Am I Being Bullied?

In an era when online “trolling” and “I just tell it like it is” rudeness is often accepted behavior, it can be difficult to tell if you are being targeted by a bully or just surrounded by mean idiots. Understanding the difference can help you identify behavior early and protect yourself. Let’s use Darrell, a fictional co-worker as an example.

1# Is he/she a bully or just a jerk?

Some people are just jerks. Jerks tend to say something crude, rude, or just plain stupid. Bullies however engage in a concentrated attack on a specific person or persons. So if Darrell makes racist comments at work, he is probably just a jerk, though he is also in violation of work-place, legal guidelines. If Darrell is making racist comments that are directed specifically at you and include threats or attempts to embarrass you to co-workers, he is engaging in bullying behavior.

2# Are you being isolated or controlled?

One of a bully’s most effective weapons is that of isolation. Bullies often use the threat of exposing some secret or the threat of making up some scandal to prevent you from reaching out for support. This is the same technique that pedophiles use to try and control their victims, fear of exposure often forces a victim to distance themselves from the very people who could support and protect them.

If Darrell suggests that if you try and tell anyone about his behavior, he will either harm you physically or will reveal some secret about you, or get you fired, he is engaging in bullying behavior.

3# Are you the butt of jokes or ridiculed in person or online?

Isolation is further achieved by making the victim the butt of jokes or by causing others to ridicule the victim.  This type of ridicule tends to fall into one of two categories; shame associated with the victim’s physical characteristics or shame associated with behavior unacceptable to the victim’s peers. If someone is attacking you either online or in person by focusing on your gender, race, religion, handicap, size, etc. in a way that embarrasses you, you should recognize that this is a common bullying tactic. If someone is threatening to reveal or actually does reveal a real or manufactured “bad” past in order to either shame you or to blackmail you in some way, this is also a crime.

If Darrell mocks you for being fat or tells co-workers that you have a criminal past in order to embarrass you, he is engaging in bullying behavior.

4# Are your possessions being damaged or taken?

The school yard bully of childhood often took lunch money, clothing, homework, etc. in order to cause the victim distress. Adult bullies do the same thing. If someone is taking your belongings and either keeping them, hiding them, or damaging them, this is a common bully tactic. If this is happening at work or school, you should contact the human resources department or school student services office for assistance. If yours pictures or contact are being taken online, you can work with the specific platform to address the problem.

If Darrell is hiding your coat, intentionally spilling your coffee, or taking your social media posts and turning them into memes, he is engaging in bullying behavior.

5# Are you being physically or emotionally attacked?

When a bully gets push back or feel that their other efforts are not effective, they can become physically abusive.  For online bullies, the attacks are often emotional, focusing on posting content designed to harm your reputation.  

If Darrell is physically intimidating or attacking you, he is not only engaging in bullying behavior he is engaging in criminal assault. If Darrell is disseminating information (real or manufactured) to co-workers in order to damage your reputation, he is engaging in bullying behavior.

Once you have determined whether your own “Darrell” is just an uncouth jerk or a bully, you can act accordingly. Jerks are typically best left to hang themselves with their behavior. Eventually jerks say the wrong thing to the wrong person and have to deal with the consequences, typically job loss.  But, if your Darrell is bullying you or a co-worker, you need to act before it escalates. Bullies rarely stop of their own accord.

Alexandrea Merrell