Five Examples Of Bullying: Where And Why It Can Happen

Medically reviewed by Aaron Dutil
Updated February 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

While most people think of school-aged children when they think of bullying, elementary school may not be the only place where bullying occurs. Examples of bullying can also occur at work, home, or online and is often the result of the bully feeling inadequate, jealous, or having a need to control others. You may cope with bullying by reaching out to someone in a position of authority or connecting with a licensed therapist in person or online.

Why do bullies bully?

Bullying can happen in a variety of contexts and for various reasons. Some of the potential reasons someone might bully others may include:

  • Feelings of inadequacy and shame: Bullies often feel insecure and inadequate, and they may push other people around to hide how they feel and prove to themselves that they’re strong. It may not always be obvious they are having these feelings, as they are unlikely to express them to others. 
  • Needing to control others: Since bullies often feel insecure, they may have a greater need than most to control those around them. Forcing other people to do what they want or manipulating others’ emotions by causing fear and humiliation can give the bully a sense of control.
  • It can get the bully what they want: Unfortunately, bullying often results in the bully getting what they want; a person targeted by a bully may give in so that the bullying will end. This behavior may continue until the bully faces consequences. 
  • Jealousy: The bully may feel threatened by their target’s abilities, attitudes, or achievements, and use these as an excuse to be mean.

Five common types of bullying

Bullying in school

Among school-aged children, bullying can be a way to get attention from other students or gain social power over others, especially those seen as weaker or more vulnerable. This dynamic may continue into middle school and high school, where the pressure to fit in may become more intense. Kids who begin bullying others in elementary school tend to continue that behavior through high school and college if nothing is done to change the behavior in the early school years.

Bullying in schools may happen on the playground, in the lunchroom, on the school bus, or in the classroom. At the high school and college level, bullying may happen within athletic teams.

Sometimes, bullying in schools doesn’t just happen among students, but can also be perpetrated by teachers. Teachers may spread rumors or bully other teachers or staff, and in some cases, they may bully their own students.

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Has bullying affected you?

Bullying in the workplace

For some people who started bullying others as children, growing into adulthood may not stop their bullying behavior. Examples of bullying by adults in the workplace can include manipulating someone to do a job that they don’t want to do or withholding raises or promotions unless demands are met. Making rude comments towards an employee or coworker, making threats, setting impossible deadlines, taking credit for the efforts of others, or stealing work equipment can be other examples of workplace bullying. One of the most extreme cases of bullying among adults may be sexual harassment.

Workplace bullies may be made up of a group of coworkers, though they can sometimes be a single person. This group or individual will direct their energy at another group or individual. Bullying in the workplace may seriously affect the target’s mental health and work performance. It may also have a negative effect on the organization’s ability to get business done, and it may even affect the way customers view the business.

Prejudicial bullying

Prejudicial bullying can refer to a type of harassment focusing on things that make the target different from the bully. Prejudicial bullying may occur when a person is singled out and mistreated based on factors such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disabilities, or gender identity. In extreme cases, prejudicial bullying can lead to the bully being accused of or charged with a hate crime.

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Bullying in the home

Bullying behavior in the home can be perpetrated by an adult on a child or by one adult on another. Bullying can also happen between siblings. Bullying in the home may cause emotional pain or take the form of physical, financial, or verbal abuse.

Cyberbullying

While technological advances may have created great opportunities for people to advance their careers or degrees, connect with friends and family who live far away, or launch a business, technology doesn’t always come without risk. 

Today, bullying can happen via email, text message, and on many forms of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. This type of abusive conduct is known as cyberbullying. Examples of cyberbullying can include:

  • Sending messages with threatening or hurtful language through email or text
  • Gossiping about someone on social media or leaving insulting comments
  • Creating fake email or social media accounts to trick someone
  • Taking embarrassing photos of someone without their permission and posting them on social media

Overcoming bullying

If you or someone you know is going through what could be considered bullying, it's important not to see them or yourself as a “victim’.  Instead, take action, report the behavior, and seek help. If you are wondering how to cope with bullying at school, you might talk to a teacher, a school counselor, or other school staff. If you are experiencing bullying at work, you might report the incident to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the one committing the bullying, you might follow your chain of command and talk to the next person in a supervisory position or speak to someone in your human resources office.

If you’re experiencing cyberbullying, you can report it to the platform administrators. In some cases, especially in situations where the bully is threatening physical harm or death, you may also wish to involve your local law enforcement. There may also be other resources specific to the country that you live in; you may be able to find these by doing an Internet search on reporting cyberbullying.

Seeking help with bullying behavior can be a sign of strength, not weakness, as some bullies may lead you to believe. If a bully’s abusive behavior is interfering with your life, talking to a counselor could be a way to learn coping mechanisms and healthy ways to put a stop to the situation. A therapist may also help parents learn strategies to deal with their child being bullied or show them what to do if their children are the ones doing the bullying.

If you live in an area where there is a counseling center nearby, making an appointment for a consultation could be the first step in gaining control over the situation. Alternatively, if you would like to talk to someone but are not comfortable with meeting in person, online therapy could be an option for you.

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Has bullying affected you?

As online therapy has become more common, researchers have become more interested in its efficacy compared to in-person counseling. For common therapy treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, studies have shown that online treatment can be as effective as in-person treatment.

Online therapy can come with plenty of practical benefits as well. It may be less expensive than traditional in-person treatment, for example. In addition, you can attend your online therapy sessions from home, removing the need to travel to and from your therapist’s office.

Takeaway

Bullying can occur in many situations. Bullies are often insecure individuals with a need to control other people. Without proper intervention, bullying may result in a cycle of continued behavior where targets may later bully others or where bullies continue to do so. This is why getting help and reporting the bullying to the proper authorities can be important. If you are the target of bullying and it is interfering with your day-to-day activities, or if your child is being bullied or bullying others, you can seek help from a licensed therapist, who may give you strategies to handle and cope with the situation.

Is bullying impacting your life?

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