• The roots of bullying are the same as addiction, eating disorders, depression/suicide, anxiety, etc.
  • All humans have a basic need for attention… in other words, connection.
  • Originally posted 28Apr2015 – LinkedIn Pulse

End Bullying

Bullying: the reason why and how to defend against it may be the same.

By Kevin R. Strauss, M.E.

A LinkedIn colleague recently asked me for my opinion regarding bullying, specifically in the workplace. Below is my email response that I thought I would share with all of you……

As it turns out, bullying is very much an interest to me especially because the underlying cause is similar or the same as that of alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, depression/suicide and the list goes on. It doesn’t matter where the bullying occurs whether it is at school, the playground, online/cyber, university, workplace or anywhere else, it’s really all the same. 

To bully or be a bully, by definition, is using superior strength or influence to intimidate someone else in order to force that person to do what the bully wants. This, absolutely, occurs in the workplace all over the world. Childhood bullies who threaten to beat up another student for their lunch money can grow up to be employees or bosses who threaten to fire a person if they do not perform a certain task at work. An employee can easily bully another co-worker with verbal abuse in order to get their way on a project rather than discussing the merits of ideas and approaches. 

Any type of verbal abuse including yelling, name calling, berating and otherwise attacking a person in order to get your way is a form of bullying. If a person tries to convince another with facts, evidence and logic, to no avail and then resorts to verbal abuse and personal attacks then they are bullying.

So, why do bullies bully? In my opinion, it really boils down to a basic personal need that is not being met. In one sense, a bully may be seeking attention and to feel important and better about themselves. Bullying is most likely a learned behavior wherein a person witnesses another person “get their way” by threatening someone rather than asking, requesting or mutually agreeing on a course of action. 

All humans have a basic need for attention… in other words, connection. When we do not feel connected we’ll do a myriad of behaviors in order to compensate. Some people try to ignore or suppress the pain of feeling alone/lonely by drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Others have their loneliness turn into anger which may then manifest as attacks, physical and verbal, onto others. 

Repeated verbal attacks can severely compromise a personal mental and emotional well-being. Again, when we do not feel connected and have the support of others we must compensate in some way. Without connections we may not feel important in the world. Bullying can make a person feel important and powerful but at the expense of another person’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. 

If the person being bullied has a strong sense of connection with others then a bully will have much less of an effect. When we know others support us then whatever a bully says or does is much more likely to be ignored and not affect us or compromise our mental and emotional state. For example, if a bully calls you stupid then a person who has strong connections and love in their life will know it is not true and therefore the name calling will not work. 

We tell people who are being bullied to ignore or turn the other way but unless that person has a strong foundation of support it will be much harder to do so. That is why any person being bullied needs a strong support network and real connections.

Connections are the key to not being a bully and to not being affected by a bully’s attacks. Again, a bully attacks to feel important and superior. It is very likely that a bully does not have anyone in their own life who truly supports them, thinks they are special and feels deeply connected to them. When a person feels connected they can then begin to develop their own self-worth and self-esteem. A bully is trying to “steal” self-worth, importance and esteem by attacking and putting others down. What they really need is a true sense of connection with another person and then they can develop their own self-esteem.

Bullying can occur anyplace, anytime. At school, work, the grocery store, on a sports team or in the locker room (e.g. US Football, Miami Dolphins). Any time one person is using force or threatening another person to get their way that is bullying.

The reason I created FamilyeJournal.com (now the Uchi app) was to help bring people closer together and improve connection on a deeper level. Connection drives self-esteem and people with high self-esteem a) do not feel a need to bully others to get what they want and b) are not affected by a bully’s attacks.