic stress reactions, depression, and panic attacks.

CBT therapy for bullying-related experiences usually involves training in many different psychological techniques and typically involves some or all of the following components: training in relaxation and anxiety management skills, techniques which desensitise people to the abuse memory and reduce the frequency of intrusive thoughts and techniques to overcome negative thinking patterns.

However each person’s reaction is unique and the specific CBT counselling techniques required will depend on the person’s particular difficulties.

EMDR for bullying

The effects of bullying can sometimes lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to therapy that is particularly helpful for people who have experienced something traumatic. That can be something we would normally think of as traumatizing (a sexual assault, an earthquake, a bank robbery) or an experience that was disturbing and personally traumatising (an incident of bullying, humiliation, betrayal, complicated bereavement).