Expert Contributor
Andrew Faas
Andrew Faas

Andrew Faas is a management advisor and senior executive with Canada’s two largest retail organizations and now heads the Faas Foundation which focuses on health care, education and medical research. He has made bullying in the workplace a passion and helping prevent it a reason for being. Faas is a philanthropist and author of “The Bully’s Trap – the definitive guide to creating psychologically safe workplaces.”

Jonathan Fast
Jonathan Fast

Jonathan Fast is an Associate Professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University in New York and an internationally-prominent authority on mass shootings and school violence. His research focuses on the developmental process by which people come to be violent. He is the author of eight novels and two books of non-fiction: the highly-acclaimed “Ceremonial Violence,” which presents a new way of understanding school rampage shootings; and “Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence,” which will be published this month by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Marlene Seltzern
Dr. Marlene Seltzer

Marlene Seltzer, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the director No Bullying Live Empowered (NoBLE) Center, at Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak.

Bullying: From the Experts

Andrew Faas, author of “The Bully’s Trap—the definitive guide to creating psychologically safe workplaces” Dr. Marlene Seltzer, M.D., Director No Bullying Live Empowered (NoBLE) Center at Beaumont Hospital – Royal OakJonathan Fast, Associate Professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University
What are some of the common behaviors associated with bullying?

School and workplace bullying can include publicly humiliating, isolating from others, excluding from meetings, discrediting, forcing unreasonable expectations, threatening, constant badgering, withholding information required to fulfill expectations and gossiping.

Sexual bullying usually starts with flirtation and become more aggressive depending on how the target responds.

Physical bullying is hurting someone or taking/destroying their possessions.

Verbal bullying includes making disparaging comments, taunting, threatening, writing cruel things, and intimidation.

Social bullying involves hurting someone’s relationships or reputation via rumor, gossip or exclusion.

Cyberbullying takes place using electronic technology and can involve cruel messages, rumors, embarrassing pictures or videos and threats.

Male bullies pick on kids who are smaller and weaker than they are and usually attack verbally, questioning maturity, intelligence, strength or gender presentation, or they assault them physically.

Female bullies more often resort to relational bullying. They spread rumors about the victim or isolate them.

What makes someone turn into a bully? How do bullies choose who they will treat in this way?

Bullying in the workplace is usually about power and control.

In over 70 percent of the cases, the bullying is boss to subordinate.

Bullies bully because they can. They work in cultures that condone, accept, and in many cases, even expect managers to bully.

Bullies target those who are a threat to them and/or those they can intimidate.

There are a variety of risk factors and reasons, including violence in the home, previously being a victim, desire for attention or to attain/maintain social status.

Some bullies view aggression positively, show little empathy and have anti-social tendencies.

Bullying is about power, and the person bullying is trying to meet a need in a maladaptive way. Bullying requires a perceived power imbalance—whether it is physical, social, etc.

Dan Olweus, a Swedish psychologist identified five risk factors that contribute to a boy becoming a bully:
1. The parents did not bond well with the child when he or she was an infant.
2. Parents failed to inhibit the child’s aggression.
3. Parents modelled aggression and physical force as primary problem-solving strategies.
4. The child has an inborn penchant toward aggressive and impulsive behavior.
5. The child is larger and stronger than other children his age.

Children who become bullies have often been shamed by their families and are trying to manage their shame by displacing it on another child.

What are some of the emotions that the victims of bullying experience?

Most people who are severely bullied suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Emotions targets experience include loneliness, loss of confidence, blame, low sense of self, anger, fear, depression, loss of control and confusion.

Being targeted becomes all-consuming and it is usually impossible to think about anything else while it is going on.

One of the most disturbing aspects is the inability for targets to find closure even after the bullying has stopped, because of the scars it leaves.

Some emotions victims experience include depression, anxiety, loneliness and decreased self-esteem.

Youth who bully are also at increased risk for depression and anxiety.

Targets are at increased risk for suicidality and substance abuse.

When the bully questions the victim’s maturity, intelligence, gender presentation, cleanliness, wealth or success, part of the victim believes the insults.

Victims may retreat into themselves, and becomes smaller and more fearful.

Targets create a low-status version of themselves, feeling shame.

Some victims, having been bullied over time, become depressed and anxious adults.

Is there anything someone being bullied can do?

Do not deal with it alone, go to someone you trust and strategize on how to confront it.

Do not go to human resources unless you have total and absolute trust in their ability to remedy the situation, because in many cases, human resources offices are viewed as part of the problem versus part of the solution.

Bystander intervention has been shown successful.

Targets of bullying are encouraged to tell a trusted adult to obtain help, as adults have the authority and ability to address such behavior.

Friendship has been shown to be a protective factor from the consequences of bullying, and resilience a product of positive, caring relationships with adults.

Ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

It is not the victim’s responsibility to protect themselves in school; it is the duty of the school to create a non-hostile atmosphere where students do not have to worry about hurt or humiliation and can concentrate on their learning.

How can bullying be prevented?

By creating psychologically healthy and safe work environments.

Bullying is a problem that occurs well beyond the school years and prevention will take a comprehensive societal approach. There are evidenced-based bullying prevention programs and social-emotional learning programs for schools that have been shown to be effective in reducing bullying.

We can’t prevent bullying any more than we can prevent interpersonal aggression, but we can reduce the incidence and the viciousness of bullying by moving our school communities away from retributive behavior.

“Restorative processes,” such as making affirmative statements, leading proactive circle conferences, using reintegrative shame management, and a restorative approach in family conferences can help build more civil school societies.

Physical Bullying/Violence

What is physical bullying?

Physical bullying is when a bully uses bodily acts to get power over someone else. This type of bullying can be more readily identified compared to other forms.

Where does physical bullying happen?

Physical bullying most often takes place at schools. It can also occur where students gather together outside of school hours, such as at bus stops.

How can physical bullying be reported?

Children should be encouraged to tell an adult when they have been physically bullied, or threatened with physical harm. They can go to their parents or their school to get help. If a physical assault has occurred, victims can also go to the police.

What are examples of physical bullying?

Physical bullying can take several forms, including:

  • Hitting
  • Tripping
  • Spitting
  • Destruction of property
  • Kicking
  • Slapping
  • Sexual harassment or assault

How can physical bullying be prevented?

School interventions can go a long way toward preventing bullying. School districts can educate parents, children, and teachers about bullying, and create anti-bullying policies to protect victims and stop bullies. In addition, administrators can study the bullying that goes on in their school to determine how much it is taking place and whether or not education efforts are working.

Parents can also contribute to bullying prevention by instilling certain values in their children, such as kindness and empathy. Creating the right mindset in children can help to prevent a child from becoming a bully.

Other Types of Bullying

Verbal

Verbal bullying is the use of words to gain power over someone or to torment them. This can include teasing or insulting someone, as well as using racist, sexist and homophobic language. Making hurtful comments about someone’s religion or disability is also a form of verbal bullying.

Covert

As the name suggests, covert bullying is subtle and not easy to detect. It is often done specifically to damage the victim’s self-esteem, relationships or social standing. This kind of bullying can include behaviors such as threatening hand gestures and looks, spreading gossip and rumors, blackmail and attempts to make someone a social pariah.

Sexual

Sexual bullying can include gestures and statements of a sexual nature that are made to intimidate, hurt or offend someone. This bullying focuses on sexual activity or orientation, as well as body parts.

Reactive

This type of bullying is created by the complicated relationship between bullies and their victims. It occurs when people who have been mistreated for a long time finally lash out at their bullies. As a result, the victim and bully appear to switch roles, with the victim in that moment becoming the aggressor and the bully becoming the victim.

Relational

Relational bullying is done specifically to impact someone’s social life, often ostracizing the victim from friends. This can include gossip, being intentionally excluded from activities, neglect and intimidation.

Special Circumstances/Specific Types of Bullying

Some bullying takes place because of a specific reason that the bully perceives the victim is inferior. In these cases, the reason for bullying can be because of someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or disability status. This can include activities like racial slurs; stealing icons related to someone’s faith, such as Muslim hijabs or Jewish yarmulkes; homophobic language; and making fun of someone’s disability.

Communities can often combat this kind of bullying through education and promoting tolerance. By teaching students about different groups of people, and stressing their similarities rather than their differences, this can help reduce the perception of “the other” and encourage an appreciation for those from different backgrounds.

Bullying Spotlight: Cyberbullying

In 2006, an adult named Lori Drew created a false profile on MySpace to target her 13-year-old neighbor Megan Meier. Drew pretended to be a boy named Josh to lure Meier into a romantic relationship, only to become abusive toward her later. The distraught teenager committed suicide.

In 2008, 18-year-old Jessica Logan committed suicide after a campaign of cyberbullying from an ex-boyfriend. While they were dating, Logan sent the boy a nude photograph of herself. When they broke up, he proceeded to distribute the photo to hundreds of students at area high schools, as well as disseminate it through social networking sites.

In 2010, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, surreptitiously videotaped the 18-year-old student kissing another man. Ravi streamed the footage over the Internet, making Clementi the target of harassment.

What is cyberbullying?

As more people rely on technology to communicate with others, it’s not surprising that bullying has gone from the schoolyard to cyberspace. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying behavior that takes place through electronic means. It can occur in many ways, including posting hurtful messages about someone, impersonating the victim, or disseminating personal information about someone digitally for the world to see.

Although all forms of bullying can be detrimental to the victims, cyberbullying ratchets up the terror for numerous reasons.

  • Unlike bullying that occurs at school, cyberbullying can be even more pervasive and difficult to avoid.
  • It can occur at any time during the day or night, seven days a week.
  • In addition, given the nature of the Internet, it can be witnessed by many more people, whether they actually attend the victim’s school or they’re a stranger on the other side of the world.
  • Cyberspace affords a bully the anonymity to cause a great deal of damage with little or no repercussions.
  • The evidence of the bullying can be long lasting because once a harassing message is posted, it can spread like wildfire around the net. Even if the original message is deleted, it may be reproduced many times over, making it impossible to reign in the damage.

Where does cyberbullying happen?

Cyberbullying can occur wherever people congregate on the Internet—chat rooms, social networking sites, and message boards can be a prime breeding ground for bullying. Similarly, cyberbullying can also be experienced through instant messages, texts, and emails.

How can cyberbullying be reported?

When someone is the victim of cyberbullying, for their own peace of mind, they should not respond to the messages. However, it’s important to collect evidence of the harassment in order to prove it. Taking screenshots and printing out emails, text messages, and the like, can help victims with any efforts they make in reporting it.

It can also be helpful to block the person who is committing cyberbullying. However, a persistent bully will find other means to continue their campaign of harassment.

Cyberbullying can be reported in several different ways:
School

Talking to a teacher, school counselor, or principal can help to end cyberbullying committed by another classmate. In fact, some states mandate that schools maintain a cyberbullying policy in order to help students who are being victimized.

Online Service Providers

Cyberbullying is a violation of online providers’ terms of service agreements. Victims should review the terms of service to pinpoint what specific behaviors violate which clauses of the agreement. In addition, social media sites have safety centers that allow users to report cyberbullies and learn how to control who can contact them.

Law Enforcement

In most cases, people can report cyberbullying to law enforcement—particularly if it involves taking photos or videos that invade someone’s privacy, stalking, hate crimes, child pornography and threats of violence. In some states, other cyberbullying behaviors can also be reported to the police

How can cyberbullying be prevented?

Parental involvement can go a long way toward preventing bullying. Some things parents can do to keep their children safe from cyberbullies include monitoring what children are doing online and what sites they visit, asking for their passwords to check their activity, and encouraging them to talk about it if someone harasses them online. Also, parents can have a trusted adult follow their child’s social media pages to keep up with what’s going on.

What are some examples of cyberbullying?

There are many behaviors that fall under the umbrella of cyberbullying. The following table illustrates how bullying can manifest itself through technology.

Type of Cyberbullying What It Entails
Impersonation

When a bully takes on the identity of the victim in order to act out and make that person look bad. Impersonation can also occur when a bully pretends to be someone else for the purpose of bullying victims.

Cyberstalking

When a cyberbully sends a barrage of threatening or frightening messages to the victim. Cyberstalking can cause someone to worry about their safety.

Flaming

Flaming is the use of abusive and vulgar messages to instigate a fight with someone.

Password theft

When a bully obtains the victim’s password in order to lock them out of a social networking site and use the victim’s profile to harass others.

Proxy attacks

Some cyberbullies do not work alone. In some cases, they will get other people to band together and harass a victim online.

Effects of Bullying

The impact of bullying can have long-term consequences for everyone related to the activity. The table below explains some of the common effects of bullying.

Effect of Bullying Implications
Substance Abuse

Those who are the victims of bullies are significantly more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who have not been bullied. Similarly, there is a strong correlation between adult drug and alcohol abuse and engaging in bullying behaviors as children. Even the bystanders of bullying are reported to self-medicate by abusing tobacco, illicit drugs, and alcohol.

Mental Health

According to studies published in periodicals like the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Medical Association: Psychiatry, being the victim of bullying poses an elevated risk of developing depression and becoming suicidal. And these risks do not tend to subside after graduation. In fact, bullying victims may feel the mental health effects well into adulthood.

In addition, bullying victims may experience low self-esteem and experience feelings of anger and bitterness. They may also become preoccupied with revenge fantasies.

Those who are bystanders of bullying may also develop depression. In addition, they may have a heightened sense of fear because they feel powerless to defend the victim and worried that they may be bullied themselves. Bystanders may also feel guilty about their inaction.

Relationships

One of the long-lasting effects of bullying can be seen in how victims handle interpersonal relationships. They can be extremely reluctant to get close to other people and have difficulty with trust.

Similarly, bullies experience long-term relationship problems. They are more likely to engage in sexual activity at a young age and contract sexually transmitted diseases. As adults, they tend to be abusive towards their romantic partners and children.

Academic Performance

The stress of attending school can have an impact on bullying victims’ academic performance and their grades tend to slip. Increased absenteeism, low GPA scores, and dropping out of school are common.

Similarly, bullies have high dropout rates, and those who witness bullying may also skip school in order to avoid exposure to this activity.

Physical Health

Those who are bullied may experience an increase in migraines, stomach aches, sleepless nights, and other physical challenges associated with stress and anxiety.

Bullying Prevention and Coping Strategies

Help for Bullying

What can people do if they are the victims of bullying?

Children who are the victims of bullying can get help from their school. They should talk to a teacher, principal, or school counselor. In addition, someone who has been the victim of a crime should alert the authorities, while those who are feeling hopeless and suicidal can get help through a suicide hotline.

There are also ways that people who have been bullied can help themselves. By finding strategies for dealing with their stress, getting therapy, and making strides to maintain a positive self-image, bullying victims can counteract some of the negative effects. Also, when dealing with the person doing the bullying, if possible, victims should try to remove themselves from the situation to protect themselves.

What can parents
do to help their children who are being bullied?

The way parents respond to bullying can go a long way toward helping a child get through the experience. First, it’s important for parents to understand what the warning signs of bullying are, so they can recognize it. Then it is vital to have open and honest communication, ensuring that the child feels comfortable talking about the experiences.

It is also important for parents to educate themselves about what the school can do to help, and inform a teacher about the bullying behaviors their child is experiencing. They also may be able to get help from programs in the community.

How can someone who witnesses bullying respond?

Someone who witnesses acts of bullying should report them to an adult, such as a school counselor or teacher. Also, it can be helpful for bystanders to reach out to the person being bullied. Bullying victims can feel isolated, so communicating with them can help them feel better.

What can teachers do to help?

When bullying occurs, teachers can use intervention techniques that can help both the victims and the bullies. For example, they can establish classroom activities that give students an understanding of the issue, and help to prevent bullying among classmates. Also, teachers can speak to the bullies and their victims separately and privately in order to mediate the situation. They may also refer both children to counseling so that they get the help they need for their respective problems.

Dealing with a Bully

What are the warning signs that a child is bullying?

Just as there are warning signs that a child is being bullied, there are also signs that parents can look for that their child is a bully. Some of those signs include:

  • Failure to take responsibility for their own actions
  • Frequently getting into verbal and physical altercations
  • Being disciplined at school on a regular basis
  • Increased concern about their reputation or being a part of the in crowd
  • Having extra money or new belongings without being able to explain how they got them

Why do people bully?

There are a variety of reasons why someone adopts bullying behaviors. People can become bullies to fit in with a crowd of high-status people who are bullies or to feel better about themselves. It can also be a preemptive way to avoid becoming a victim. Sometimes bullies are also modeling the behaviors they have seen or experienced at home.

What are the risk factors for becoming a bully?

Some risk factors of becoming a bully include:

  • Witnessing abuse at home
  • Being the victim of abuse or neglect
  • Having parents who don’t think bullying is a big deal
  • Having siblings who are bullies
  • Having permissive parents

How can a bully be stopped?

Schools can stop bullying by creating a culture of tolerance and making it clear that bullying behaviors are unacceptable. Schools can implement rules that stress treating peers and adults with respect, and establish consequences for those who engage in bullying. Also, setting up a system for reporting bullying makes it easier for victims and witnesses to do something about the bullies in their school.

Bullying policies

The federal government has not passed legislation about bullying, however, all states have some form of anti-bullying laws. These laws differ from state to state in how they define bullying and the legal recourses available to victims.

Bullying Prevention & Awareness Resources

  • Anti-Bullying Network

    Includes information on school and workplace bullying. Includes resources for young people, schools, and families.

  • Bullying advice

    This site includes information on how to handle bullying at work and school.

  • Bullying Awareness Week

    Describes what schools can do to educate students during the week.

  • Bullying. No Way

    Promotes safe and supportive school communities.

  • Help Stop Bullying and Cyberbullying

    Includes information on anti-bullying campaigns, how children can get help when bullied, and what can be done to help prevent and stop bullying behaviors.

  • PACER’s National Bullying Prevention

    Includes resources, videos, and personal stories about bullying and its effects.

  • StopBullying.gov

    Created by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, this site includes information on cyberbullying, bullying policies, and the types of bullying that young children and teens experience. It also has resources for parents and educators.

  • Teens Against Bullying

    Addresses how bullying effects teenagers and what they can do about it.

  • The BULLY Project

    Includes information for students, parents, educators, and advocates.

  • Violence Prevention Works

    Includes information on bullying, suicide, and interpersonal violence.