Friday, August 3, 2012

Bullies - All Grown Up!

Bullies don’t stop being bullies when the reach a magic age. Fortunately, many do reach a point when they become confident enough to not need to put others down to feel good about themselves. However, there are some who never outgrow the behavior. And while some adults who bully were bullies in their youth, not all of them did. Adult bullies may have been targets or witnesses, or never dealt with bullying much at all growing up.

Bullying for adults follows many of the same patterns as it does for adolescents, where a bully uses tactics to intimidate, sabotage, lie to or about, humiliate, frighten and shame. A bully may enjoy making others feel incompetent and powerless, or they may be acting on a feeling of lack of control themselves.

As adults, we may encounter bullies at work, social groups, in public, and at home. At work at work and in social groups, bullying tends to reflect schoolyard behavior. As a thirty-something, I have frequently heard other adults say, “We’re not in highschool anymore,” or “I felt like I did back in highschool, people should just grow up.” The social heirarchy that we as humans are naturally drawn to are present in all groups, even as adults and therefore, we will have those who feel the need to dominate and gain or retain power. I once went to a PTA meeting where the other moms were so catty and snide, one mother ran out in tears and never returned. She was well into her thirties.

Bullying in the work place can be a huge problem, as it effects a persons abillity to do their job. This may even impact their income, and in cases where the person works with or for consumers it can impact the clientelle. While bosses can and do bully their employees, and this is commonly what we think of when we imagine workplace bullying, it is not the only dynamic. Coworkers often bully eachother, even in a group where one person is the target of several. Employees may even bully their boss.

In public, we encounter bullies in many different places. We’ve all seen the movies where a "newcomer" strolls into a bar and is confronted by the biggest meanest guy in the place. Of course, that is only a manifestation of our adult interpretation of aggressive adults. We find bullies on the road, driving agressively and using their vehicles to intimidate others who they feel slighted them by cutting them off or failling to use a turn signal. We may see them in restaraunts or shopping centers berating helpless cashiers. We meet them online in message boards, chatrooms, or comment sections of articles. Adults can be targets of cyberbullies as well as kids. Bullying at home takes on a much more sinister connotation, as we consider the innocence of those so brutally affected. They typically expect their family members to revolve around them and cater to their needs. They may use intimidation, fear, shame, humilation, and even physical force in order to make those in their enviroment comply with their will. They will often take their stress from work or outside of the home out on their loved ones. Of course, we consider these people abusers.

**While most parents who are not abusive do use coercion tactics towards their children in order to get them to do what is needed (clean their rooms, brush their teeth, stop fighting with each other, do their homework, etc. etc.), this “justified manipulation” is not typically considered serious enough to qualify as bullying or abuse. However, I strongly urge all parents (myself included) to examine their own forceful behaviors such as spanking, yelling, forced timeouts etc, to determine what impact this may have on their children in regards to bullying. Many children will bully others when they feel extremely small or powerless at home. It can also go the other way, causing children to be more apt to comply with a bullies orders or accept behaviors they are used to at home. This is simply something to think about.

While most kids who bully are simply called bullies, those who are as adults are usually considered to have some form of personalitiy disorder. Therefore, when looking up profiles of adult bullies, I was met repeatedly with a list of personality and mental disorders. They are as follows:

· Paranoid Personality Disorder

· Antisocial Personality Disorder

· Narcisisstic Personality Disorder

· Histrionc Personality Disorder

· Borderline Personality Disorder

· Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

· Dependent Personality Disorder

· Schitzoid Personality Disorder

· Avoidant Personality Disorder

Those who have any number or combination of personality disorders can display certain character traits, or a specific set of behavior patterns:

They have difficulty developing healthy relationships – either personal or proffessional. They can be argumentative, ignore even minor requests and be quick to explode.

They are egosyntonic, meaning they feel their pathology is a strength and are proud to be the way they are, whereas others view them as harmful or toxic.

They usually lack empathy and either do not realize nor care that their behavior is hurting others. They typically feel that others are overly sensitive.

May have difficulty maintaining proper boundaries – in the workplace, this is described as a person who bullies a coworker, boss or subordinate and then attempts to socialize with them.

They often have irrational beliefs, and feel picked on or slighted when they are not. They may think others are “out to get them”. In the case of spouses, they may feel that the spouse is going to cheat on them, even if the spouse has never given them any reason to feel that way.They often feel judged, and believe that they will be held accountable for the mistakes of others, and therefore they try and control others as much as they possibly can.

Many have hidden agendas, refusing to give permission to their kids or spouse to do an activity, claiming that funds are tight, or there is not time for it etc. when in reality they are attempting to control them. For example: a person might tell their spouse that there isn’t enough gas in the car for them to go visit a friend or relative, when the real reason they do not want their spouse to go is because they are operating with the irrational belief that the spouse may “meet someone” or engage in harmful activities.

Those with personality disorders frequently lack emotional intelligence. They cannot disagree in a respectful way and become inexplicably angry when dissagreed with. They may resort to name calling and insults that most would consider immature or below the belt. They are often quick to explode and can be completely irrational in an argument.

Exhibit a lack of adaptability when performing skills. Often, they will have but one skill that they can do well, and expect that skill to be done their way at all times. They can become hostile towards others who think they know better or who try to do things differently.

While most adult bullies are considered to have a personality disorder, I ran across a term during my research, “JPM”. It stands for Just Plain Mean. Sometimes people just aren’t nice. A person going through a really hard time can become difficult to work with or live with. If a coworker has begun to show hostility toward others, it could be a result from the nasty divorce and custody battle he is embroiled in. If a wife becomes a bear at home and seeks to control all of those in her household, it is quite possible that she is stressed from her job. Likewise, kids and teens frequently become combative and argumentative when they are dealing with problems at school or with their friends.

When you are dealing with a bully as an adult, you often have no authority to seek for help. You can’t go to your parents or teachers and have them punish the bully. There are, however, avenues and channels to go through. If you’re dealing with a coworker or a group of them, you can try discussing your issues with your boss. If your boss is the bully, they likely also have a boss. But office (or nonoffice) politics can be hairy and it’s understandable that asking for help can be a difficult thing to do. Not all bosses will be receptive or will want to hear about your issues with others. You want to avoid being a “whiner” or seem incapable. It’s usually a lot easier and effective if more than one person reports the behavior. Many companies have rules in place for employee or boss behavior and departments that are devoted to itrapersonal relations within them. If they are available, use them. Remember that there are often laws in place to protect workers from some specific types of bullying.

In dealing with social groups, you often have no one to turn to for assistance, and may be faced with the prospect of leaving the group. If your friends are not supportive, although it can be hard, finding new friends and social groups can be good for growth.

When confronted with a bully in public, just bear in mind that you don’t have to face this person more than once, usually. Avoidance is the best key, there is no shame in walking away.

Dealing with a bully in your home can have a whole lot of issues. You cannot call your husbands mother and tattle on him when you feel like he’s being a jerk. But if you feel that your spouse has a personality disorder – and even if they don’t, it is very important that you seek help through mental health professionals. If you cannot get your partner to go to councelling, go yourself. Your therapist can help you find insight as to why you tolerate the treatment, and give you advice on dealing with their behavior. If your spouse is outright abusive to you or your children, it can be very hard to admitt it and even harder to ask for help. But help is absolutely available in many different forms.

It is a large misconception that bullying ends when we leave school, or that it is a problem specific to those who are underage. Many of us takelonger to grow up than others. Those who bully due to personality disorders often hone their techniques, even to the point that those in a bully situation don’t realize the extent they are being controlled. Recognition is the first step, and as we assess those around us and how they impact our behavior, personal assessment is also a good idea to practice. Ask yourself: Are you a bully?

Adult Bullying: Perpetrators and Victims; by Peter Randall

The Complete Guide to Understanding, Controlling, and Stopping Bullies & Bullying at Work; Margaret R. Kohut

Do you have adults in your life who bully you? How do you deal with "toxic" coworkers or family members? How do you deal with bullies when you meet them out in public?

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