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Bullying: Not Just a Kids' Problem


This October marks the 10th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying, both in person and online, continues to be a problem affecting many children and youth. A 2015 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20 percent of high school students had been bullied at school in the past year and more than 15 percent had been bullied online.

Source: Workplace Bullying Institute, 2010

Yet the problem of bullying does not stop at high school. Bullying among adults is common and can lead to serious consequences. A 2010 study from the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of working adults had experienced bullying in the workplace and another 15 percent had witnessed it. (See graph.) Bullying was defined in the study as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, and humiliation.”

Examples of workplace bullying include using demeaning language or humiliating another in front of coworkers, using intimidating language or actions, refusing to help or sabotaging coworkers, or threating physical harm.

Being the victim of bullying can make day-to-day work life difficult, dissatisfying, unproductive and stressful, and can be harmful to a person’s overall wellbeing. A number of studies have found that workplace bullying is consistently associated with mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Another study found an association between being a bystander to bullying and developing symptoms of depression. Stress from bullying can also contribute to physical illness.

Psychiatrist Brad Zehring, DO, suggests that “despite how difficult it may be, it is important to approach the bully or go to your supervisor with a calm demeanor and discuss your concerns rationally. Approaching them, or the situation, calmly will provide an environment for understanding and increase the probability for change.”

Just as adolescents can be victims of cyberbullying, adults can, too. The Cyberbullying Research Center notes that they receive even more inquiries about adults being victimized online than teenagers. The Center provides tips for adults on Responding to Cyberbullying and Preventing Cyberbullying.

Among the tips for responding:

  • Do not retaliate. Those who bully you online want you to react to them.
  • Record everything. Keep evidence of all content (pictures, texts, emails, tweets, status updates) that the cyberbully has sent or posted about you.
  • Change your contact info. Change your e-mail, phone number or online account completely.
  • Talk to your employer. Let your employer know if the cyberbully is a co-worker, or if the bullying is occurring on a work-related forum or blog. If the harassment prevents you from doing your job, your employer needs to know about it.
  • Talk about it. Speaking with trustworthy friends about what you are going through could be cathartic.

Specific guidance on reporting cyberbullying is available from



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