Dog 'Calley' works with our clients who seek us out as a result of being bullied. She is just what the Doctor ordered
- a kind, non-judgemental, gentle soul who listens to the pain and begins refreshing the heart of the individual.
Last week, the Associated Press reported the story of a Pittsburgh mother who is
suing her daughter's school district under Title IX after her daughter developed an eating disorder. The disorder, she claims,
came about because of bullying by boys in her daughter's classes - bullying the school district failed to prevent or address.
The school denies all responsibility in this sad case, but I wonder if they ought to own up to at least some
To quote the article:
"With eating disorders, we
say you're born with a gun and life pulls the trigger," said Lynn Grefe, chief executive officer of Seattle-based
NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association), who has never heard of a school being sued over such a scenario. Generally,
people who develop anorexia already have issues with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive or perfectionist behavior. Bullying could
trigger anorexia in those people but not others who are taunted about their weight, Grefe said.
Hm. Well, I'm not sure if this is exactly a fair analogy, but I was born with a tendency to react strongly to trauma,
but I still sued the crap out of my high school when I had an accident in shop class due to their negligence and subsequently
I figure they've got to take into account that at least some percentage of their student body
will be extra sensitive to taunts about weight - heck, according to some stats I found, as many as 10 million U.S. women (and
1 million men) are suffering with eating disorders at any given time.
As someone who has struggled with body image issues for many years,
I know how easy it is to take in messages from one's peers (and from society at large) that one is unacceptable. It's a small
leap from a young girl's being told she's no good the way she is to her starving herself into acceptability. Whether it's
the school's job to anticipate this as a possible consequence of a few mean boys' bullying behavior, and whether this is truly
a Title IX case, I don't feel qualified to answer, but I suspect the purpose of the suit is more to bring attention to
the issue than to truly expect the district to take full responsibility for the girl's disease.
In sum, I think this Pittsburgh mom's going
to have the devil of a time proving her case in court, but I am glad she brought it, whether she wins or not. Maybe next time
the school's counselors will make more of an effort to intervene when students are being bullied.
The impact of bullying
always has a negative impact. It can be long-term or short-term and the impact can be physical, mental or emotional.
Your awareness of the impact of bullying will help you to understand it, address
the behaviours and support the person being bullied.
a child or young person is being bullied
Changes in behaviour
such as becoming withdrawn or ill-tempered
Scratches and bruises that
are hard to explain
Changes to social life - not seeing friends or staying
away from clubs
Every child is an individual with their own personality,
likes and dislikes and patterns of behaviour. If you know a child, you are the best person to spot any changes which give
cause for concern - and respond supportively.
What is the Impact?
Children and young people with learning disabilities tell us that they experience
the same impact of bullying as their peers. These can include immediate feelings of anger, hurt and fear leading to longer
term problems such as eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem.
Because so many children with learning disabilities
are bullied, it is common for them to feel ‘anticipation’ – a sense of fear and anxiety about being bullied.
Some children and young people feel apprehensive about new people and situations because they are of being bullied. This
can make them feel helpless and erodes their confidence. 40% of children with learning disabilities say they stay away from
the places where they have been bullied. Bullying is not inevitable and there should not be "no-go areas" for
children with learning disabilities.This makes it even more important for young people to feel that adults will respond to
bullying when it happens.
It can be devastating to learn that a young person who you are close to is being bullied. However, well-intentioned
over-protective behaviour can often make things worse. Some young people lose their freedom, or are not allowed to take
risks. Adults need to take steps to deal with the bullying, not keep young people away from situations where bullying could
happen. This is especially true for children with learning disabilities, who often have less access to a social life than
The impact of bullying can go far beyong the individuals
who are involved.
at school and online
Bullying affects ALL of our children — those who bully, those who are victimized, and those who are witnesses
or assistants to interpersonal violence. We can and must reduce this age-old problem.
What is bullying?
Bullying is an intentional act.
The child who bullies wants to harm the victim; it is no accident.
involves repeated occurrences. Bullying is not generally considered a random act nor a single incident. Rather, a child
is repeatedly picked on by another child or is the target of harassment from a whole group of children. It is the repeated
nature of bullying that causes anxiety and apprehension in victims, such that the anticipation of bullying becomes as problematic
as the bullying itself.
Bullying is characterized by a power
difference; an unfair fight where the child who bullies has some advantage or power over the child who is victimized. Bullying
is not the same as “playing around,” it is about the abuse of power.
Source: An Age-old Problem that Needs New Solutions, Shelly Hymel
and Sue Swearer
What is bullying? Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism,
nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated,
excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses
on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance. Click here for definitions of workplace bullying.
Why do people bully? The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Bullying has nothing to do with managing etc; good managers manage, bad
managers bully. Management is managing; bullying is not managing. Therefore, anyone who chooses to bully is admitting their
inadequacy, and the extent to which a person bullies is a measure of their inadequacy. Bullies project their inadequacy on
a) to avoid facing up to their inadequacy and
doing something about it; b) to avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour and the effect it has on others,
and, c) to reduce their fear of being seen for what they are, namely a weak, inadequate and often incompetent
individuals, and, d) to divert attention away from their inadequacy - in an insecure or badly-managed workplace,
this is how inadequate, incompetent and aggressive employees keep their jobs.
Bullying is an inefficient way of working, resulting in disenchantment, demoralisation, demotivation, disaffection,
and alienation. Bullies run dysfunctional and inefficient organisations; staff turnover and sickness absence are high whilst
morale, productivity and profitability are low. Prosperity is illusory and such organizations are a bad long-term investment.
Projection and denial are hallmarks of the serial bully.
Bullying is present behind all forms
of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus (eg race
or gender) it is expressed as racial prejudice or harassment, or sexual discrimination and harassment, and so on. When the
bullying lacks a focus (or the bully is aware of the Sex Discrimination Act or the Race Relations Act), it comes out as pure
bullying; this is an opportunity to understand the behaviours which underlie almost all reprehensible behavior. I believe
bullying is the single most important social issue of today.
Bullying... is a form of abuse, and bullies - and unenlightened employers - often go to great lengths to keep their targets quiet,
using threats of disciplinary action, dismissal, and gagging clauses. What bullies fear most is exposure of their inadequacy
and being called publicly to account for their behavior and its consequences. This makes sense when you remember that the
purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy, and people who bully to hide their inadequacy are often incompetent.
A bully is a person who
never learnt to accept responsibility for their behaviour
wants to enjoy
the benefits of living in the adult world, but who is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that are a prerequisite
for being part of the adult world.
abdicates and denies responsibility
for their behaviour and its consequences (abdication and denial are common features of bullying)
is unable and unwilling to recognise the effect of their behaviour on others
does not want to know of any other way of behaving
is unwilling to recognise that there could be better ways of behaving.
Bullying is obsessive and compulsive; the serial bullyhas to have someone to bully and appears to be unable to survive without a current target.
Despite the facade that such people put up, bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem,
and thus feel insecure. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted by all studies of bullying. Because such people are inadequate
and unable to fulfil the duties and obligations of their position (but have no hesitation in accepting salary), they fear
being revealed. This fear of exposure often borders on paranoia.
Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger,
and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and
envy. Rejection (which cannot be assuaged) is another powerful motivator of bullying.
Bullies are people who have not learned the lesson of consequences, ie that if they behave well there are good consequences
(reward), but if they behave badly there are bad consequences (restriction, sanction, punishment, etc). Since childhood, bullies
have learnt that they can avoid the unpleasant consequences of bad behaviour through the instinctive response of denial, blame, and feigning victimhood.
How to spot a bully in your
workplace If you have a serial bully on the staff they will reveal themselves by their department showing excessive
deaths in service
uses of disciplinary
uses of private security firms to snoop on employees
including employment tribunals or legal action against employees
Types of bullying
or unwitting bullying is where the stress of the moment causes behaviour to deteriorate; the person becomes
short-tempered, irritable and may shout or swear at others. Everybody does this from time to time, but when the pressure is
removed, behaviour returns to normal, the person recognises the inappropriateness of their behaviour, makes amends, and may
apologise, and - crucially - learns from the experience so that next time the situation arises they are better able to deal
with it. This is "normal" behaviour and I do not include pressure bullying in my definition of workplace bullying.
Organisational bullying is a combination of pressure bullying and
corporate bullying, and occurs when an organisation struggles to adapt to changing markets, reduced income, cuts in budgets,
imposed expectations, and other external pressures.
bullying is where the employer abuses employees with impunity knowing that the law is weak and jobs are scarce, eg:
coercing employees to work 60/70/80 weeks on a regular
basis then making life hell for (or dismissing) anyone who objects
anyone who looks like having a stress breakdown as it's cheaper (in the UK) to pay the costs of unfair dismissal at
Employment Tribunal (eg £50K maximum, but awards are usually paltry) than risk facing a personal injury claim
for stress breakdown (eg £175K as in the John Walker case)
"absence management" to deny employees annual or sick leave to which they are genuinely entitled
regularly snoops and spies on employees, eg by listening in to telephone conversations,
using the mystery shopper, contacting customers behind employees backs and asking leading questions, conducting covert
video surveillance (perhaps by fellow employees), sending personnel officers or private investigators to an employee's
home to interrogate the employees whilst on sick leave, threatening employees with interrogation the moment they
return from sick leave, etc.
deems any employee suffering from stress as weak and inadequate whilst aggressively ignoring and denying the cause of stress (bad management
"encourages" employees (with promises of promotion
and/or threats of disciplinary action) to fabricate complaints about their colleagues
employees are "encouraged" to give up full-time permanent positions in favour of short-term contracts;
anyone who resists has their life made hell
bullying is similar to corporate bullying and arises when bullying becomes entrenched and accepted as part of the
culture. People are moved, long-existing contracts are replaced with new short-term contracts on less favourable terms with
the accompanying threat of "agree to this or else", workloads are increased, work schedules are changed, roles are
changed, career progression paths are blocked or terminated, etc - and all of this is without consultation.
Client bullying is where employees are bullied by those they serve, eg teachers
are bullied (and often assaulted) by pupils and their parents, nurses are bullied by patients and their relatives, social
workers are bullied by their clients, and shop/bank/building society staff are bullied by customers. Often the client is claiming
their perceived right (eg to better service) in an abusive, derogatory and often physically violent manner. Client bullying
can also be employees bullying their clients.
is where the source of all dysfunction can be traced to one individual, who picks on one employee after another and destroys
them. This is the most common type of bullying I come across; most of this web site is devoted to describing and defining
the serial bully, who exhibits the behavioural characteristics of a socialised psychopath. Most people know at least one person
in their life with the profile of the serial bully; most people do not recognise this person as a socialised psychopath, or
sociopath. I estimate one person in thirty is either a physically-violent psychopath who commits criminal acts, or an
antisocial whose behaviour is antisocial, or a sociopath who commits mostly non-arrestable offences. For an in-depth insight
into serial bullying, click here.
Secondary bullying is mostly unwitting bullying which
people start exhibiting when there's a serial bully in the department. The pressure of trying to deal with a dysfunctional,
divisive and aggressive serial bully causes everyone's behaviour to decline.
bullying is a serial bully with a colleague. Often one does the talking whilst the other watches and listens. Usually
it's the quiet one you need to watch. Usually they are of opposite gender and frequently there's an affair going on.
Gang bullying is a serial bully with colleagues.
Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish in corporate bullying climates. If the bully is an extrovert, they are likely to be
leading from the front; they may also be a shouter and screamer, and thus easily identifiable (and recordable on tape and
video-able). If the bully is an introvert, that person will be in the background initiating the mayhem but probably not taking
an active part, and may thus be harder to identify. A common tactic of this type of bully is to tell everybody a different
story - usually about what others are alleged to have said about that person - and encourage each person to think they are
the only one with the correct story. Introvert bullies are the most dangerous bullies. Half the people in the gang
are happy for the opportunity to behave badly, they gain gratification from the feeling of power and control, and enjoy the
patronage, protection and reward from the serial bully. The other half of the gang are coerced into joining in, usually through
fear of being the next target if they don't. If anything backfires, one of these coercees will be the scapegoat and sacrificial
lamb on whom enraged targets will be encouraged to vent their anger. The serial bully watches from a safe distance. Serial
bullies gain a great deal of gratification from encouraging and watching others engage in conflict, especially those who might
otherwise pool negative information about them. Gang bullying or group bullying is often called mobbing and usually
involves scapegoating and victimisation.
is where two parties are encouraged to engage in adversarial interaction or conflict. Similar to gang bullying, although the
bully may or may not be directly connected with either of the two parties. One party becomes the bully's instrument of harassment
and is deceived and manipulated into bullying the other party. An example of vicarious bullying is where the serial bully
creates conflict between employer and employee, participating occasionally to stoke the conflict, but rarely taking an active
part in the conflict themselves.
is where a serial bully forces their target to comply with rules, regulations, procedures or laws regardless of their appropriateness,
applicability or necessity. Legal bullying - the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish
a person - is one of the nastiest forms of bullying.
bullying is the bullying of all kinds that continues after the serial bully has left. Like recruits like and like
promotes like, therefore the serial bully bequeaths a dysfunctional environment to those who are left. This can last for years.
Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums
etc for sending aggressive flame mails. Serial bullies have few communication skills (and often none), thus the impersonal
nature of email makes it an ideal tool for causing conflict. Sometimes called cyberstalking.
In environments where bullying is the norm, most people will eventually
either become bullies or become targets. There are few bystanders, as most people will eventually be sucked in. It's about survival: you either adopt bullying tactics yourself and thus survive
by not becoming a target, or you stand up against bullying and refuse to join in, in which case you are bullied, harassed,
victimized and scapegoated until your health is so severely impaired that you have a stress breakdown (this is a psychiatric
injury, not a mental illness - see health page for details on stress, or the PTSD page for details on psychiatric injury), take ill-health retirement, leave, find yourself unexpectedly selected for redundancy,
or are unfairly dismissed.
majority of cases of workplace bullying reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and Bully OnLine involve
an individual being bullied by their manager, and these account for around 75% of cases. Around a quarter of cases involve
bullying and harassment by peers (often with the collusion of a manager either by proactive involvement or by the manager
refusing to take action). A small number of cases (around 1-2%) involve the bullying of a manager by a subordinate. Serial
bullies like to tap into hierarchical power, but they also generate their own power by simply choosing to bully with impunity
and justifying or denying their behaviour with rationalisation, manipulation, deception or lying.
In a case of bullying of a manager by a subordinate, it's my view that as bullying is a form
of violence (at the psychological and emotional lever rather than the physical) it's the responsibility of the employer, not
the individual manager, to deal with violence at work.
What is bullying?
People who are bullied find that they
constantly criticised and subjected to destructive criticism
(often euphemistically called constructive criticism, which is an oxymoron) - explanations and proof of achievement
are ridiculed, overruled, dismissed or ignored
forever subject to
nit-picking and trivial fault-finding (the triviality is the giveaway)
especially in front of others; false concerns are raised, or doubts are expressed over a person's performance or standard
of work - however, the doubts lack substantive and quantifiable evidence, for they are only the bully's unreliable opinion
and are for control, not performance enhancement
isolated and excluded from what's happening (this makes people more vulnerable and easier to control and subjugate)
singled out and treated differently (for example everyone else can have long lunch breaks but if they are one
minute late it's a disciplinary offence)
belittled, degraded, demeaned,
ridiculed, patronised, subject to disparaging remarks
target of offensive language, personal remarks, or inappropriate bad language
the target of unwanted sexual behaviour
threatened, shouted at
and humiliated, especially in front of others
taunted and teased where
the intention is to embarrass and humiliate
set unrealistic goals and
deadlines which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason or whenever they get near achieving them
denied information or knowledge necessary for undertaking work and achieving objectives
starved of resources, sometimes whilst others often receive more than they need
denied support by their manager and thus find themselves working in a management vacuum
either overloaded with work (this keeps people busy [with no time to tackle bullying] and
makes it harder to achieve targets) or have all their work taken away (which is sometimes replaced with inappropriate
menial jobs, eg photocopying, filing, making coffee)
have their responsibility
increased but their authority removed
have their work plagiarised, stolen
and copied - the bully then presents their target's work (eg to senior management) as their own
are given the silent treatment: the bully refuses to communicate and avoids eye contact (always an indicator
of an abusive relationship); often instructions are received only via email, memos, or a succession of yellow stickies
or post-it notes
subject to excessive monitoring, supervision, micro-management,
recording, snooping etc
the subject of written complaints by other members
of staff (most of whom have been coerced into fabricating allegations - the complaints are trivial, often bizarre ["He
looked at me in a funny way"] and often bear striking similarity to each other, suggesting a common origin)
forced to work long hours, often without remuneration and under threat of dismissal
find requests for leave have unacceptable and unnecessary conditions attached, sometimes
overturning previous approval. especially if the person has taken action to address bullying in the meantime
denied annual leave, sickness leave, or - especially - compassionate leave
when on leave, are harassed by calls at home or on holiday, often at unsocial hours
receive unpleasant or threatening calls or are harassed with intimidating memos, notes
or emails with no verbal communication, immediately prior to weekends and holidays (eg 4pm Friday or Christmas Eve - often
these are hand-delivered)
do not have a clear job description, or have
one that is exceedingly long or vague; the bully often deliberately makes the person's role unclear
are invited to "informal" meetings which turn out to be disciplinary hearings
are denied representation at meetings, often under threat of further disciplinary action;
sometimes the bully abuses their position of power to exclude any representative who is competent to deal with bullying
encouraged to feel guilty, and to believe they're always the one at fault
subjected to unwarranted and unjustified verbal or written warnings
facing unjustified disciplinary action on trivial or specious or false charges
facing dismissal on fabricated charges or flimsy excuses, often using a trivial incident from months or years
coerced into reluctant resignation, enforced redundancy, early
or ill-health retirement
denial of the right to earn your livelihood including
preventing you getting another job, usually with a bad or misleading reference
A favourite tactic of bullies which helps them evade detection is to undertake a "reorganisation" at regular
intervals. This has several advantages:
anyone whose face doesn't
fit can be organised out through downsizing (redundancy) or transfer
anyone who challenges the reorganisation
ditto, their job can be "regraded"
or "redefined" to the person's disadvantage
is a smokescreen for the bully's dysfunctional behaviour - everyone is so busy coping with the reorganisation (chaos)
that the bully's behaviour goes unnoticed
the bully can always claim
to be reorganising in the name of "efficiency" and therefore be perceived by those above as a strong manager
However, there is never any cost-benefit justification to the reorganisation - no
figures before and no figures after to prove the reorganisation has brought benefits.
There are many reasons how and why bullies target others,
and the reasons are consistent between cases. There are many myths and stereotypes such as "victims are weak"
which I deconstruct on my myths page. Bullying often repeats because the reasons that bullies target their victims don't change, hence this section also answers
the questions "Why do I keep getting bullied" and "Why do bullies continue to bully me?".
1) How do bullies select their targets?
The bully selects their target using the following criteria:
bullies are predatory and opportunistic - you just happen to be
in the wrong place at the wrong time; this is always the main reason - investigation will reveal a string of predecessors,
and you will have a string of successors
being good at your job, often
being popular with people (colleagues, customers, clients, pupils,
parents, patients, etc)
more than anything else, the bully fears exposure
of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; your presence, popularity and competence unknowingly and unwittingly fuel
being the expert and the person to whom others come for advice,
either personal or professional (ie you get more attention than the bully)
having a well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise
having a strong sense of integrity (bullies despise integrity, for they have none, and seem compelled to destroy
anyone who has integrity)
Jealousy (of relationships and perceived exclusion therefrom)
and envy (of talents, abilities, circumstances or possessions) are strong motivators of bullying.
2) Events that trigger bullying
Bullying starts after one of these
the previous target leaves
there's a reorganisation
a new manager is appointed
your performance unwittingly highlights, draws attention to, exposes or invites unfavourable
comparison with the bully's lack of performance (the harder you work to address the bully's claims of underperformance,
the more insecure and unstable the bully becomes)
you may have unwittingly
become the focus of attention whereas before the bully was the centre of attention (this often occurs with female bullies)
- most bullies are emotionally immature and thus crave attention
displays of affection, respect or trust from co-workers
refusing to obey
an order which violates rules, regulations, procedures, or is illegal
up for a colleague who is being bullied - this ensures you will be next; sometimes the bully drops their current target
and turns their attention to you immediately
blowing the whistle on
incompetence, malpractice, fraud, illegality, breaches of procedure, breaches of health & safety regulations etc
undertaking trade union duties
illness or injury, whether work related or not
challenging the status
quo, especially unwittingly
gaining recognition for your achievements,
eg winning an award or being publicly recognised
3) Personal qualities that bullies find irresistible
bullying usually have these qualities:
popularity (this stimulates
jealousy in the less-than-popular bully)
competence (this stimulates envy
in the less-than-competent bully)
intelligence and intellect
honesty and integrity (which bullies despise)
trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable
integrity which you're unwilling to compromise
you're always willing to
go that extra mile and expect others to do the same
determined, courageous, having fortitude
a sense of humour, including
displays of quick-wittedness
imaginative, creative, innovative
idealistic, optimistic, always working for improvement and betterment of self, family,
the employer, and the world
ability to master new skills
ability to think long term and to see the bigger picture
sensitivity (this is a constellation of values to be cherished including empathy, concern for others, respect,
slow to anger
helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience
difficulty saying no
strong sense of honour
irrepressible, wanting to tackle and correct
injustice wherever you see it
an inability to value oneself whilst attributing
greater importance and validity to other people's opinions of oneself (eg through tests, exams, appraisals, manager's
low propensity to violence (ie you prefer to resolve
conflict through dialogue rather than through violence or legal action)
strong forgiving streak (which the bully exploits and manipulates to dissuade you from taking grievance and legal action)
a desire to always think well of others
incorruptible, having high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise
being unwilling to lower standards
a strong well-defined set
of values which you are unwilling to compromise or abandon
of those in authority and a dislike of incompetent people in positions of power who abuse power
a tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking
a need to feel valued
quick to apologise when accused, even if not guilty (this is a useful technique for defusing
an aggressive customer or potential road rage incident)
higher-than-average levels of dependency, naivety and guilt
a strong sense of fair play and a desire to always be reasonable
coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent
a tendency to internalise anger rather than express it
The typical sequence of events is:
the target is
selected using the criteria above, then bullied for months, perhaps years
the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by filing a complaint with personnel
personnel interview the bully, who uses their Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, and charm to tell the
opposite story (charm has a motive - deception)
it's one word against
another with no witnesses and no evidence, so personnel take the word of the senior employee - serial bullies excel at
deception and evasion of accountability
the personnel department are
hoodwinked by the bully into getting rid of the target - serial bullies are adept at encouraging conflict between people
who might otherwise pool negative information about them
target is gone, there's a period of between 2-14 days, then a new target is selected and the process starts again (bullying
is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and serial bullies seem unable to survive without a target on to whom they can project
their inadequacy and incompetence whilst blaming them for the bully's own failings)
even if the employer realises that they might have sided with the wrong person in the past, they are unlikely
to admit that because to do so may incur liability
if legal action is
taken, employers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep targets quiet, usually by offering a small out-of-court settlement
with a comprehensive gagging clause
employers are often more frightened
of the bully than the target and will go to enormous lengths to avoid having to deal with bully (promotion for the
bully is the most common outcome)
Contact us for strategies to counter the serial bully's tactics of deception or how to deal with a gagging clause.
There are many myths, misperceptions and stereotypes that bullies and their supporters, apologists
and deniers disingenuously use to hide the facts listed above and to further victimise those targeted; click here for insight to counter these tactics.
What's the difference between bullying and harassment?
of harassment usually centre around unwanted, offensive and intrusive behaviour with a sexual, racial or physical component.
Measures to identify and proscribe acts of harassment derive from the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act and the
law of assault. More recently, the Disability Discrimination Act (1996), the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994)
and the Protection from Harassment Act (1996) have also influenced attitudes towards harassment. Significantly, the Protection
from Harassment Act accords emphasis for the first time on the target's perception of the harassment rather than
the perpetrator's alleged intent.
At present, if one is being bullied
and is white, British, able-bodied and the same gender as the bully, one is not currently covered by discrimination law. Ironically,
one is thus discriminated against by not qualifying under existing discrimination law. Whilst the DTI like to quote the Protection
from Harassment Act as the way to deal with bullying at work, the Act is designed to deal with stalkers, not an incompetent
manager criticising a subordinate in a work environment.
Under the previous
Conservative government, the DTI similarly quoted the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act as the way to deal with bullying.
To my knowledge not a single case of workplace bullying has been resolved by either act - or is ever likely to be.
Definitions of harassment and bullying vary and there is much overlap. The essential
differences between harassment and workplace bullying are as follows:
Has a strong physical component,
eg contact and touch in all its forms, intrusion into personal space and possessions, damage to possessions including
a person's work, etc
Almost exclusively psychological
(eg criticism), may become physical later, especially with male bullies, but almost never with female bullies
Tends to focus on the individual because of what they
are (eg female, black, disabled, etc)
do, especially if they are competent, popular and vulnerable
Harassment is usually linked to sex,
race, prejudice, discrimination, etc
are deeply prejudiced, sex, race and gender play little part; it's usually discrimination on the basis of competence
Harassment may consist of a single incident or a few
incidents or many incidents
Bullying is rarely a
single incident and tends to be an accumulation of many small incidents, each of which, when taken in isolation and out
of context, seems trivial
who is being harassed knows almost straight away they are being harassed
The person being bullied may not realise they are being bullied for weeks or months - until there's a moment
Everyone can recognise
harassment, especially if there's an assault, indecent assault or sexual assault
Few people recognise bullying
Harassment often reveals itself through use of recognised offensive vocabulary, eg ("bitch", "coon",
Workplace bullying tends to fixate on trivial criticisms
and false allegations of underperformance; offensive words rarely appear, although swear words may be used when there
are no witnesses
There's often an element
of possession, eg as in stalking
Phase 1 of bullying
is control and subjugation; when this fails, phase 2 is elimination of the target
The harassment almost always has a strong clear focus (eg sex, race, disability)
The focus is on competence (envy) and popularity (jealousy)
Often the harassment is for peer approval, bravado,
macho image etc
Tends to be secret behind closed doors
with no witnesses
Harassment takes place
both in and out of work
The bullying takes place mostly
The harasser often perceives their
target as easy, albeit sometimes a challenge
target is seen as a threat who must first be controlled and subjugated, and if that doesn't work, eliminated
Harassment is often domination for superiority
Bullying is for control of threat (of exposure of the bully's own
The harasser often lacks
The bully is driven by envy (of abilities)
and jealousy (of relationships)
often has specific inadequacies (eg sexual)
is inadequate in all areas of interpersonal and behavioural skills
Stress comes in two forms: positive and negative:
Positive stress (or eustress) is the result of competent
management and mature leadership where everyone works together and everyone is valued and supported. Positive stress enhances
well-being and can be harnessed to enhance performance and fuel achievement. Negative stress
(or distress) is the result of a bullying climate where threat, coercion
and fear substitute for non-existent management skills. Employees have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much to
compensate for the dysfunctional and inefficient management. Negative stress diminishes quality of life and causes injury
to health resulting in the symptoms of ill-health described on this page. When people use the word "stress"
on its own, they usually mean "negative stress". The CBI estimates stress and stress-related illness cost UK industry
and taxpayers £12 BILLION each year. The UK Department of Health state that 3.6% of national average salary budget
is paid to employees off sick with stress. Stress is now officially the Number One cause of sickness absence although
20% of employers still do not regard stress as a health and safety issue.
Stress plays havoc with the body's immune system.
The symptoms of stress seem to cover more pages
of every book published on the subject. Stress caused by bullying results in these symptoms (and more):
main symptoms - stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue (including Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome - see below), trauma
physical symptoms - reduced immunity
to infection leading to frequent colds, coughs, flu, glandular fever, etc (especially on days off, eg weekends and holidays),
aches & pains (with no clear cause - this lack of attributability suggests stress as the cause - sometimes diagnosed
as fibromyalgia), back pain, chest pains and angina, high blood pressure, headaches and migraines, sweating, palpitations,
trembling, hormonal problems (disturbed menstrual cycle, dysmenorrhoea, loss of libido, impotence), physical numbness
(especially in toes, fingers, and lips), emotional numbness (including anhedonia, an inability to feel joy and love),
irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, paruresis (shy bladder syndrome), thyroid problems, petit mal seizures, skin irritations and skin disorders (eg athlete's foot,
eczema, psoriasis, shingles, internal and external ulcers, urticaria), loss of appetite (although a few people react by
overeating), excessive or abnormal thirst, waking up more tired than when you went to bed, etc
psychological symptoms - panic attacks, reactive depression (which some people describe as Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood), thoughts of suicide, stress breakdown (this
is a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness), forgetfulness, impoverished or intermittently functioning memory, poor concentration,
flashbacks and replays, excessive guilt, disbelief and confusion and bewilderment ("why me?" - click here for the answer), an unusual degree of fear, sense of isolation, insecurity, desperation, etc; one experiences acute
anxiety at the prospect of meeting the bully or visiting the location where the bullying took place, or at the thought
of touching the paperwork associated with the case; one is unable to attend disciplinary meetings and may vomit before,
during or after the meeting, sometimes at the thought of the meeting or on receiving a threatening letter insisting
one attends (these are PTSD diagnostic criteria B4 and B5)
behavioural symptoms - tearfulness, irritability,
angry outbursts, obsessiveness (the experience takes over your life), hypervigilance (feels like but is not
paranoia), hypersensitivity (almost every remark or action is perceived as critical even when it is not), sullenness
(a sign the inner psyche has been damaged), mood swings, withdrawal, indecision, loss of humour, hyperawareness (acute
awareness of time, seasons, distance travelled), excessive biting, teeth grinding, picking, scratching or tics, increased
reliance on drugs (tannin, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sleeping tablets, tranquillisers, antidepressants, other substances),
comfort spending (and consequent financial problems), phobias (especially agoraphobia), etc
effects on personality - shattered self-confidence and self-esteem, low self-image, loss of self-worth
Other symptoms and disorders reported include sleep
disorder, bipolar disorder, mood disorder, eating disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, skin disorder.
Increasingly researchers are suggesting that diabetes, asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, multiple
sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) and even some forms of cancer are caused or aggravated by stress. An article
in Biologist (T cells divide and rule in Gulf War syndrome (and asthma, TB, cancer, ME), Jenny Bryan, Immunology
section in The Biologist, (1997) 44 (5)) suggests that a shared immunological defect may link many disorders. Others suggest
that the inappropriateness of the stress response in dealing with modern threats - which are largely psychological rather
than physical - is to blame.
The traumatising effect of bullying results
in the target being unable to state clearly what is happening to them and who is responsible; the target may be so traumatised
that they are unable to articulate their experience for a year or more after the event. This often frustrates or prevents
legal action: see 12-week tribunal application limit and psychological reactivity of PTSD.
Another frustration is incorrect diagnosis by a medical or mental health
professional who doesn't understand Complex PTSD or who is antagonistic towards the concept of psychiatric injury. If you're
under one of these characters, ditch them immediately as they will sabotage both your legal case and your efforts to recover.
False diagnoses commonly given include schizophrenia, paranoia, work phobia, school phobia, borderline personality disorder
(as a cause rather than a symptom), etc.
Bullying results in strong feelings
of fear, shame, embarrassment, and guilt, which are encouraged by the bully to keep their target quiet. This is how all abusers
(including child sex abusers) silence their targets. For detailed reasons why targets of abuse don't or can't report their
abuse, click here.
Work colleagues often withdraw their support and then join in with the
bullying, which increases the stress and consequent psychiatric injury; to see why mobbing breaks out, click here.
Poor concentration, impaired memory, and fatigue are common and early
signs of excessive stress. These have significant Health & Safety implications if the employee drives a vehicle, operates
machinery, or is responsible for the care or welfare of others as part of their duties. RoSPA estimate that in the UK at least
1000 road deaths each year involve people for whom driving is part of their job. Fatigue is a major factor.
Fight or flight: the stress response
The fight or flight
mechanism, or stress response, is designed for responding to physical danger (eg being about to be attacked by a
sabre-toothed tiger) but today is more likely to be activated by a psychological danger (eg bullying at work, harassment,
stalking, abuse) for which it was not designed. The stress response can also be activated by anticipation of low-probability
or long-term or non-life-threatening events such as financial problems (clinching the next big deal, how to pay the mortgage
next month, wondering when the next benefit cheque will arrive), motorway traffic jams, job security, picking up a parking
ticket for a car park overstay, etc.
Different people respond with different
degrees of stress to different stressors, a fact which has dogged research. However, there are at least four factors which
determine the degree to which one will feel stressed:
a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive they are not in control of the stressor; at work, employees
have no control over their management
predictability: a person
feels stressed to the extent to which they are unable to predict the behaviour or occurrence of the stressor (bullies
are notoriously unpredictable in their behaviour)
a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive their circumstances are not improving and will not improve
(a bullying situation almost always gets worse, especially as one gains insight into the cause)
support: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they lack support systems, including work colleagues, management, personnel, union, partner, family, friends, colleagues, persons in authority, official bodies, professionals, and the law
Once the stress response is activated, the body's energy is diverted to where it
is needed, thus heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate increase. All non-essential body functions are temporarily shut
down or operate at reduced level; these include digestion, growth, sexual systems (menstrual cycle, libido, testosterone production),
immune system, storage of energy as fat, etc. In response to threat, glucose, proteins and fats are rapidly released from
storage (in muscles, fat cells and liver) and energy becomes abundantly available to those muscles which will help you fight
the danger or run away from it. In extreme cases bowels and bladder will spontaneously evacuate to lighten the load; the smell
may also help to deter the attacker. There is no point in digestion, reproduction and immune system etc continuing to operate
if you're likely to be the sabre-toothed tiger's dinner in the next ten minutes - better divert that energy into avoiding
being on the menu.
Therefore, the prospect of going to work, or the thought
or sound of the bully approaching immediately activates the stress response, but fighting or flight are both inappropriate.
In repeated bullying, the stress response prepares the body to respond physically when what is required is an employer-wide anti-bullying policy, knowledge of bullying motivations and tactics, assertive responses to defend ourselves against unwarranted verbal and physical
harassment, and effective laws against bullying as an ultimate deterrent or arbiter when all else fails.
The fatigue caused by bullying is understandable
when you realise that the body's fight or flight mechanism ultimately becomes activated for long periods, sometimes semi-permanently.
For a person with a regular daytime job, the activation can last from Sunday evening - at the prospect of having to go to
work the following day - through to the following Saturday morning - at the prospect of two days relief.
The fight or flight mechanism is designed to operate briefly and intermittently, but when activated
for abnormally long periods, causes the body's physical, mental and emotional batteries to drain dry. Energy stored in the
body as protein, glycogen and triglycerides is rapidly converted back to amino acids, glucose and fatty acids etc to help
the body deal with the perceived threat. The process of conversion, achieved via the release of stress hormones such as glucocorticoids,
glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), itself consumes energy. The stress hormones also trigger
the conversion of protein in those muscles not required for flight or fright into amino acids.
Whilst the human body is capable of withstanding considerable levels and periods of stress, when the stress response
is turned on for long periods, the body inevitably sustains damage through prolonged raised levels of glucocorticoids (which
are toxic to brain cells), excessive depletion of energy reserves, resulting in fatigue, loss of strength and stamina, muscle
wastage (as in steroid myopathy when patients receive large doses of glucocorticoids to treat various illnesses), and adult-onset
At the weekend and days off, the weakened immune system cannot
fight off viruses (eg colds, flu, glandular fever etc) and the person suffers constant illnesses during which the batteries
do not recharge. Even without viral infection, the obsessiveness and disturbed sleeping patterns prevent the body from replenishing
stored energy. Reactivation of the fight or flight mechanism prior to returning to work produces a flow of stress hormones
which appear to temporarily suppress the effects of illness.
Many people who are bullied
experience and report symptoms similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, also called Chronic
Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome [CFIDS] and Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome). The main symptoms are:
pains in the joints
and muscles with no obvious cause
occasional bursts of energy, followed
by exhaustion and joint/muscle pain
inability to concentrate
poor recall, eg words, sentence construction, etc
mood swings, including anger and depression
difficulty in learning
sense imbalances, eg in smell, taste and appetite
dislike of loud noises and bright lights
to control body temperature
sleep disturbance (eg sleeping by day and
waking at night)
disturbance of balance
clumsiness, eg unable to grasp small objects, inability to separate sheets of paper
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome achieved official recognition from the UK's Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman on 15 July 1998.
This view was endorsed by a report published in January 2002 which was compiled for Chief Medical Officer for England. Professor Sir Liam Donaldson called for
the recognition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or CFIDS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME) as a chronic condition
with long term effects on health on a par with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. The report
also recommends early diagnosis, better access to treatment, and that CFS/ME should be included in the education and training
of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The only omission from the report seems to be that one of the causes
of CFS can be long-term bullying, harassment and abuse, which compromise the body's immune system and drain the body's energy
The syndrome is not well understood, but a virus in the same
family of enteroviruses as multiple sclerosis (MS) and polio is thought to be implicated. The only cure is complete rest.
Exercise, which in people without CFS strengthens the body and aids good health, makes the condition worse. CFS is often linked
to stress and trauma, although the stressors may not always be obvious.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS,
is a classic symptom of stress. It's not a disease but a functional disorder (ie a malfunction) of the digestive system,
hence it's other name of spastic colon. Certain foods, especially wholewheat and fat, cause a violent spasm of the intestine
resulting in abdominal pain (often excruciating), stomach cramps, bloating, endless tummy rumbling, gas, belching, nausea
and sometimes vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea (or both alternating) and a general debilitating feeling of great unwellness.
Attacks are triggered by certain foods and can last a day. The cause is unknown and IBS can start at any age with no apparent
reason, although long-term stress is often, if unscientifically, implicated. Up to 20% of the population may experience IBS
to some degree, but sufferers may find diagnosis can be difficult to obtain. There's no "cure" but strict attention
to diet can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms. Many people suffer for years before obtaining diagnosis, after which
their life is transformed with a new diet. More at Help For IBS.com.
Over time, the symptoms described
above result in psychiatric injury, which is not a mental illness. Despite superficial similarity, and comments
(both direct and implied) from those around you, there are many distinct differences between psychiatric injury and mental
a) mental illness is assumed to be inherent
(internal) whereas psychiatric injury is caused by something or someone else (external) - who is liable; b) an injury
is likely to get better; c) the person suffering mental illness exhibits a range of symptoms associated with mental
illness (paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, etc) but not with psychiatric injury, whereas the person suffering psychiatric
injury will typically exhibit a range of symptoms (eg hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, obsessiveness, irritability, fatigue,
sleeplessness) associated with psychiatric injury but not with mental illness.
A table showing the differences between psychiatric injury and mental illness is on the PTSD page - click here.
Reactive depression One of the symptoms of psychiatric injury is reactive depression - it is a reaction
to an external event. My understanding is that the chemistry of reactive depression is different to clinical or endogenous
depression (which is associated with mental illness).
If you are diagnosed
as suffering depression as a result of bullying at work, make sure it is diagnosed (eg on your sick note) as reactive
depression. The word "depression" on its own is usually (mis)interpreted (especially by the bully) as "endogenous
In April 2005 researchers from King's College Hospital
identified depression as the main reason of sickness absence, although they made no mention of a primary cause of depression,
ie cumulative negative stress caused by bullying. [More]
The mental health trap
In every workplace bullying relationship
the symptoms suffered by the target eventually become sufficiently noticeable that people start to ask questions. At this
moment, the bully will try and portray their target as mentally ill as a way of abdicating and denying their responsibility
for the injury which they have caused. I call this the mental health trap.
To handle the mental health trap, on
every occasion that the bully implies you are "mentally ill" or "mentally unstable" or are a person with
a "mental health problem", look the bully in the eye and (preferably with a witness present) say:
The state of my physical and mental wellbeing today is a direct consequence
of your behaviour towards me over the last xx months/years.
Put this in writing, with support from your union or other representative. You may need to repeat it. If you are
coerced into reporting to occupational health, use this phrase to identify the cause of your injury. Do not have any qualms
about naming the individual whose behaviour is the cause of your psychiatric injury. Bullies are skilled at finding and exploiting
your forgiving streak in order to get you to retract allegations. This is a deliberate tactic - so don't be fooled.
If the bully or your employer insist on labelling you as mentally ill, consider including
libel (written), slander (spoken) and defamation of character in your legal proceedings. If you are being bullied by the medical
profession, or the employer's doctor insists on labelling you as mentally ill, question the competence of a medical practitioner
who is unable to tell the difference between mental illness and psychiatric injury. If you're fighting this battle, see the
page on PTSD for further insight.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Whilst there is
no official diagnosis yet, the symptoms of being bullied are congruent with those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I estimate half the UK workforce are exhibiting many of the symptoms of PTSD, albeit diagnosed as "stress" or "anxiety"
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD are defined
in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This is covered
in detail on a separate page; click here to display.
With bullying, the injury is caused by an accumulation of
small events rather than one major event. The related diagnosis of Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder (PDSD, which is PTSD over
time) may be more appropriate. However, whereas PTSD is in DSM-IV, PDSD is not - yet. PDSD, or Complex PTSD as it is now becoming
known, is a more appropriate diagnosis for people who experience distressing events every day, such as the emergency services
(eg fire, ambulance and police officers etc), as well as those in abuse situations.
As well as PTSD caused by accident, disaster, violence and rape, David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury includes chapters on PTSD resulting from terrorism, physical and sexual abuse, and bullying. The official estimate of 850,000
cases of PTSD in the UK may swell dramatically as a result of this new research (it's estimated for instance that as many
as 14 million people are bullied at work in the UK). This book contains insight that only someone who has experienced PTSD
can impart; as David Kinchin says in the introduction, "This is the book I so badly wanted to read when I was traumatised".
For an overview, click here; to order a copy click here.
We know that at least sixteen children in the
UK kill themselves each year because of bullying at school. Each of these deaths is foreseeable, preventable and unnecessary.
The true total could be as high as 80 or more. These estimates, which are published in the book Bullycide: death at playtime by Neil Marr and Tim Field, are endorsed by leading childcare charities.
People who are bullied have many common characteristics including an unwillingness to resort to violence (or legal action) to resolve conflict, and a tendency to internalise anger
rather than express it outwardly. Focusing anger inward is a recognised cause of depression. Bullying is perpetrated over
a long period of time, perhaps measured in years, and the internalised anger builds to the point where one of these three
the target starts to exhibit all the symptoms of stress as
the internal pressure causes the body to go out of stasis (this happens in every case)
the target focuses the anger onto themselves and self-harms, either by using drugs (usually alcohol), or by attempting
or committing suicide (the UK has the highest suicide rate in Europe)
rare cases, and the target "flips" and starts to exhibit the same behaviours as the bully; in extremely rare
but well-publicised cases, the target returns to the workplace to carry out a spree killing
How many adult suicides are caused by bullying? Consider the following:
bullying (an abdication and denial for the effect of one's behaviour
on others) ...causes... prolonged negative stress (psychiatric injury) ...which includes...
reactive depression (the cause is external - someone is responsible and liable) ...which results in... fluctuating
baseline of one's objectivity (balance of the mind disturbed) ...which leads to... contemplated suicide (being
viewed as suffering mental illness) ...culminating in... attempted suicide (cry for help) ...which
may end in... suicide (manslaughter - causation)
likely that many suicides are the result of bullying, but the target's lack of awareness of what is going on, their unwillingness
to confide what is happening, the traumatization, and the inability to articulate, everyone else's denial, the bully's accomplished
lying and Jekyll and Hyde nature, plus the general lack of knowledge and awareness of society, prevent the real cause from
For insight into the stress response and the
effects of prolonged stress on the body I recommend the book Why zebras don't get ulcers: an updated guide to stress,
stress-related diseases, and coping by Robert M Sapolsky (Freeman, 1998, ISBN 0-7167-3210-6). Click here for suggested reading.
November 2001: more than half of British workers are suffering
from stress and the problem is getting worse, a survey has suggested.
DEPRESSION AMONG WORKERS IS A PREVALENT AND COSTLY PROBLEM One in 10 office workers in Britain, the United States, Germany, Finland and Poland suffers from depression, anxiety, stress
or burnout, the results of an International Labor Organization (ILO) survey show. See: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/2000/37.htm
Reverse Therapy is the radical new treatment for ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia etc.
Connect Medical Services give patients a fuller understanding of the conditions that their Doctors are treating them for and to help them to exercise
choice and responsibility when making decisions about healthcare.
"When the trauma is inflicted by another person, is especially intense, or the traumatized person is extremely
close to the trauma, the severity of traumatization may be especially profound" Robert C Scaer, MD, Author,
The Body bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a
natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined in DSM-IV,
the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. For a doctor or mental health
professional to be able to make a diagnosis, the condition must be defined in DSM-IV or its international equivalent, the
World Health Organization's ICD-10.
In the previous version of DSM (DSM-III)
a criterion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was for the sufferer to have faced a single major life-threatening event; this
criterion was present because a) it was thought that PTSD could not be a result of "normal" events such as bereavement,
business failure, interpersonal conflict, bullying, harassment, stalking, marital disharmony, working for the emergency services,
etc, and b) most of the research on PTSD had been undertaken with people who had suffered a threat to life (eg combat
veterans, especially from Vietnam, victims of accident, disaster, and acts of violence).
In DSM-IV the requirement was eased although most mental health practitioners continue to interpret diagnostic criterion
A1 as applying only to a single major life-threatening event. There is growing recognition that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
can result from many types of emotionally shocking experience including an accumulation of small, individually non-life-threatening
events in which case the resultant PTSD is referred to as Complex PTSD.
DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are defined in DSM-IV as follows:
A. The person experiences a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
1. the person experienced or witnessed or was confronted with an
event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity
of self or others; 2. the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in any of the following ways:
1. recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event,
including images, thoughts or perceptions; 2. recurrent distressing dreams of the event; 3. acting
or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (eg reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative
flashback episodes, including those on wakening or when intoxicated); 4. intense psychological distress at exposure
to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event; 5. physiological reactivity
on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general
responsiveness (not present before the trauma) as indicated by at least three of:
1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma;
2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma; 3. inability to recall
an important aspect of the trauma; 4. markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities; 5. feeling of detachment or estrangement from others; 6. restricted range of affect (eg unable to have loving
feelings); 7. sense of a foreshortened future (eg does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a
normal life span).
D. Persistent symptoms of increased
arousal (not present before the trauma) as indicated by at least two of the following:
1. difficulty falling or staying asleep; 2. irritability or outbursts of anger; 3. difficulty concentrating; 4. hypervigilance; 5. exaggerated startle response.
E. The symptoms on Criteria B, C and D last for more than one month.
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational or other important areas of functioning.
focus of the DSM-IV definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a single life-threatening event or threat to integrity.
However, the symptoms of traumatic stress also arise from an accumulation of small incidents rather than one major incident.
repeated exposure to horrific scenes at accidents
or fires, such as those endured by members of the emergency services (eg bodies mutilated in car crashes, or horribly
burnt or disfigured by fire, or dismembered or disembowelled in aeroplane disasters, etc)
repeated involvement in dealing with serious crime, eg where violence has been used and especially where children
breaking news of bereavement caused by accident or violence,
especially if children are involved
repeated violations such as in verbal
abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse
and violation, both physical and psychological, as in bullying, stalking, harassment, domestic violence, etc
Where the symptoms are the result of a series of events, the term Complex PTSD (formerly
referred to unofficially as Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder or PDSD) may be more appropriate. Whilst Complex PTSD is not yet an official diagnosis in DSM-IV or ICD-10, it is often used
in preference to other terms such as "rolling PTSD", "PDSD", and "cumulative stress". See the
National Center for PTSD fact page on Complex PTSD.
Causes of PTSD
PTSD resulting from accident, disaster,
war, terrorism, torture, kidnap, etc has been extensively studied and literature is available elsewhere. The first written
reference to PTSD symptoms comes from the sixth century BC; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is nothing new - and neither is
the willingness of some people to discredit and deny the existence of the disorder.
This section of Bully OnLine focuses on PTSD and Complex PTSD resulting from bullying, primarily in the workplace,
however anyone suffering PTSD (however caused) will find this page enlightening.
Most of the information on this page and web site is relevant to other types of bullying, eg at school, in relationships
(including domestic violence), by families, by neighbours or landlords, in the care of the elderly, in the armed services,
etc. Bullying is behind harassment, discrimination, prejudice and persecution, therefore targets of repeated sexual harassment
or racial discrimination or religious or ethnic persecution will also identify with the symptoms. The insight about bullying
on this web site is therefore also relevant to more serious issues including physical abuse, repeated verbal abuse, sexual
abuse, violent crime, kidnap, abduction, rape, war, terrorism, torture, and denial and abuse of human rights. Those exploring
Contact Experience may also find this page helpful.
PTSD, Complex PTSD and bullying
It's widely accepted that PTSD can result from a single,
major, life-threatening event, as defined in DSM-IV. Now there is growing awareness that PTSD can also result from an accumulation
of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents. To differentiate the cause, the term "Complex PTSD"
is used. The reason that Complex PTSD is not in DSM-IV is that the definition of PTSD in DSM-IV was derived using only
people who had suffered a single major life-threatening incident such as Vietnam veterans and survivors of disasters.
Note: there has recently been a trend amongst some psychiatric professionals
to label people suffering Complex PTSD as a exhibiting a personality disorder, especially Borderline Personality Disorder.
This is not the case - PTSD, Complex or otherwise, is a psychiatric injury and nothing to do with personality disorders. If there is an overlap, then Borderline Personality Disorder should be regarded as a psychiatric injury, not a personality disorder. If you encounter a psychiatrist, psychologist or
other mental health professional who wants to label your Complex PTSD as a personality disorder, change to another, more competent
It seems that Complex PTSD can potentially arise from any
prolonged period of negative stress in which certain factors are present, which may include any of captivity, lack of means
of escape, entrapment, repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, and - crucially - lack
of control, loss of control and disempowerment. It is the overwhelming nature of the events and the inability (helplessness,
lack of knowledge, lack of support etc) of the person trying to deal with those events that leads to the development of Complex
PTSD. Situations which might give rise to Complex PTSD include bullying, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, stalking, long-term
caring for a disabled relative, unresolved grief, exam stress over a period of years, mounting debt, contact experience, etc.
Those working in regular traumatic situations, eg the emergency services, are also prone to developing Complex PTSD.
A key feature of Complex PTSD is the aspect of captivity. The individual experiencing
trauma by degree is unable to escape the situation. Despite some people's assertions to the contrary, situations of domestic
abuse and workplace abuse can be extremely difficult to get out of. In the latter case there are several reasons, including
financial vulnerability (especially if you're a single parent or main breadwinner - the rate of marital breakdown is approaching
50% in the UK), unavailability of jobs, ageism (many people who are bullied are over 40), partner unable to move, and kids
settled in school and you are unable or unwilling to move them. The real killer, though, is being unable to get a job reference
- the bully will go to great lengths to blacken the person's name, often for years, and it is this lack of reference more
than anything else which prevents people escaping.
Until recently, little
(or no) attention was paid to the psychological harm caused by bullying and harassment. Misperceptions (usually as a result
of the observer's lack of knowledge or lack of empathy) still abound: "It's something you have to put up with"
(like rape or repeated sexual abuse?) and "Bullying toughens you up" (ditto). Armed forces personnel faced
threats of being labelled with "cowardice" and "lack of moral fibre" (LMF) if they gave in to the symptoms
of PTSD. In World War I, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot as "cowards" and "deserters"
on the orders of General Haig in an act which today would be treated as a war crime - see separate page on this injustice.
In the UK at least 16 children kill themselves each
year because they are being bullied at school. This figure is established in the book Bullycide: death at playtime. Each of these deaths is unnecessary, foreseeable, and preventable. The
UK has one of the highest adult suicide rates in Europe: around 5000 a year. The number of adults in the UK committing suicide
because of bullying is unknown. Each year 19,000 children attempt suicide in the UK - one every half hour. in the UK, suicide
is the number one cause of death for 18-24-year-old males. Females also attempt suicide in large numbers but tend to use less
Since Andrea Adams first identified workplace bullying
and gave it its name in 1988, recognition of adult bullying has grown steadily. Tim Field's UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has logged over 8000 cases in seven years; in the majority of cases (over 80%), the caller is a white-collar worker who
has become the prey of a serial bully whose behaviour profile suggests a disordered personality. Callers refer to predecessors who have had stress breakdowns, taken early or ill-health
retirement, or been dismissed on grounds of ill-health - all caused by the same individual. Sometimes callers refer to suicides
of fellow employees.
Mapping the health effects of bullying onto PTSD and Complex PTSD Repeated bullying, often over a period of
years, results in symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How do the PTSD symptoms resulting from bullying meet
the criteria in DSM-IV?
A. The prolonged (chronic) negative stress resulting
from bullying has lead to threat of loss of job, career, health, livelihood, often also resulting in threat to marriage and
family life. The family are the unseen victims of bullying. A.1.One of the key symptoms of prolonged negative stress
is reactive depression; this causes the balance of the mind to be disturbed, leading first to thoughts of, then attempts at,
and ultimately, suicide. A.2.The target of bullying may be unaware that they are being bullied, and even when they do
realise (there's usually a moment of enlightenment as the person realises that the criticisms and tactics of control etc are
invalid), they often cannot bring themselves to believe they are dealing with a disordered personality who lacks a conscience
and does not share the same moral values as themselves. Naivety is the great enemy. The target of bullying is bewildered,
confused, frightened, angry - and after enlightenment, very angry. For an answer to the question Why me? click here.
B.1. The target of bullying experiences regular intrusive violent visualisations
and replays of events and conversations; often, the endings of these replays are altered in favour of the target. B.2.
Sleeplessness, nightmares and replays are a common feature of being bullied. B.3. The events are constantly relived;
night-time and sleep do not bring relief as it becomes impossible to switch the brain off. Such sleep as is achieved is non-restorative
and people wake up as tired, and often more tired, than when they went to bed. B.4. Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and
panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, eg receiving threatening letters from the bully, the employer,
or personnel about disciplinary hearings etc. B.5. Panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, trembling, ditto. Criteria
B4 and B5 manifest themselves as immediate physical and mental paralysis in response to any reminder of the bullying or prospect
of having to take action against the bully.
C. Physical numbness (toes,
fingertips, lips) is common, as is emotional numbness (especially inability to feel joy). Sufferers report that their spark
has gone out and, even years later, find they just cannot get motivated about anything. C.1. The target of bullying
tries harder and harder to avoid saying or doing anything which reminds them of the horror of the bullying. C.2. Work,
especially in the person's chosen field becomes difficult, often impossible, to undertake; the place of work holds such horrific
memories that it becomes impossible to set foot on the premises; many targets of bullying avoid the street where the workplace
is located. C.3. Almost all callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line report impaired memory; this may
be partly due to suppressing horrific memories, and partly due to damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to
learning and memory (see John O'Brien's paper below) C.4. the person becomes obsessed with resolving the bullying experience
which takes over their life, eclipsing and excluding almost every other interest. C.5. Feelings of withdrawal and isolation
are common; the person just wants to be on their own and solitude is sought. C.6. Emotional numbness, including inability
to feel joy (anhedonia) and deadening of loving feelings towards others are commonly reported. One fears never being able
to feel love again. C.7. The target of bullying becomes very gloomy and senses a foreshortened career - usually with
justification. Many targets of bullying ultimately give up their career; in the professions, severe psychiatric injury, severely
impaired health, refusal by the bully and the employer to give a satisfactory reference, and many other reasons, conspire
to bar the person from continuance in their chosen career.
becomes almost impossible, despite the constant fatigue; such sleep as is obtained tends to be unsatisfying, unrefreshing
and non-restorative. On waking, the person often feels more tired than when they went to bed. Depressive feelings are worst
early in the morning. Feelings of vulnerability may be heightened overnight. D.2. The person has an extremely short
fuse and is often permanently irritated, especially by small insignificant events. The person frequently visualises a violent
solution, eg arranging an accident for, or murdering the bully; the resultant feelings of guilt tend to hinder progress in
recovery. D.3. Concentration is impaired to the point of precluding preparation for legal action, study, work, or search
for work. D.4. The person is on constant alert because their fight or flight mechanism has become permanently activated.
D.5. The person has become hypersensitized and now unwittingly and inappropriately perceives almost any remark as critical.
E. Recovery from a bullying experience is measured in years. Some people never fully
F. For many, social life ceases and work becomes impossible;
the overwhelming need to earn a living combined with the inability to work deepens the trauma.
Common symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD that sufferers report experiencing
phobias about specific daily routines, events or objects
irrational or impulsive behaviour
loss of interest
loss of ambition
anhedonia (inability to
feel joy and pleasure)
joint pains, muscle pains
an overwhelming sense of
injustice and a strong desire to do something about it
Associated symptoms of Complex PTSD
guilt: survivors of disasters often experience abnormally high levels of guilt for having survived, especially when others
- including family, friends or fellow passengers - have died. Survivor guilt manifests itself in a feeling of "I
should have died too". In bullying, levels of guilt are also abnormally raised. The survivor of workplace bullying
may have develop an intense albeit unrealistic desire to work with their employer (or, by now, their former employer) to eliminate
bullying from their workplace. Many survivors of bullying cannot gain further employment and are thus forced into self-employment;
excessive guilt may then preclude the individual from negotiating fair rates of remuneration, or asking for money for services
rendered. The person may also find themselves being abnormally and inappropriately generous and giving in business and other
Shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear are encouraged
by the bully, for this is how all abusers - including child sex abusers - control and silence their victims.
Marital disharmony: the target of bullying becomes obsessed with understanding and
resolving what is happening and the experience takes over their life; partners become confused, irritated, bewildered, frightened
and angry; separation and divorce are common outcomes.
The word "breakdown" is often used
to describe the mental collapse of someone who has been under intolerable strain. There is usually an (inappropriate) inference
of "mental illness". All these are lay terms and mean different things to different people. I define two types of
Nervous breakdown or mental
breakdown is a consequence of mental illness
breakdown is a psychiatric injury, which is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation
The two types of breakdown are distinct and should not be confused.
A stress breakdown is a natural and normal conclusion to a period of prolonged negative stress; the body is saying "I'm
not designed to operate under these conditions of prolonged negative stress so I am going to do something dramatic to ensure
that you reduce or eliminate the stress otherwise your body may suffer irreparable damage; you must take action now".
A stress breakdown is often predictable days - sometimes weeks - in advance as the person's fear, fragility, obsessiveness,
hypervigilance and hypersensitivity combine to evolve into paranoia (as evidenced by increasingly bizarre talk of conspiracy
or MI6). If this happens, a stress breakdown is only days or even hours away and the person needs urgent medical help. The
risk of suicide at this point is heightened.
Often the cause of negative
stress in an organisation can be traced to the behaviour of one individual. The profile of this individual is on the serial bully page. I believe bullying is the main - but least recognised - cause of negative stress in the workplace today. To see the effects
of prolonged negative stress on the body click here.
The person who suffers a stress breakdown is often treated
as if they have had a mental breakdown; they are sent to a psychiatrist, prescribed drugs used to treat mental illness,
and may be encouraged - sometimes coerced or sectioned - into becoming a patient in a psychiatric hospital. The sudden transition
from professional working environment to a ward containing schizophrenics, drug addicts and other people with genuine long-term
mental health problems adds to rather than alleviates the trauma. Words like "psychiatrist", "psychiatric
unit" etc are often translated by work colleagues, friends, and sometimes family into "nutcase", "shrink",
"funny farm", "loony" and other inappropriate epithets. The bully encourages this, often ensuring that
the employee's personnel record contains a reference to the person's "mental health problems". Sometimes, the bully
produces their own amateur diagnosis of mental illness - but this is more likely to be a projection of the bully's own state
of mind and should be regarded as such.
During the First World War, British
soldiers suffering PTSD and stress breakdown were labelled as "cowards" and "deserters". During the Second
World War, soldiers suffering PTSD and stress breakdowns were again vilified with these labels; Royal Air Force personnel
were labelled as "lacking moral fibre" and their papers stamped "LMF". For further commentary on this
issue, click here. It's noticeable that those administrators and top brass enforcing this labelling were themselves always situated a safe
distance from the fighting; see the section on projection.
The person who is being bullied often thinks they are going mad, and
may be encouraged in this belief by those who do not have that person's best interests at heart. They are not going mad; PTSD
is an injury, not an illness.
Sometimes, the term "psychosis"
is applied to mental illness, and the term "neurosis" to psychiatric injury. The main difference is that a psychotic
person is unaware they have a mental problem, whereas the neurotic person is aware - often acutely. The
serial bully's lack of insight into their behaviour and its effect on others has the hallmarks of a psychosis, although this
obliviousness would appear to be a choice rather than a condition. With targets of bullying, I prefer to avoid the words "neurosis"
and "neurotic", which for non-medical people have derogatory connotations. Hypersensitivity and hypervigilance are
likely to cause the person suffering PTSD to react unfavourably to the use of these words, possibly perceiving that they,
the target, are being blamed for their circumstances.
A frequent diagnosis
of stress breakdown is "brief reactive psychosis", especially if paranoia and suicidal thoughts predominate. However,
a key difference between mental breakdown and stress breakdown is that a person undergoing a stress breakdown will be intermittently
lucid, often alternating seamlessly between paranoia and seeking information about their paranoia and other symptoms. The
person is also likely to be talking about resolving their work situation (which is the cause of their problems), planning
legal action against the bully and the employer, wanting to talk to their union rep and solicitor, etc.
A stress breakdown is a transformational experience
which, with the right support, can ultimately enrich the experiencer's life. However, completing the transformation can be
a long and sometimes painful process. The Western response - to hospitalise and medicalize the experience, thus hindering
the process - may be well-intentioned, but may lessen the value and effectiveness of the transformation. How would you feel
if, rather than a breakdown, you viewed it as a breakthrough? How would you feel if it was suggested to
you that the reason for a stress breakdown is to awaken you to your mission in life and to enable you to discover the reason
why you have incarnated on this planet? How would it change your view of things if it was also suggested to you that a stress
breakdown reconfigures your brain to enable you to embark on the path that will culminate in the achievement of your mission?
[More | More]
Differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury
person who is being bullied will eventually say something like "I think I'm being paranoid..."; however
they are correctly identifying hypervigilance, a symptom of PTSD, but using the popular but misunderstood word paranoia.
The differences between hypervigilance and paranoia make a good starting point for identifying the differences between mental
illness and psychiatric injury.
paranoia is a form of mental illness;
the cause is thought to be internal, eg a minor variation in the balance of brain chemistry
is a response to an external event (violence,
accident, disaster, violation, intrusion, bullying, etc) and therefore an injury
paranoia tends to endure and to
not get better of its own accord
wears off (gets better), albeit slowly, when the person is out of and away from the situation which was the
paranoiac will not admit to feeling paranoid, as they cannot see their paranoia
the hypervigilant person is acutely aware of their hypervigilance,
and will easily articulate their fear, albeit using the incorrect but popularised word "paranoia"
sometimes responds to
are not viewed favourably by hypervigilant people, except in extreme circumstances, and then only briefly; often drugs
have no effect, or can make things worse, sometimes interfering with the body's own healing process
the paranoiac often
has delusions of grandeur; the delusional aspects of paranoia feature in other forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia
the hypervigilant person often has
a diminished sense of self-worth, sometimes dramatically so
the paranoiac is convinced of their self-importance
the hypervigilant person is often convinced
of their worthlessness and will often deny their value to others
paranoia is often seen in conjunction with other symptoms
of mental illness, but not in conjunction with symptoms of PTSD
hypervigilance is seen in conjunction with other symptoms of PTSD,
but not in conjunction with symptoms of mental illness
the paranoiac is convinced of their plausibility
the hypervigilant person is aware of
how implausible their experience sounds and often doesn't want to believe it themselves (disbelief and denial)
the paranoiac feels
persecuted by a person or persons unknown (eg "they're out to get me")
the hypervigilant person is hypersensitized but
is often aware of the inappropriateness of their heightened sensitivity, and can identify the person responsible
for their psychiatric injury
sense of persecution
heightened sense of vulnerability to victimisation
the sense of persecution felt by the paranoiac
is a delusion, for usually no-one is out to get them
the hypervigilant person's sense of threat is well-founded, for the serial bully is
out to get rid of them and has often coerced others into assisting, eg through mobbing; the hypervigilant
person often cannot (and refuses to) see that the serial bully is doing everything possible to get rid of them
the paranoiac is on
constant alert because they know someone is out to get them
the hypervigilant person is on alert in case there is danger
the paranoiac is certain
of their belief and their behaviour and expects others to share that certainty
the hypervigilant person cannot bring themselves to believe
that the bully cannot and will not see the effect their behaviour is having; they cling naively to the mistaken
belief that the bully will recognise their wrongdoing and apologise
Other differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury include:
often cannot be identified
cause is easily identifiable and verifiable, but denied by those who are accountable
the person may be incoherent or what they say
doesn't make sense
is often articulate but prevented from articulation by being traumatised
the person may appear to be obsessed
the person is obsessive, especially in relation to identifying
the cause of their injury and both dealing with the cause and effecting their recovery
the person is oblivious to their behaviour
and the effect it has on others
person is in a state of acute self-awareness and aware of their state, but often unable to explain it
the depression is a clinical or
is reactive; the chemistry is different to endogenous depression
there may be a history of depression in the family
there is very often no history of depression in the individual or their family
the person has usually exhibited
mental health problems before
there is no history of mental health problems
may respond inappropriately to the needs and concerns of others
responds empathically to the needs and concerns of others,
despite their own injury
displays a certitude about themselves, their circumstances and their actions
is often highly sceptical about their condition and circumstances and is in a state
of disbelief and bewilderment which they will easily and often articulate ("I can't believe this is happening
to me" and "Why me?" - click here for the answer)
may suffer a persecution complex
may experience an unusually heightened sense of vulnerability to possible victimisation (ie hypervigilance)
suicidal thoughts are the result
of despair, dejection and hopelessness
suicidal thoughts are often a logical and carefully thought-out solution or conclusion
is driven by the anger of injustice
often doesn't look forward to each new
looks forward to each new
day as an opportunity to fight for justice
is often ready to give in or admit defeat
refuses to be beaten, refuses to give up
Common features of Complex PTSD from bullying
Complex PTSD as a result of bullying report consistent symptoms which further help to characterise psychiatric injury and
differentiate it from mental illness. These include:
with symptoms of or similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME) An anger of injustice stimulated to an excessive degree (sometimes but improperly attracting the
words "manic" instead of motivated, "obsessive" instead of focused, and "angry" instead of
"passionate", especially from those with something to fear) An overwhelming desire for acknowledgement,
understanding, recognition and validation of their experience A simultaneous and paradoxical unwillingness to talk
about the bullying (click here to see why) or abuse (click here to see why) A lack of desire for revenge, but a strong motivation for justice A tendency to oscillate between
conciliation (forgiveness) and anger (revenge) with objectivity being the main casualty Extreme fragility, where
formerly the person was of a strong, stable character Numbness, both physical (toes, fingertips, and lips) and emotional
(inability to feel love and joy) Clumsiness Forgetfulness Hyperawareness and an acute sense of time
passing, seasons changing, and distances travelled An enhanced environmental awareness, often on a planetary scale An appreciation of the need to adopt a healthier diet, possibly reducing or eliminating meat - especially red meat Willingness to try complementary medicine and alternative, holistic therapies, etc A constant feeling that one
has to justify everything one says and does A constant need to prove oneself, even when surrounded by good, positive
people An unusually strong sense of vulnerability, victimisation or possible victimisation, often wrongly diagnosed
as "persecution" Occasional violent intrusive visualisations Feelings of worthlessness, rejection,
a sense of being unwanted, unlikeable and unlovable A feeling of being small, insignificant, and invisible
An overwhelming sense of betrayal, and a consequent inability and unwillingness to trust anyone, even those close to you In contrast to the chronic fatigue, depression etc, occasional false dawns with sudden bursts of energy accompanied
by a feeling of "I'm better!", only to be followed by a full resurgence of symptoms a day or two later
Excessive guilt - when the cause of PTSD is bullying, the guilt expresses itself in forms distinct from "survivor
guilt"; it comes out as:
an initial reluctance to take action
against the bully and report him/her knowing that he/she could lose his/her job
later, this reluctance gives way to a strong urge to take action against the bully so that others, especially
successors, don't have to suffer a similar fate
reluctance to feel happiness
and joy because one's sense of other people's suffering throughout the world is heightened
a proneness to identifying with other people's suffering
sense of unworthiness, undeservingness and non-entitlement (some might call this shame)
a heightened sense of indebtedness, beholdenness and undue obligation
a reluctance to earn or accept money because one's sense of poverty and injustice throughout the world is heightened
an unwillingness to take ill-health retirement because the person doesn't want to believe
they are sufficiently unwell to merit it
an unwillingness to draw sickness,
incapacity or unemployment benefit to which the person is entitled
unusually strong desire to educate the employer and help the employer introduce an anti-bullying ethos, usually proportional
to the employer's lack of interest in anti-bullying measures
to help others, often overwhelming and bordering on obsession, and to be available for others at any time regardless
of the cost to oneself
an unusually high inclination to feel sorry for
other people who are under stress, including those in a position of authority, even those who are not fulfilling the
duties and obligations of their position (which may include the bully) but who are continuing to enjoy salary
for remaining in post [hint: to overcome this tendency, every time you start to feel sorry for someone, say to yourself
"sometimes, when you jump in and rescue someone, you deny them the opportunity to learn and grow"]
The fatigue is understandable when you realise
that in bullying, the target's fight or flight mechanism eventually becomes activated from Sunday evening (at the thought
of facing the bully at work on Monday morning) through to the following Saturday morning (phew - weekend at last!). The fight
or flight mechanism is designed to be operational only briefly and intermittently; in the heightened state of alert, the body
consumes abnormally high levels of energy. If this state becomes semi-permanent, the body's physical, mental and emotional
batteries are drained dry. Whilst the weekend theoretically is a time for the batteries to recharge, this doesn't happen,
the person is by now obsessed with the situation (or rather,
resolving the situation), cannot switch off, may be unable to sleep, and probably has nightmares, flashbacks and replays;
sleep is non-restorative and unrefreshing - one goes to sleep tired and wakes up tired
this type of experience plays havoc with the immune system; when the fight or flight system
is eventually switched off, the immune system is impaired such that the person is open to viruses which they would under
normal circumstances fight off; the person then spends each weekend with a cold, cough, flu, glandular fever, laryngitis,
ear infection etc so the body's batteries never have an opportunity to recharge.
When activated, the body's fight or flight response results in the digestive, immune and reproductive systems being
placed on standby. It's no coincidence that people experiencing constant abuse, harassment and bullying report malfunctions
related to these systems (loss of appetite, constant infections, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, loss of libido, impotence,
etc). The body becomes awash with cortisol which in high prolonged doses is toxic to brain cells. Cortisol kills off neuroreceptors
in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked with learning and memory. The hippocampus is also the control centre for the
fight or flight response, thus the ability to control the fight or flight mechanism itself becomes impaired.
Most survivors of bullying experience symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - see health page for details.
In law, gaining compensation for psychiatric injury
is a long arduous process which can take five years of more. The areas most commonly quoted are breach of duty of care under
the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and personal injury. There is little case law for personal injury caused by bullying
(although there have been settlements which are subject to gagging clauses).
most frequently quoted case is Walker v. Northumberland County Council  IRLR35 (High Court). John
Walker was a social worker dealing with child abuse cases. He suffered a stress breakdown caused by work overload, recovered
and went back to work; his employer, having been informed of the cause of his stress breakdown, took no steps to reduce his
workload and Mr Walker subsequently suffered a second stress breakdown. The award was made by the courts on the basis of the
second stress breakdown.
In July 1999 Beverley Lancaster won her
case for stress against Birmingham City Council, and in September 2000 in the case of Waters v. London Metropolitan Police the UK House of Lords judged that an employee (or in this case an office holder) has the right in law to sue for negligence if bullying and harassment
which the employer knew about but failed to deal with resulted in psychiatric injury.
However, the law at present is clearly inadequate:
better a person qualifies to pursue a claim for personal injury by satisfying PTSD DSM-IV diagnostic criteria B4, B5, C1,
C2, C3, D3, E and F, the more they are, ipso facto, frustrated from pursuing the claim
B4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect
of the traumatic event; B5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or
resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing
of general responsiveness: C1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma; C2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma; C3. inability to
recall an important aspect of the trauma; D3. difficulty concentrating; E. The symptoms on Criteria B, C and
D last for more than one month. F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational or other important areas of functioning.
Diagnostic Criteria are exacerbated by the abusive and aggressive behaviour of the bully, the employer, and the employer's
legal representatives in their defence and rejection of the claim.
its Consultation Paper on Liability for Psychiatric Illness (No 137) the Law Commission recommended, among other things, that
6.2 There should continue to be liability for negligently inflicted
psychiatric illness that does not arise from a physical injury to the plaintiff; 6.15 Damages for psychiatric illness
should continue to be recoverable irrespective of whether the psychiatric illness is of a particular severity; 6.20
Subject to standard defences, there should be liability where an employer has negligently overburdened its employee with
work thereby foreseeably causing him or her to suffer a psychiatric illness.
There are a growing number of personal injury cases (for psychiatric injury caused by bullying) in the pipeline,
with the first settled out of court in February 1998. See the case law page for recent cases and settlements.
Bullying causes PTSD: the legal case
Many people, especially
guilty parties and their accomplices and lawyers, reject the notion that PTSD can arise from bullying. However, this research
European Journal of Work and Organizational
Psychology (EJWOP), 1996, 5(2), whole issue devoted to bullying and its effects, including PTSD. Published by
Psychology Press, 27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA, UK.
The number of people suffering
PTSD is unknown but David Kinchin estimates in his bookPost Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury that at any time around 1% of the population are experiencing PTSD. This figure is only for PTSD resulting from traditional
causes such as accident, violence or disaster.
The incidence of Complex
PTSD is unknown; with estimates of the number of people being bullied at work in the UK ranging from 1 in 8 (IPD, November 1996) to 1 in 2 (Staffordshire University Business School, 1994), the figure could be as high as 14 million - or more. The silent
suffering is considerable; symptoms prevent sufferers from realising their potential and contributing fully to society. Many
sufferers are claiming benefit, often reluctantly, as people who suffer Complex PTSD are often hard working and industrious
prior to their injury. Anyone who is on benefit and unable to work is also not paying tax and national insurance.
Within some groups of society, the incidence of PTSD must be expected
to be much higher than one per cent. Within the emergency services (fire, police and ambulance) and the armed forces (army,
navy and air force) the incidence of PTSD can be as high as 15 per cent. It is a disturbing probability that out of every
hundred police officers currently engaged in uniformed patrol duties in our towns and cities, fifteen will be suffering
from symptoms in accord with PTSD. David Kinchin, Author, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Stress is on everybody's minds these days. However,
whilst almost everyone seems to feel "stressed", most people are unaware that stress comes in two forms: positive
Positive stress (what Abraham Maslow calls eustress)
is the result of good management and excellent leadership where everyone works hard, is kept informed and involved, and -
importantly - is valued and supported. People feel in control.
stress (what Maslow calls distress) is the result of a bullying climate where threat and coercion substitute for
non-existent management skills. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress".
I define stress as "the degree to which one feels, perceives or believes one
is not in control of one's circumstances". Control - or people's perception of being in control - seems to be key to
susceptibility to experiencing PTSD.
The UK, and much of the Western world,
adopts a blame-the-victim mentality as a way of avoiding having to deal with difficult issues. When dealing with
stress it is essential to identify the cause of stress and work to reduce or eliminate the cause. Sending employees
on stress management courses may sound good on paper but coercing people to endure more stress without addressing the cause
is going to result in further psychiatric injury.
Stress is not
the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload and excessive demands but a consequence of the employer's failure
to provide a safe system of work as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Stress is known to cause brain damage. Dr John T O'Brien, consultant in old-age psychiatry at Newcastle General Hospital,
published a paper in March 1997 entitled "The glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis in man" (and presumably
woman), helpfully subtitled "Prolonged stress may cause permanent brain damage". If Dr O'Brien's
research proves correct, then employers who encourage stressful regimes comprising long hours, threat and coercion might soon
find themselves on the wrong end of a string of expensive personal injury lawsuits.
As an individual, what can I do to tackle bullying at work?
Bullying takes place behind closed doors with no witnesses and no evidence (in the traditional sense). When called
to account, the bully uses charm and their Jekyll and Hyde nature to lie convincingly. Bullies are clever, but you can be
clever too. Here's how to deal with bullying at work:
Step 1: regain control
Recognise what is happening to you as bullying - it is
the bully who has the problem, which he or she is projecting on to you.
and allegations, which are ostensibly about you or your performance and which sometimes contain a grain (but only a grain)
of truth, are not about you or your performance. Do not be fooled by that grain of truth into believing
the criticisms and allegations have any validity - they do not. The purpose of criticism is control; it has
nothing to do with performance enhancement. Contact us for strategies on how to turn false allegations to your advantage.
and allegations are a projection of the bully's own weaknesses, shortcomings, failings and incompetence; every criticism or allegation is an admission
by the bully of their misdeeds and wrongdoing, something they have said or done - or failed to do.
You are not alone - surveys (by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, TUC, UMIST, Staffordshire University Business School etc)
suggest this is happening to between 3 and 14 million employees in the UK, and from extensive feedback, pro rata in other
countries. See case histories for the similarities between your case and those of others.
be encouraged to feel shame, embarrassment, guilt and fear - this is a normal reaction, but misplaced and inappropriate.
Guilt and fear are well-known as tactics of control. This is how all abusers, including child sex abusers, control
and silence their victims.
You may be wondering Why me? Click
here for the answer.
You cannot handle bullying by yourself - bullies use
deception, amoral behaviour and abuse of power. Get help. There is no shame or failure in this - the bully is devious,
deceptive, evasive and manipulative - and cheats. Often, the bully is behaving in the manner of a sociopath or other disordered personality. If you are dealing with a sociopath - I estimate one person in thirty is a serial
bully with sociopathic traits - remember that naivety is the greatest enemy. You must see the disordered personality
behind the mask and realise that the serial bully has a completely different mindset, often one that will never change
- except to improve their skills of manipulation, deception and evasion of accountability.
Step 2: plan for action
everything you can about bullying. It's essential you do your homework before taking action; read and digest everything
on this web site.
Mark this web site as one of your favourites; it's updated regularly.
Click here for the latest news on bullying.
Overcome all the misperceptions about bullying (that "it's tough management", etc).
Keep a log (journal, diary) of everything - it's not each incident that counts, it's the number, regularity
and especially the patterns that reveal bullying. With most forms of mystery, deception, etc it's the patterns
that are important. The bully can explain individual incidents but cannot explain away the pattern. It's the
pattern which reveals intent.
Keep your diary in a safe
place, not at work where others can and will steal it; keep it at home, and keep photocopies of important documents in
a separate location (not at work); in several cases the bully has rifled the desk drawers of their target, stolen the
diary and then used it as "evidence" of misconduct.
copies of all letters, memos, emails, etc. Get and keep everything in writing otherwise the bully will deny everything
Carry a notepad and pen with you and record everything that the
bully says and does. Also make a note of every interaction with personnel, management, and anyone else connected with
the bullying. Expect to be accused of "misconduct" and "unprofessional behaviour" and a few other
things when you do this.
Record everything in writing; when criticisms
or allegations are made, write and ask the bully to substantiate their criticisms and allegations in writing by providing
substantive and quantifiable evidence. When the bully doesn't reply or fails to supply substantive and quantifiable
evidence, write again pointing out you've asked for justification and the bully has chosen not to reply or has failed
to justify their claim. On the third occasion point out, in writing, that making allegations and refusing to substantiate
them in writing or failing to provide substantive and quantifiable evidence is a form of harassment. The bully's criticisms
and allegations, which are usually founded on distortion, blame and fabrication, are an opinion or fabrication
for the purpose of control. For some phrases to you complete the information request form.
Denial is everywhere. The person who asserts their right not to be bullied
is often blowing the whistle on another's incompetence (which the bullying is intended to hide). Expect the bully
to deny everything, expect the bully's superiors to deny and disbelieve everything, and - as evidenced by thousands of
cases reported to my Advice Line - expect personnel/human resources to disbelieve you and deny the bullying, for they
will already have been deceived by the bully into joining in with the bully and getting rid of you. Click here for more on how and why Human Resources often don't support targets of bullying.
The serial bully likes to play people off against each other so try to reunite yourself with your employer against
the bully. Point out professionally to your HR people that the serial bully is encouraging the employer and employee to
engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict in which there are no winners, only losers. The bully gains
gratification from manipulating and watching others destroy each other. If the bully realises they've been rumbled
they will move on leaving the employer to incur all the vicarious liability for the their behaviour. The bully has done
this before and will do it again. Also point out to HR that the bullying they are seeing is the tip of an iceberg
of wrongdoing by the bully which is likely to include financial misappropriation, financial incompetence, breaches of
regulations and codes of practice, breaches of health and safety, etc.
bullies excel at deception and manipulation. Do not underestimate the bully's capacity to deceive. When
dealing with personnel and senior management, focus exclusively on legal and financial matters. Point your personnel/HR
people to Bully OnLine at Bully Online
Contact us for more ideas on phraseology and strategy for dealing with a serial bully. Most readers of Bully in sight say that whilst everyone around them is denying the bullying, my book is the only resource which provides validation
of the bullying experience, recognition of the injury to health, and re-empowerment to take purposeful
action. Click here for readers' comments.
Build yourself a support network. Bullies
separate and isolate their targets, sometimes going as far as to cause division within the target's family. The bully
is likely to be manipulating your work colleagues into distancing themselves from you, either by sweet-talking them with charm, or by playing on their vulnerabilities
whilst raising doubts about their job security.
Expect your work colleagues
to melt away - to see why, click here.
You may be advised to stand up for yourself (although the person
saying this will have no idea how to); in fact the more you stand up for yourself the worse things are likely to get
- click here to see why.
See your doctor - bullying causes prolonged negative
stress which results in psychiatric injury. Psychiatric injury has nothing to do with mental illness, despite what others
(including some mental health professionals) may say or infer. To see the difference between mental illness and psychiatric
injury, click here. If stress is diagnosed, make sure it includes the cause, eg stress caused by conditions in the workplace.
If depression is diagnosed, make sure it is recorded as reactive depression. To see how prolonged negative stress
causes injury to health, click here. Remember that stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload but a consequence of the employer's
failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Read up on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, especially PTSD caused by bullying. PTSD is the diagnosis of the collective symptoms of psychiatric injury caused by bullying. I republished David Kinchin's
excellent book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury in January 1998 and again in 2001 and 2004. David has revised and updated his book to include chapters on PTSD caused
by physical/sexual abuse, terrorism, and bullying. Click here for book overview and here to order online.
If you've suffered a psychiatric injury due to bullying,
enter it in the accident book. That makes it official.
If you plan
to claim compensation for the psychiatric injury caused by bullying under the UK Industrial Injuries Scheme see the TUC guidance.
If you've not done so, contact a bully helpline (see Helplines on Links page) and see if there's a bullying survivor support group in your area. Tim Field regrets that due to overwhelming demand he is no longer able to advise on individual cases.
Contact your union representative, copy this information to them, advise
them of this web site. Not all trade unions support their members in cases of bullying and stress; to understand why,
read this page.
Obtain a copy of the MSF union's Bullying at Work: a guide for representatives
and members (see Resources on Links page)
Take the matter up with your line management - beware though, most
bullies are the line manager and are supported by their line manager, etc. Often, the bullying is hierarchical and
comes from the top.
Obtain a copy of your employer's bullying and harassment
policy. You might wish to do this discreetly (eg through a third party) if you're not yet ready to challenge the bully.
Targets of bullying often have to educate those who are - or should be
- supporting them. Copy this information to them, make them aware of Bully OnLine: the
web site address (URL) is Bully Online
Contact occupational health - bullying causes prolonged negative stress
which results in injury to health and if it continues may culminate in psychiatric injury. You are unlikely to be
the only person contact your OH department - and you may not be the first to name the bully.
Contact your welfare & counselling officer - this could be your most important port of call. A traumatic experience such as being
bullied may awaken and feed on past traumas (eg bereavement, particularly if you have not fully grieved), which bullies
often exploit to play the...
Mental health trap: the symptoms
and effects of bullying are a psychiatric injury, not a mental illness. To see the differences, click
here. If this trap is sprung, look the bully in the eye and with a witness present say "the state of my physical
and mental wellbeing today is a direct consequence of your behaviour towards me over the period [dates]". Expect
confusion, then denial followed by more aggression.
If you believe
you are about to be unfairly dismissed, you may be able to get a High Court injunction to stop the dismissal; click here.
If you feel you're being obstructed in your pursuit of justice,
have a read of this page.
If you are forced into sickness absence or ill-health retirement or
you have a stress breakdown through the bullying of a manager or colleague, record it in the accident book; this ensures
that the bullying is officially logged. Inform the employer in writing that a person's bullying behaviour has resulted
in injury to health causing you (and others) to be ill. If you are subsequently victimised for doing this, you may be
able to claim victimization under the Employment Rights Act (there's no qualifying period and compensation is unlimited);
click here for details.
If the bullying has caused you to be off sick with stress, anxiety,
depression etc (collectively your symptoms may amount to PTSD) and the employer is trying to coerce you back to work, write a letter to the employer stating that your absence "...is
due to symptoms of psychiatric injury resulting from stress caused by the inappropriate behaviours of others and unduly
stressful working conditions and that you look forward to returning to work at the earliest opportunity and ... to facilitate
your return ask that the employer assures you, in writing, that they will fulfil their obligation of duty of care
under the Health and Safety at Work Act to provide you with both a safe place of work and a safe system of work".
Inform your employer that your psychiatric injury (and the ill health of others) is due
to bullying by another member of staff and that this employee's behaviour is a danger to the health & safety of employees;
highlight the high staff turnover in that individual's department and the corresponding amount of sickness absence / stress
breakdowns / early and ill-health retirement / attempted or actual suicides / deaths in service. If you are subsequently
victimised for reporting this health and safety hazard you may find the provisions of the Trade Union Reform and Employment
Rights Act 1993 apply, under which tribunals may award substantial compensation; click here.
Search the web for the name of your bully. As the name implies, serial
bullies are repeat offenders and your bully may have featured in previous cases. For a list of search engines see
action/search.htm and try two or three. Search for the full name in quotes, eg "John Doe" as well as variations and alternative
Follow the grievance procedure, but beware that such procedures
are biased in favour of the manager, as well as being inappropriate for dealing with bullying. Understand the profile of the serial bully and the four subtypes and emphasise the Jekyll and Hyde nature and compulsive lying. The bully will already have
deceived personnel and his/her superiors. If you go to employment tribunal later, the tribunal will look to see if you've followed all the options open to you (regardless of whether or not
they work). In the UK, the Employment Act 2002 (in force from April 2004) makes it mandatory for employees and employers to follow grievance and disciplinary &
dismissal procedures, otherwise any dismissal is automatically unfair and compensation will be affected.
If the bully prevents you from being accompanied to grievance and
disciplinary meetings, check your rights under UK law.
If the bully is making unwarranted criticisms in public or on your record,
you may feel it appropriate to ask your solicitor to write a letter to the bully pointing out that he or she is subject
to the laws of slander, libel and defamation of character.
If your employer
refuses to get involved, or backs the bully in his/her attempt to get rid of you, you might consider asking your solicitor
to write to someone in authority (with legal responsibility) outlining the way your manager has treated you, stating that
your rights in law will be vigorously defended against the unacceptable behaviour of one of their employees whose actions will be monitored
as a consequence of his or her declared intentions. This turns the spotlight on the bully rather than on the target. If
your employer is unwilling to address the bullying - perhaps because the bullying is hiding incompetence which is
endemic in the organisation - expect fireworks.
Consider leaving - regard
it as a positive decision in the face of overwhelming odds which are not of your choosing,
not of you making, and over which you have no control. In this type of situation, walking away is the best thing to do,
for in doing so, you regain control. Choose to move on and find an employer who truly values you and your skills
and where your career can flourish. Refuse to allow your health to be destroyed and your career to be wrecked by a loser.
Serial bullies are obsessive and compulsive in their behaviour; once they start on their target they won't let go until
that person is destroyed. For most people, the top priority is to be financially stable. What's more important - your
job, or your health, career, life and family?
If you are forced into
leaving, make it clear to your employer in writing that this is due to bullying. Get professional advice before
Do your utmost to obtain an agreed reference. Without one you may not
be able to get another job, especially in the professions. Most employers require a reference from your previous employer
and the bully never misses the opportunity to sabotage your career. If you believe the bully is giving prospective employers
a bad or misleading reference by phone, contact us for some suggestions on how to deal with this.
If all else fails,
consider taking your employer to an Employment Tribunal; for a free booklet on the Tribunal procedure call the UK ET Helpline
on telephone 08457 959775. Read Employment Tribunal Claims, A Practical Guide by Brown, Mortlock, Rankin
and Phillips, published by and obtainable from The Stationery Office. £30 but you can order it through your library.
Tells you how to put together a bundle, what documents, what order, who/when etc. See also the Legal page. If you can't afford a solicitor see the Law Centres web pages. If your union is not giving you legal support, check your household insurance policies to see if you are covered
for legal expenses. If your union fails to support you, the union may be in breach of contract - if you're in the UK and
this applies to you see http://www.certoffice.org/pages/index.cfm
If you're in Canada and considering legal action, read Conducting
a wrongful dismissal action by David J Corry and James M Petrie (Carswell Thomson Professional Publishing, 1996).
If you've no alternative but to go to Employment Tribunal, previous cases ("case law")
are listed in Industrial Relations Law Reports (IRLR), a copy of which is available in some specialist (eg university or college or business) libraries which are oftne
open to the public.
Seek out self-help groups for mutual support -
or consider starting one - a positive and cathartic exercise. Existing support groups are listed on the Links page. For ideas and guidance on starting a bullying survivor support group, click here.
Consider suing for personal injury - solicitors may now do this on a
no win no fee basis. Bear in mind that this might take 3 years (County Court - awards up to £50,000) or 5 years
(High Court - awards over £50,000) or more. For many though, especially those suffering trauma, the legal system
can be more abusive than the original bullying. Defence lawyers will often string out the proceedings as long as possible
in the hope you'll get fed up and go away, or run out of money, or become so ill you'll have to withdraw, or even
die. What a nice world we live in. They're also likely to go through your past and dig up any trauma (including bereavement)
and claim that is the origin of your present ill health. This process is similar to victims of rape being portrayed as
"loose women" and therefore responsible for the rape. Ironically, anyone suffering PTSD is likely to be
frustrated from pursuing a case in proportion to how deserving their case is - to see why click here. If your PTSD is as a direct result of harassment or discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or disability
you will have to pursue personal injury at tribunal (ref the case of Sheriff v. Klyne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd
- see legal page).
Consider going public - awareness is rising, the media are interested
and sympathetic; ask for anonymity at the outset if required. For the latest media opportunities, click here.
If you do take on the bully, beware that bullies can be very vindictive.
Often, you are dealing with a socialised psychopath (sociopath) or disordered personality who does not share the same moral values as you. Bullies think they are above
the law - but insist that you stay rigidly within the law.
The Number One mistake people make is to not recognise the serial bully as a sociopath or disordered personality. Naivety is the greatest enemy - most people can't or won't believe that the person they're tackling is
a serial bully, and consequently expect the bully to recognise their wrongdoing and make amends. Serial bullies cannot
and will not - but they will ruthlessly exploit other people's naivety to ensure their own survival. Never underestimate
the serial bully's deviousness, ruthlessness, cunning, and ability to deceive - and their vindictiveness.
Phrases you might find useful:
"By the way s/he
chooses to behave, s/he prevents myself and others from fulfilling our duties."
the way s/he chooses to behave, s/he brings her/himself, the staff, the department and the employer into disrepute."
"The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy; bullying
is a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence."
"Your criticisms and allegations
lack substantive and quantifiable evidence."
you are fighting a case of bullying against a serial bully and the employer chooses to not respond positively, remember the
Bullying is an obsessive compulsive behaviour and
therefore repetitive; it's often a lifetime behaviour. It is most likely the serial bully has a history of this behaviour
which a little investigation will reveal.
The serial bully displays
an arrogance and fully expects to get away with their behaviour.
bullying is highly predictable; this site describes the profile of the serial bully (click here to see).
The serial bully is a compulsive liar with a Jekyll and
Hyde nature who excels at deception - therefore their word cannot be trusted. Highlight this at every opportunity.
When dealing with the serial bully, concentrate on the patterns of incidents rather
than the incidents themselves (which are often trivial when taken out of context). The bully can always explain away individual
incidents, but s/he cannot explain the pattern. When discussing any single incident, refer repeatedly to the pattern of
which this incident is part.
Bullies are adept at creating conflict
between those who would otherwise pool negative information; make it clear to your employer that the bully is working
for his or her own self-interest and gains gratification from encouraging the employer and employee to engage in adversarial
interaction and destructive conflict. Remind your employer that the bully is deliberately and wilfully causing the employer
to incur vicarious liability for their behaviour.
The purpose of bullying
is to hide inadequacy, and people who bully to hide their inadequacy are often incompetent; the worse the bullying, the
greater and more widespread the incompetence. Abusive employers will often pay large out-of-court settlements to keep
that incompetence secret.
If all else fails, and legal action proves impossible, remember Klingon wisdom: bortaS bIr jablu'DI'reH QaQqu' nay' which translates as Revenge
is a dish best served cold: give media interviews, write articles, contribute to research, or write a book ... use those qualities of competence, popularity, integrity and courage of which the bully was
jealous and envious.
One of the best ways to raise awareness is to create
your own web site. Bully OnLine started like this, as did Bullying Online. Click here for ideas and guidance on how to design and build your own web site.
Bully OnLine started life as six pages early in 1997, and by its official launch in January 1998 had grown
to over a dozen pages. Today there are over 400 pages and it's still growing.
As an employer, what can I do about it?
for employers on dealing with bullying - from creating an anti-bullying ethos within the organisation to developing an anti-bullying
policy - has been moved to a separate page. Bullies are bad for business and the bully causes you, the employer, to incur vicarious liability for their behaviour.
Training videos which help employers recognise and deal with bullying are listed
on the videos page.
Action plan for everybody
Tell everyone about Bully OnLine at Bully Online Much of the insight into workplace bullying also applies to bullying elsewhere, eg in discrimination, harassment,
racism, domestic violence, child and school bullying, elderly abuse, etc. The profile of the serial bully is common to most abusers, including sexual and racial harassers, violent partners, paedophiles, etc. The page on
abuse looks at why people become serial bullies and explains why targets of abuse often can't report their abuse.
List and quote Bully
OnLine on web sites, links pages, forums, bulletin boards, newsgroups, etc.
Half the population experience bullying, but most don't recognise it until you give it a name and describe the
patterns. This means half the people you know will benefit from this web site, as will their partners, siblings, family,
friends and work colleagues - so tell them about Bully OnLine at Bully Online
Write letters to newspapers, journals, magazines etc alerting them to
Bully OnLine at Bully Online and how useful it's been.
If you've benefited from my book Bully in sight, recommend to your local bookshop and library that they stock copies. If you've bought it from a bookshop, suggest
that they have more copies available. See readers' feedback.
The UK Government (and most governments) do not appreciate the cost
and scale of bullying. Lobby your MP and get him/her to support Valerie Davey's Early Day Motion on the Dignity at Work Bill. Click here if you don't know who your MP is. Keep in touch with the Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work. Write to your MP but keep your letter brief (two pages maximum, preferably one page), professional and polite.
Click here for a sample letter. Type it rather than hand write. Avoid detail and the "he-said-she-said.." which is
unconvincing to those not familiar with the issue. Welcome the recent reduction of qualifying period from 2 years to 1
year and the proposed increase in maximum compensation for unfair/constructive dismissal from £12K to £50K.
Focus on the cost to industry and taxpayers (see facts, figures and costs page), the purpose of bullying (to hide inadequacy), the waste and inefficiency, the drain on the welfare state (sickness
absence, ill-health benefit), the loss of income tax to the taxman (unemployment, ill-health retirement etc), the
inadequacy of legislation (and that if you're white, British, able-bodied and the same gender as the bully you're discriminated against by not
qualifying under discrimination legislation), and the profile of the serial bully. Encourage others to write. To forestall the standard reply, point out the inappropriateness of the Criminal Justice
and Public Order Act (1994) and the Protection from Harassment Act (1996) for dealing with a manager who is interested
only in hiding his or her inadequacy by constantly criticising you and abusing the disciplinary procedures to control
and subjugate employees. Recommend also that: a) the one-year qualifying period before you can claim unfair
or constructive dismissal should be abolished; tribunals will take length of service into account; b) compensation
should be unlimited as for sex and race discrimination; c) the 12-week application limit for tribunals should be
relaxed in cases where the applicant is suffering Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; d) the Dignity at Work Bill should become the Dignity at Work Act as quickly as possible - 103 MPs have signed Valerie Davey's Early Day Motion
EDRC - formerly the award winning website 'Addictions and More'
was created in the late 1980's as a site offering information
and support to those seeking education about various addictions. Addictions.net became one of the first
websites offering information about Eating Disorders. By the early 1990's it became clear that
most visitors to the site needed more information on the lethal illnesses of eating disorders. The site's
focus shifted to eating disorders at that time offering individuals across the world assistance with education,
links for treatment, and much needed support. Within
this shift the new name of the site - Eating Disorder Recovery Center (EDRC) was created. Until 2010 Addictions.net has been the only noted website offering non-advertized
information on eating disorders. The site has been maintained by a single. experienced Eating Disorder Psychotherapist/Therapist
(Deborah Kuehnel, LCSW) as a pro-bono addition to a
29+ year career dedicated to the treatment of Eating Disorders.