How to Deal With Adult Bullying

How to Deal With Adult Bullying

It’s quite common for people to associate bullying with experiences suffered by children and teenagers. Whenever we hear about it, we often think about students picking on each other during class or break. It’s become a normal scenario since many children have been exposed to it at a young age. However, it’s not limited to childhood or adolescence, as many adults undergo bullying in the workplace and at home. Over the past decade, adult bullying has received more attention from the mainstream media. 

Statistics show that adult bullying has been globally prevalent and that 40% of Canadians experience bullying in the workplace each week. However, what is perhaps most alarming is that many people seem to tolerate this kind of unpleasant behaviour. In a survey conducted by Harris Poll, 43% said that adult bullying had been accepted in recent years. However, many people fail to notice the impact this type of behaviour can have on people. This article will provide a background on adult bullying and some tips to handle it. 

What Constitutes An Adult Bully?

We often think that we become better as we mature. Unfortunately, that is not the path everyone takes. It is wrong to conclude that only children and teenagers can become bullies. Adult bullies are present in different places, but we usually do not perceive them as bullies. The thing is, we have already conditioned ourselves to think that bullying happens only in schools and playgrounds. 

Little do we know that bullying can take various forms. While bullying is often associated with aggression, verbal bullying among adults is more common. 

Adult bullying can be observed at home and in the workplace. The motivation of adult bullies is possibly to gain power over a person or make themselves appear dominant. Public and private humiliation is an example of showing who is boss. 

Other manifestations of an adult bully are belittlement and personal insults, intruding into the victim’s personal space, and uninvited personal contact. At some point, adult bullying and harassment may overlap. However, there are many ways to know what adult bullying is.

The Difference Between Harassment and Bullying

Examples of adult bullying may cover a wide range of behaviours, which is why we often confuse it with harassment. Adult bullies try to gain power and control, hurt or harm a person or make it hard for their victims to fight back. When the adult bully targets a person who is part of a protected class, which includes race, colour, disability, age, religion, ethnic or national origin and sex, it may become harassment. 

There are many different types of adult bullies and certain cautionary signs that someone is an adult bully. The following are the most typical categories of adult bullies: 

Passive-aggressive Bully

The passive-aggressive behaviour of adult bullies appears to be the hardest type to spot. They don’t directly attack or intimidate the victim. Rather, they act friendly but throw offensive remarks at another person, such as backhanded compliments, making you feel shaken or uncomfortable. They’ll probably tell you it’s an innocent joke, so you think it is wrong to get offended. 

Adult bullies of this type also like to gossip, make rude facial expressions and even mimic you while you are talking or doing something. In fact, the Harris Poll stated that over 20% had been gossiped about by their adult bullies. 

A narcissistic adult bully also likes to give his or her victim the “silent treatment.” The same survey shows that 25% of adults have experienced it. 

Tangible Bully

Tangible or material bullying often appears in the form of power-tripping or abuse. Adult bullies use their power or dominance as bosses or managers. They may also have authority over your finances to intimidate you and others. 

Physical Bully 

This type of bully is someone who throws and breaks objects, engages in physical violence and even sexual abuse.

Verbal Bully 

Unlike backhanded compliments and sarcasm, verbal bullying is more direct and aggressive. Adult bullies often slur cruel words or statements at their targets. These include sexist, racist and homophobic remarks. Verbal threats and intimidation can also be a manifestation of a verbal bully. 


Cyberbullying is similar to verbal bullying, but the act is done on social media, through emails and text messages. Harassing messages, photos and emails can constitute cyberbullying.

The Mental Implications of Adult Bullying 

Adult bullying has long been a rampant issue across the globe. Sadly, many people are still downplaying the seriousness of frequent boorish behaviour. Typical narcissist behaviour makes a narcissistic adult bully look better and more powerful than his target. 

But the invisible scars that adult bullies leave on their victims can be massive. According to the Harris Poll survey, the following are the most common effects of adult bullying:

  • 71% of those bullied as an adult experienced high levels of stress.
  • 70% suffer from depressive symptoms and anxiety. 
  • Over 50% had lower self-esteem. 
  • 20 to 40% had sleepless nights, headaches, muscle tension and body pain. 
  • About 20% experienced a mental breakdown and had to call in sick to avoid workplace bullying.

Pro Tip

The most important thing to do when you are being bullied is to remove yourself from the dangerous situation and get to a safe place. If necessary, find support and protection through law enforcement, an emergency or crisis hotline, or local agencies.

How to Deal With Bullying as an Adult

It is often challenging to deal with an adult bully in a mature way. Often, it may lead to more tension or even a fight. But, you will still have to stand up for yourself to end the vicious cycle. Take a deep breath and reflect on these tips on how to deal with bullying as an adult

Be Frank But Stay Calm 

Remaining quiet despite the offensive remarks makes an adult bully think it is okay to make fun of you. You have to set your boundaries by communicating with them. Make an honest and calm communication to send a clear message to the bully, but try not to argue with them. The bully must know they are crossing the line and may face the consequences for their behaviour. 

Keep Your Distance 

Get yourself away from unpleasant behaviour. If you are in the workplace, you can ask to transfer your seat or table. You may even ask to be transferred to another team or department. But if that doesn’t work, seek help from proper authorities, which can be the HR staff or law enforcement. 

Make Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact may work because bullies seem to have little to no empathy towards their victims. They must see your face, especially your eyes. 

Document the Offences 

Document and keep all instances of bullying, which will help you when filing complaints at work or with law enforcement.

Choose Your Battles and Know Your Worth 

Your reactions must depend on the frequency and seriousness of the bullying. If it doesn’t cross the line or doesn’t happen often, it’s probably best to avoid that person. Nevertheless, you must know your worth and your rights. Remember that no matter how many times adult bullies attack you, your value remains the same. That way, their stinging words can never touch or hurt you.

Are You a Victim of Adult Bullying? Get In Touch with Diamond & Diamond Today

Adult bullying has recently gained attention from the mainstream media and raising awareness is vital to fighting it. Whether in the workplace, at home or online, bullying and physical abuse remain prevalent. As such, people must help the victims, and victims must be stronger to know how to stop adult bullying.

Do you find this article interesting? Do you experience or know someone who experiences adult bullying? Do you want to seek help with legal matters? For more details, feel free to reach out to, and seek assistance from, Diamond & Diamond Lawyers. The firm has the expertise to provide clients with help regarding legal problems and questions. 

Have you experienced adult bullying that affected your mental health? Know your rights and call the experienced personal injury lawyers from Diamond & Diamond now.

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