Bullying is behavior that is disrespectful, persistent, negative, destructive, and demoralizing. Its purpose is often to show or gain control and power. Bullies tend to verbally assault others. Imagine bullies wearing a sign that says “I’m everything and you’re nothing,” and then making you kneel down to them every day as a reminder of who’s pulling the strings. Bullying is aimed at humiliating and embarrassing the recipient of the behavior; it emphasizes the bully’s one-up position and may serve to protect the bully’s territory.

A bully’s behaviors can be physical or psychological. Male bullies often use physical and psychological tactics, while female bullies often use a psychological approach. Bully behaviors may include teasing, badgering, poking fun, laughing, screaming, mocking, insulting, isolating, using continuous profanity, withholding job information, giving the silent treatment, shunning, doling out impossible assignments, backstabbing, gossiping, shoving, sending rude e-mails (cyberbullies), spreading rumors, sabotaging, belittling, and controlling.

A man who is loud, forceful, aggressive, pushy, and a take-charge person is generally viewed as a man, not necessarily as a difficult person or a bully. When he uses these types of behaviors, he is living up to male stereotypes. A woman displaying those same behaviors is often considered a difficult person and/or potential bitch or even a bully.

Recipients of bullying often say that the behavior went on for several months, even years, before they were able to tell someone about it, demand that it stop, or quit and find work elsewhere. Over a period of time, bullying can cause recipients to develop physical ailments, such as headaches, stomach and digestion problems, high blood pressure, depression, and other stress-related problems. Recipients take off more sick days than normal. Not focusing on the job and missing work days impacts productivity. Chances are, some coworkers have witnessed the bullying, have spent time talking about it, and may even be participating in the bullying. Therefore, the employer is losing even more work time from its employees. Employers should take bullying seriously.

Adapted from Audrey's book (co-author), Code Switching: How to Talk so Men will Listen.

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