Simply put, to end workplace bullying, we focus on the actual root of the problem: the bullies. Why? We keep the focus on the bullies as the problem — not how targets react or what personality traits might be flawed (especially since it’s the strengths of the target that puts him or her at risk).
Why bullies bully
Sociopaths can’t empathize (put themselves in others’ shoes) because they’re so completely cut off from their own emotions — particularly fear, hurt, and vulnerability, which they see as a shameful weakness. “If you can’t feel your own emotions, you can’t resonate and empathize with the emotions of other people,” says Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me World.
More on why a bully bullies:
If we think about murder or another criminal activity, the characteristics of the targets are often irrelevant. For murder to occur less often, we look at what really matters: the murderer profile. How does he tick? Why does he resort to murder? Only when we understand the motivation can we start to prevent the behavior.
Workplace bullying is another immoral behavior that requires looking at why bullies bully to understand how to stop it. So let’s steer the workplace bullying conversation away from bullying targets and onto the bullies. In his blog post “Why do people bully? 9 reasons for bullying,” Samuel Ha goes into the mind of a bully.
The workplace bully:
1. Has been bullied before
Family and peer bullying lead to targets feeling worthless. Targets then feel so angry that they take their anger out on others. For those who experienced bullying in childhood, bullying may be all they know (though with awareness, many do not grow up to be bullies).
2. Is lonely
Bullying gives those who feeling unimportant or left out a sense of importance and power. Regardless of how much attention he gets, a bully may need more attention and resort to bullying behavior to get it.
3. Has problems at home
Physical or verbal abuse can cause aggression. Often, bullies are targets, too.
4. Has low self-esteem
Putting someone else down helps a bully feel good enough. “However, they’ll find out sooner or later that it’s a losing strategy because someone will fight back. Unfortunately, they will probably just go back to finding a weaker person to pick on,” says Ha.
5. Is jealous
Jealousy is often a motivator for a bully to take out his frustrations on a target, and popularity is a common motivator for jealousy.
6. Is part of a pack
Bullies often bully in groups to have security through backup in case a target fights back (though not all group members are necessarily bullies).
7. Has a big ego
Some bullies simply have big egos. They truly believe they’re better than others.
8. Likes to impress
Bullies seek attention. When they lack skills or talent to get attention in a healthy way, they use such negative tactics as bullying to get attention.
9. Sees you as different
A bully may simply see you as different – by race, sexuality, disability, or a different reason. “They will single you out and verbally and/or physically abuse you. Usually, they won’t let you know the reason but most of the time it’s obvious,” says Ha.