The news on Friday, May 6th was abuzz with the story of 15 year old Phoebe Prince. The Massachusetts teen committed suicide after being harassed by her classmates. Bullying has been bought to the spotlight and many public service announcements attempt to curtail teen bullies. But what happens to adults experiencing harassment at the hands of other adults? Adult bullies occupy the workplace, parent associations- even volunteer organizations. Wherever adults gather, the potential for bullying exists.


Personality studies conducted on adult bullies show the individuals tend to be highly superficial, untrustworthy and posses deep-rooted prejudices. The most minute detail about another person can incite the wrath of a bully. Girl/Boyfriends, spouses, hair color, clothing, even office equipment can start issues between a bully and their victim. Some offices find a tremendous amount of angst develops between women regarding maternity leave. Women with resources to hire help and immediately return to work view those requesting extended leave as being inferior. The victim feels additional isolation due to their extended time outside the workplace.


Males bully more often than females. Females often get away with bullying behavior more than their male counterparts. The reason behind this could be the female subtlety involved with bullying. Men bully in a physical sense, acting out in a noticeable manner. Women use psychological harassment to damage victims. Both methods are equally detrimental. Male bullies come from all levels of social and business strata, however evidence shows female workplace bullies are usually alpha females holding management positions.


Adults tend not to report bullying, not just out of retaliation, but out of fear of losing their employment. The troubled economy places many adult bully victims at the mercy of their tormentors. Employees who register complaints are labeled troublemakers and stand the greatest chance of being terminated. Some female bullying victims feel that defending themselves would place them in a negative light within the workplace. They believe aggressive behaviors are not expected or accepted from a person viewed as a wife and/or mother.


So how should one react if they are the victim of adult bullying? Depending on the severity of the bullying, consider switching to another department. Confront the bully. Tell them their behavior will be exposed if it does not end. As a last-ditch effort, tell a supervisor or administrative member about the bullying. When applicable, bullying claims may have to be handled by the union before any outside legal action is allowed. No one deserves to live in fear.