5 Examples of Adult Bullying and What to Do About It

Threats. Insults. Violence. Gossip.

Contrary to popular belief, bullying isn’t just a childhood problem.

As Medical Daily notes, those targeted have higher risks of depression and anxiety, changes in sleeping and eating habits and loss of interest in activities they enjoy.

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, here are different ways adult bullying manifests and how folks can stand up for themselves and others.

1. Cyberbullying

According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of internet users have witnessed someone getting harassed online. A little fewer than half were targeted themselves.

Cyberbullying (sometimes, but not always, interchangeable with “trolling“) aims to harass, humiliate and intimidate someone else using the internet, cell phones or other digital technology. The moves are deliberate and repeated.

While women are especially vulnerable to gender-based threats, no one is safe. Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones was driven off Twitter, while conservative writer and attorney David French faced threats toward him, his wife and 7-year-old.

What You Can Do

“Rule of thumb, never engage with your bully,” says Sue Scheff, author of the upcoming book Shame Nation. “Document the evidence, and if your friends want to help, ask them to monitor the bully and screen-shot the evidence for you.”

Concerned bystanders can report abuse and message the bully’s target, letting them know they are there for them.

While bullying is always the fault of the bully, never the target, everyone can take steps to minimize damage by being careful about what they share and with whom, says Scheff. They can also consider advocating for anti-cyberbullying laws in their states.

Find more useful tips on Forbes.

2. Workplace Bullying

More than one-third of adult workers report getting bullied in the workplace.

Unlike sexual harassment, bullying isn’t always illegal, notes Care2‘s Karina M. Victims are therefore more likely to blame themselves for the abuse. Employees are also less productive and more likely to quit or miss work.

What You Can Do

Bullying expert Sherri Gordon tells Forbes that you should consider telling the bully that you don’t like their behavior and you’ll report them if they continue.

Then, if they do continue, follow through by reporting to your supervisor or human resources, or the person above them if the supervisor is the bully. Don’t forget to document everything, including incident dates, times and witnesses.

Bystanders can offer to be a friend to the victim, refuse to listen to gossip and stand up for them if possible. Supervisors can take allegations of bullying seriously.

For more info, visit Workplace Bullying.

3. College Bullying

College bullying

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

“It can come as a surprise to some when the cruelty, cliques and popularity contests of high school are now propagated into the college classroom and dormitories,” says Van Brunt, author of Ending Campus Violence, to Counseling Today.

In fact, 15 percent of college students report being bullied. The damage is worsened when victims are isolated from their family and friends back home.

As when younger, people are often targeted because they’re different, whether they have autism or are gay men of color.

What You Can Do

Similar to playground bullies, some of the same strategies apply. As Stop Bullying recommends, be careful you don’t blame yourself for their behavior. Try telling bullies their behavior is unacceptable, or throw them off by being excessively kind to them.

Bystanders should also stand up for people they see being targeted.

Counseling Today has good tips for faculty and counselors.

4. Senior Home Bullying

According to the AARP, as many as 20 percent of seniors face mistreatment from their peers at senior homes and communities.

“Elder bullies might have likely exhibited this behavior during a lifetime, but as they age factors such as loss of independence, relationships, valued roles, and feeling powerless in a controlled setting can exacerbate the need to exert control and ignite a late-life round of bullying behavior,” says Linda Rhodes, former secretary of aging.

What You Can Do

Fighting senior bullying takes bravery not just from the victim, but their families and caregivers.

Homes should have a place where people can report bullying in a safe, easy way, says elder care consultant Frances Shani Parker. Staff will typically investigate bullies for underlying medical conditions, like dementia, that may be making the bullying worse.

For more tips, see SeniorHomes.

5. Family/Friend Bullying

Sometimes the people closest to you can cause the most pain.

Bullies who are family or friends can use criticism, intimidation or manipulation to put you down, sometimes in the name of helping you.

What You Can Do

Katherine Mayfield at Tiny Buddha recommends planning how you’re respond to repeat behaviors ahead of time, using “I” statements, setting boundaries and removing yourself from the situation and perhaps even the relationship if nothing improves.

For more info on stopping bullying, see Operation Respect‘s list of resources.


Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Tin Ling L
Tin Ling Labout a year ago


Jim V
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Philippa P
Philippa Powersabout a year ago


Emily J.
Emily Jabout a year ago

This week was Anti-Bullying Week, it seems to be just for schools and young people, but I wish it was in workplaces as well! Some useful pages with advice and support lines for people in the UK experiencing bullying: http://www.bullying.co.uk/ http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/bullying_at_work.php respectme.org.uk

Patrice Z.
Patrice Zabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing. Much needed information these days--unfortunately.

Marie W.
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Janis K.
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Richard B.
Past Member about a year ago

thanks for this

Fran F.
Fran SiteIssues Fabout a year ago

Thank you.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

Phase out workplace bullying. A better workplace is more productive anyway.