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  • Sarah M.

Those Who Bullied Me and the Bystanders


For some reason we associate bullying with playgrounds and high school, but in reality my worse bullying experiences have been as an adult in a work environment.

After years of being bullied, what I noticed was that not only did it feel like crap to not be believed in, but the bystanders were equally as bad as the bully. How did it get to this and why aren't people standing up for others?

I bet most of them including the bully have never thought that they were the problem, that in fact they were actually good people.


Being bullied as an adult you might not be getting pushed around in the school yard, but adult bullies can still act out in their own unique ways. The frustrating part about adult bullies, is that they’ve gotten much better at hiding what they do. They are much more subtle than their “gimme your lunch money” teen counterparts. They know how to poke and prod without attracting the attention of their superiors. In some cases, they might even be your superior. And a lot of the times you might not even know you are being bullied.


'...bullying is sustained by the silence of those who witness it but say nothing. Cultural change occurs in small ways and we must hold bullies accountable.'


Workplace bullying can be hard to spot if you’re not looking for it or like in a lot of cases you turn a blind eye to the bullying. But bystanders...the fact that when a person needs help, many observers simply stand idly by and don't assist the victim, they "don't want to get involved" or "it's not their responsibility." And I totally get not wanting to get involved and possibly making it worse but in my eyes just standing there doing nothing, just ain't right.


Bystanders can be the supporting cast who aid the bully. They also have the power to help change the climate. In many cases, bullying is sustained by the silence of those who witness it but say nothing. Cultural change occurs in small ways and we must hold bullies accountable.


In my case I was maliciously targeted and this went on for years, I mean years, more than some people go to school for; years. And whenever I brought it up to have the situation handled, I always left with the feeling like it was my fault, that because I was reporting it, I was the problem.


'I was to blame because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.'


In my case the bully wanted to gain power over me, make themselves the dominant person. They relentlessly tried to humiliate and mentally break me. They were self-centered and did not have empathy for others. I always had anxiety around them even if there were others there. This person really made my life miserable and difficult, the entire work place felt hostile; some days it felt hopeless, it was excruciating - the intimidation I felt.

Yet, I was to blame because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.


Avoidance strategies were made and I tried my best to ensure I was not alone around the bully, this wasn't always possible. Unfortunately this story does not have the happiest ending or a constructive solution other than I am not in this environment any longer, which in my case is a win.

Some people who are bullied at work might lose their jobs, be pressured to leave or might even be physically attacked by their bully. They might even have to put up with the bullying in order to do what it is they love for their career.


It's important to note, that there is little to nothing you can do about an adult bully, other than ignore and try to avoid them, after reporting the abuse to a supervisor. Many places enable this behavior just because they either don't (want to) see the situation or the bully has some type of value to the company. Bullies are not interested in working things out and they are not interested in compromise. They are more interested in power and domination. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, and they accomplish this by bringing others down.

Bullies don't change, because they don't want to change. But you do not have to tolerate a toxic work place, you deserve to go to work unafraid and to enjoy life in a safe environment.


The road to recovery was challenging, I now focus on the positive things I have going for myself and reject the lies the bully and bystanders fed me. I recognize that the bullying occurred, the bystanders enabled this behavior and that I was not responsible for it. I cannot control what happened to me, but I can control my thoughts, emotions, and actions.

And regardless of the pain that this type of harassment and humiliation caused me, I am a smart, thoughtful, and generally well-liked person.

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