Is It Bullying or Incivility?

Often times, we ran into people who are just jerks and are rude to random people. Just because a person is rude to us does not mean that they are bullying us.

Anyone, at any age, can become a target of bullying, and there is evidence that child and teen targets are more likely to grow up to be bullied, adults. Some do not, I didn’t, but others do.

All bullies, regardless of age, deep down at their core, are cowards!
The difference between child bullies and adult bullies is that the young bullies select targets who are weaker, smaller, mentally handicapped, or sick with a disease (Type 1 diabetics, childhood cancer patients, paraplegics, etc.).

Adult bullies target well-liked, outgoing, confident, and successful people in their jobs or have successful marriages and family life. Adult bullies target people who have what they themselves want but feel they can’t and feel those people outshine them and threaten them.

With that being said, this has prompted me to talk about the subject and how one can overcome a hostile work environment. I believe that knowledge is power, and without it, you may not know what to do when an adult bully comes calling. So I feel that it is incumbent upon me to share my own knowledge, experience, and the tools I used to overcome a hostile work environment and come out virtually unscathed.

There is no age limit on bullying. It does not stop after high school graduation, nor does it stop at age 18, 21, 40, or even 60. If it did, there would be no assaults, murders, robberies, home invasions, or the like. And there wouldn’t be corporate or government corruption either.

The majority of employees will have at least one encounter with a workplace bully in their lifetime. So if you have never been the target of an ultra dominating and overbearing boss or coworkers, chances are that you will sometime in the future.

After high school, I was fortunate to have never suffered bullying in the workplace until just a few years ago. For years, in the places I worked, I was usually the one who was well-liked by my supervisors and coworkers because I worked hard and did my best to treat everyone with respect. This is not to say that I didn’t run into a few dirtbags – smart-alecs, gossips, and trouble makers because I did.

narcissist bad attitude

But these people usually treated EVERYONE like dirt, not only me. Also, they were only a few and not liked by the rest of my coworkers. So these were not cases of bullying, although I may have thought differently at the time. So how do we distinguish a case of bullying from incivility?

BULLYING – involves singling one person out of the whole of alumni, organization, company, or geographic population. It also involves repetition…repeated attacks against the same individual or group over a long period of time (usually from 3 weeks to several years). Also, others, even total strangers, are usually encouraged to join in.

Bullying is relentless. Bullying is a CAMPAIGN with a GOAL

It means destroying the target’s good name and standing in a community, relationships, family, career, finances, businesses and to ruin the target’s self-esteem and sense of security and well-being, to eventually ruin his/her life.

INCIVILITY – does not have any certain target.

People such as these don’t care who you are or where you come from. They just have personalities that suck and treat everyone in general, like dirt. And they only insult you because they don’t want to be bothered, whereas a bully or bullies will actively pursue you and make it their mission in life just to destroy you. A jerk, on the other hand, will never put in the effort to pursue anyone.

Crazy young man in white shirt standing and screaming at woman in pink dress. woman dont care and looking at camera with toothy smile. indoor studio shot, isolated on light brown background.

INCIVILITY – is sporadic and random mistreatment against random people. It does not involve repetition and is not directed at any certain person or group.

BULLYING – is personal, and there is always an agenda and vendetta behind it.

INCIVILITY – is not personal, and there is no agenda nor vendetta.

The person is just a jerk. Everyone will experience incivility at times in their lives, even popular people. A jerk has no particular target and does not care who you are. A jerk is an equal-opportunity dirt bag.

A jerk just doesn’t care…about anyone…period.

A jerk is afraid you might want something from him.

A bully wants something from YOU.

Definition of “Bullying” and Examples of What Is and Isn’t Bullying

bully word in a dictionary. bully concept.

Because people use the term “bullying” so widely today, they too often misuse and abuse it. In today’s climate, people throw the word around flippantly, and “bullying” is used in situations that don’t fit its use.

Many are too quick to stick the “bully” label on anyone who says anything they either disagree with or don’t like. There’s so much confusion about what is bullying and what is only rudeness, being a jerk, or voicing an individual opinion, whether good or bad.

Therefore, I feel an obligation to point out the definition of bullying and to clarify what truly is and isn’t bullying.

Here is the definition:

Bullying – an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening (https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/)

All too often, bullying is confused with:

1. Disagreements and truthful debates

2. Misunderstandings

3. Stubbornness

4. Incivility and jerky behavior

Bullying has become a blanket term to describe anyone who is only rude or opinionated. The label of “bully” is too quickly stuck to people who are not necessarily bullies but only uncivil jerks and jackasses- basically anyone who says, does, or believes anything that the labeler doesn’t find comfortable. This is wrong.

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For something to be considered bullying, there must be all of these ingredients:

1. An imbalance of power

2. Repetition

3. Repeated attacks against the same person over a long time.

4. The behavior has to be a habit or the same pattern, against the same victim.

If a 6’5” tall and muscular knucklehead on the street bumps into you and says, “Hey, idiot! Watch where the hell you’re going!”, then keeps walking. That’s not bullying. Is the person a total jackhole? Absolutely. But he isn’t necessarily a bully.

Now, if he deliberately ran into you and shot his mouth off to you every day, every time he saw you on the street. And he made a habit of it by continuing to harass you, then yes! He would be a bully. Because he would be using his size and height to intimidate you and he’d be repeating the behavior every day.

Here’s another example:

A person is voicing an opinion. When someone asks them if what they think of their new next-door neighbor, the person answers by saying,

“I think he is an arrogant, egotistical jackass.”

This is NOT bullying. It’s only voicing an opinion.

But! If the person continued this behavior for a length of time and smeared the new neighbor to everyone in the neighborhood in an attempt to turn everyone against her, then yes! It is bullying.

If two people are arguing over different beliefs, it’s not bullying Even if the argument is heated.

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Only when one of the arguers resort to repeatedly (notice I said, repeatedly) calling their opponent names and shaming them because they don’t agree nor share their beliefs, and the harassment goes on for a long time, against the same opponent! That, my friends, is bullying!

To prevent innocent people from being labeled as bullies, we MUST get clear on exactly what it is that constitutes bullying! Only then will we be able to apply it to those who are truly deserving of the label.