Understand Their Motivation
Adult bullies act out for the same reasons that kid bullies do; they’re trying to make up for some shortcoming of their own. As Psychotherapist Jenise Harmon at Psych Central suggests, bullying is not about you. You’re not the one with the problems, so you shouldn’t ever take bullying personally. Gil explains:
Every bully I’ve counseled has had serious insecurity issues. Many times it’s because they themselves were mistreated or made to feel inadequate in some way and the easiest way to feel empowered is to pick on someone that they perceive as weaker.Every bully I’ve counseled has had serious insecurity issues. Many times it’s because they themselves were mistreated or made to feel inadequate in some way and the easiest way to feel empowered is to pick on someone that they perceive as weaker.
It’s very important that you understand this before you do anything else—both for your own personal well-being, and so you can start looking for the right way to approach the issue. Bullying might be targeted at you, but the first step to handling them is realizing that you’re not doing anything wrong. If anything, it means you’re doing something right! Bullies want power and control over you because they lack it in some aspect of their own lives. For example:
- They may feel like they don’t get enough credit at work, or they may think you get too much credit at work.
- They could be jealous of your family or home life, or they’re frustrated that they don’t have the kind of personal relationships you have.
- They might feel threatened by your talent or ability, or hate the fact that your career is progressing and they’re stuck.
As sad as it may seem, it’s the same song and dance you see young bullies do.
You’re smart and they have a harder time learning, so they lash out. You have a good home life and they don’t, so they lash out. Something is unsatisfactory in their lives and they don’t know how to deal with it, so they look for the first person they think will be their punching bag. Basically, they have problems and they want you to pay for them.
Of course, there are still some bullies that just do it for the kicks. They’re usually few and far between, but they know they can get a rise out of you, and they enjoy it. Their life could be great, but there’s something about having the control over someone’s emotions that make them happy.
Separate Yourself from the Bully
As an adult, you have a lot more control over the situation than you did when you were a kid. You may not be able to “tell the teacher,” but you also can choose how you spend your time. You’re not necessarily stuck with them as you might have been in a school situation. If you aren’t looking for any kind of confrontation, Gil recommends some simple “avoidance strategies”:
Avoidance strategies can be as simple as upping the privacy on your social media, ensuring you’re not alone around the bully, or devising an escape plan should the bully try to corner you. While the passive approach may not be the most popular one, it may be the only course of action for some people who feel that they cannot address the bullying directly.
You can also ask your boss to move your desk, or be taken off of their project. Generally speaking, if an opportunity arises for you to get away from them, take it. It won’t work every time, but if nothing else, it’s a start.