Is a Bully Born or Made?

Mar 20, 2012   //   by admin   //   KMT Blog  //  No Comments

Recently I had a disagreement with an old acquaintance and the label “bully” was directed towards me.  It was like the sun ceased shining, the ocean’s roar silenced and the laughter stopped.  I thought this must be a joke. Where are the cameras? This must be my fifteen minutes of fame. Seriously, how can this be? I come from humble beginnings. I’ve honoured and respected my elders and humanity. A bully? Not me!

The term ‘bully’ took me back to my childhood when I got into my first and only fight.  I remember it like it was yesterday:  a school rumour spread like wildfire that I liked a boy who will remain nameless.  I would walk home from school sick to my stomach that they, my peers, would possibly think that I liked this boy. The more I tried to shake it, the more they would connect me to him. I felt teased and hurt that they would even think that I would have anything to do with a boy. I was a good girl, I thought. I got good grades and I never made fun of anyone. So, why me?

Instead of helping me out of the predicament, this boy encouraged it. Feeling helpless, alone and cornered, I agreed to meet him at the steps after school.  As word of our meeting got out, practically the entire school was there.  I was ashamed of my quandary and did not want my name connected to my ‘pain’. The boy only wanted me to like him (no…no… not Facebook ‘like’; it wasn’t invented yet, but thanks).  It was not pretty.

I, the most feminine thing in the world, sprang onto his neck like a Praying Mantis. It was horrible. I couldn’t believe it, I was in a fight, yes, and with a boy whose only transgression was he liked me.  I remember my sister being called to the steps to break up the fight; breaking a nail and looking dishevelled embarrassed me to the point of humility.  What had I become…the school yard bully.

Now, years later with more intelligence and insight, I realise I had become a creature of circumstance and dealt with the situation poorly. For many, when that fragile, insecure and vulnerable place gets compromised, human nature and the desire to survive and prosper takes centre stage and we react.  For some, these moments last a second. For others, the emotions cut much deeper and the feeling of self becomes skewed. In my opinion, the symptoms of ‘bullying’ manifest when grouped with other unexplored or unacknowledged concerns and issues. If unsupported and judged, that individual will begin manifesting the Bullying Syndrome.

Although, I was called a bully by my acquaintance, and it took my breath away, I knew professionally that the term had no effect and its desire to control did not occur but it made me think, what if.

The word ‘bully’ is seen as a bad, scary and dominating force that we have no control over. We must punish the ‘bully’ for their actions. What astonishes me is we neglect to connect the dots back to the root of the anger, the fragile insecurities, and the manifestation of the need to control, intimidate or act out against anything that makes the individual feel oppressed. What we fail to realise is that every human has the potential to become a bully and every bully has the potential to become fully human.

After months of agonising research, soul searching and retrospection, I realise that even a scholar, princess, genius, athlete, gifted, sweetheart, executive, leader, teacher or beauty is capable of bullying.  The question is why some people are able to see their circumstances as a temporary situation while others feel the need to control and bully.

Here’s how: we are blinded by our misperceptions. We proceed to battle against the symptoms, hardening the very syndrome we wish to confront. When, in effect, we cannot effectively address a problem we do not understand. Should the enemy be fear?

Today, I am free of fear. I’ve learned to deal with my reactive nature and the need to control my environment. This approach has shown most effective when dealing with many regarding the issue of ‘bullying’.

Now a question for my readers: Can one’s reaction to unfortunate circumstances be construed as being a Bully?

Bullying is real. However, we must assess the entire situation before applying another label. One never knows the journey that has created that individual. We must educate and support in order to bring about change, not pass judgement.

Below is some compelling research on Bullying as a part of the Education process:

What is bullying?
Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance.

Why do people bully?
The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Bullying has nothing to do with managing. Good managers manage. Bad managers bully. Management is influencing and instructing. Bullying is intimidating and oppressing. Therefore, anyone who chooses to bully is admitting their inadequacy; the extent to which a person bullies is a measure of that inadequacy.

Bullies project their inadequacy on to others to:

  • Avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it;
  • Avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour and the effect it has on others;
  • Reduce their fear of being seen for what they are, namely a weak, inadequate and often incompetent individuals; and
  • Divert attention away from their inadequacy; in an insecure or badly-managed workplace, this is how inadequate, incompetent and aggressive employees keep their jobs.

Bullying is an inefficient way of working, resulting in disenchantment, demoralisation, demotivation, disaffection, and alienation. Bullies run dysfunctional and inefficient organisations; staff turnover and sickness absence are high whilst morale, productivity and profitability are low. Prosperity is illusory and such organizations are a bad long-term investment. Projection and denial are hallmarks of the serial bully.

Bullying is present behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus, e.g. race or gender, it is expressed as racial prejudice or harassment, or sexual discrimination and harassment, and so on. When bullying lacks focus (or the bully is aware of the Sex Discrimination Act or the Race Relations Act), it materializes as pure bullying. This is an opportunity to understand the underlying behaviours contributing to almost all reprehensible behavior.

I believe bullying is the single most important social issue of today.

is a form of abuse, and bullies – and unenlightened employers – often go to great lengths to keep their targets quiet, using threats of disciplinary action, dismissal, and gagging clauses. What bullies fear most is exposure; exposure of their inadequacy and being called publicly to account for their behavior and its consequences. This makes sense when you remember that the purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy, and people who bully to hide their inadequacy are often incompetent.

A bully is a person who:

  • Never learned to accept responsibility for their behaviour.
  • Wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but who is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that are a prerequisite for being part of the adult world.
  • Abdicates and denies responsibility for their behaviour and its consequences (abdication and denial are common features of bullying).
  • Is unable and unwilling to recognise the effect of their behaviour on others.
  • Does not want to know of any other way of behaving.
  • Is unwilling to recognise that there could be better ways of behaving.


To learn more about the making and unmaking of the ‘bully’ visit us at and let’s communicate.


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