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First Published Saturday, 12th July, 2008.

posted Saturday, 12 July 2008



If you’ve ever been bullied, as a child, as an adult, this is for you.

For those wishing to prevent and help stamp it out, for you.

For my son who’s been to hell and back…who grew into an amazing man, protective of others…for whom I am proud beyond words…

For family and friends who are no longer with us…because ‘they sensed you were different’…bullying…depression…suicide, this is for you…

Jared’s Story:


The following article covers:

~ Invaluable contributions by Nick Dubin in this area – Advice, Support and Helpful Strategies

~ Carol Gray and Judy Williams provide an all-inclusive program via DVD, Teacher’s Manual and Student Workbook entitled “No Fishing Allowed, Reeling in Bullying” endorsed by Dr. Tony Attwood

~ A NAS book review and article entitled “My daughter is being bullied at school. How can we help her?”

~ A must-read “The ASD Male’s Survival Guide to Highschool” courtesy of Jerry Newport

~ Dennis Debbaudt and Barbara Doyle – prevention, guidance and support

~ NAS report “B is for Bullied”

~ Various Books, DVDs and Articles/Worksheet(shall be updated from time to time)

~ Workplace Bullying

kick me
Aspie to Aspie  -  6 Proactive Bully-Proofing Strategies

If you’re a teen on the spectrum, you know these years can be challenging and at times, really hard to live through. The good news is it’s just a few years. Life does get better! I know, I lived through adolescence.

One major culprit: the bully. What worked for me? Being proactive rather than reactive! Help protect yourself and others from the harmful effects of being bullied.

  • Take a course in the martial arts. Strengthen your motor skills and get to know your body a little better. This will help should you ever need to physically defend yourself against a bully. The real benefit, though, is the boost in self-confidence and self-esteem you’ll get. Priceless.

  • Ask your principal to institute a “buddy” or “mentor” system at your school. Having a friend you know will stick up for you against a bully can be a real asset.

  • Put an end to cyber-bullying by initiating a school-wide policy against it. Talk to your principal about giving students access to an email address where cyber-bullying through emails and message boards could be forwarded to those in authority who can then deal with it appropriately.

  • Try your best not to let your academics suffer because of being bullied. Bullies are not worth wasting energy upon. Practice ignoring them. Enlist the help of a friend or sibling in acting out scenarios so you can become more comfortable dealing with the situations.

  • If you can, attend an autism conference and meet adults on the spectrum who lived through these tumultuous years and ask how they handled being bullied as children. You will learn you are far from alone and that many adults with ASD are successful and happy in spite of the torture they endured as children. Or find support online where ASD peers can share strategies with you. Or email me: AspergersGuru@comcast.net

  • Be a beacon for change by advocating for yourself against bullies! Make your voice heard at your school and in your community! People will listen!

Nick Dubin, M. Ed., Psy. S, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome;

author of Asperger Syndrome and Bullying: Strategies and Solutions (2007). www.nickdubin.com

No Fishing Allowed

No Fishing Allowed
“Reeling” In Bullying

Carol Gray & Judy Williams
Published 2006 by Future Horizons, Inc. Arlington, TX
DVD, Teacher Manual & Student Workbook sold separately and as a classroom set.
Available at www.FHAutism.com or call 800.489.0727.

“Finally, one program teaches students and adults what they can do to prevent bullying!”

No Fishing Allowed is a peer violence prevention program that addresses various elements of bullying behaviours. Carol Gray, author, creator of Social Stories and a pioneer in social skills education teams up with Judy Williams and her extensive counseling experience to produce an all-inclusive program emphasizing empowerment strategies for all students affected by bully/target relationships.

Partial listing of Contents

What is violence?

Peer conflict

What is a bullying attempt?

The roles in a bullying attempt

Buddies of children who bully

Word bullying

Friendship bullying

Safe strategies for targeted children

Targets: What to Say and Do

Tattling vs. Reporting

Girl Bullying: What to Say and Do

  • Interactive media addresses topics such as peer conflict versus bullying attempts, tattling versus reporting, word bullying, friendship bullying, gender-specific bullying, anti-bullying strategies for witnesses, and many more.

  • Provides teachers with information, ideas, and activities to address bullying attempts and other unfriendly social interactions.

  • Allows teachers to organize efforts toward establishing peaceful, friendly, and accepting learning environments for all students.

“The manner in which adults handle reports of bullying attempts largely influences the effectiveness of any peer violence prevention program.” (p.3)

Buddies of Children who Bully (from the teacher manual)

“Some children may encourage the child who bullies and join in a bullying attempt. Privately, these “buddies” may feel bad about what has occurred.”

Some children may choose to join the social network of the child who bullies. They support the actions of the child who bullies. General characteristics of children falling into this role may include:

  • direct or indirect involvement in a bullying attempt

  • demonstration of support via physical aggression toward a targeted child

  • echoed statements or additional insults, and/or laughter

  • a feeling of power-via-association, or protection, by allying with the child with the greatest power in a bullying situation

  • privately feel guilty or ashamed of their role, feelings which are not apparent during the bullying attempt.

The buddies of children who bully are in a unique role with great potential. Their close association with the child who bullies places them in a position to influence that child’s choices and behaviour. Given effective strategies, these “buddies” may be able to alter the course of events.

“The explanations and strategies are based on a thorough review and understanding of the research literature, but are also based on an intuitive understanding of how children think and relate to each other.” – Dr. Tony Attwood

pin Children identified as bullies by age 8 are six times more likely to be convicted of a crime by age 24. (Eron, 1987)

pin Bullying attempts occur most frequently in school. (Bullies B’Ware, 2000)

pin Bullying behaviour is most prevalent between the ages of 8 and 14. (Olweus, 1993)

pin Bullying relationships are often established by the sixth week of the school year.

Bullies Busted Part 1

Book Review

“Bullying and how to deal with it: a guide for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders”

By Patricia Thorpe.

Published by The National Autistic Society. £1.00

This booklet is packed with information which will help break/lunch time assistants who are at the heart of unstructured time. It will also help an older pupil who is supporting a younger pupil. The advice on the sort of behaviour that the bully’s victim may show will also benefit parents and carers.

The author recommends the Buddy System, which I have used in my own work with autistic children and have found invaluable. As children with ASD do not pick up on body language, a responsible older child can be a great support. The buddy not only raises concerns about bullying to appropriate people, but raises the status of the child with ASD.

Bullying is an important issue in schools and this booklet reminds us that the only way to protect vulnerable children with ASD is to unite and work for zero tolerance.

-Judith Colley, SEN support assistant

Bullies Busted Part 2

Bullying – “My daughter is being bullied at school. How can we help her?”

Courtesy of NAS Communication magazine Volume 40 Number 4 Winter 2006

Children with an ASD can be at more risk of being bullied. In recent NAS research, 59 percent of parents of children with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism said their children had been bullied at school.

What to look out for

Any sudden changes in behaviour. Signs that they are being bullied might include coming home with damaged or missing clothes, bags or books, with bruises or scratches, or without money they should have. There might be a sudden reluctance to go to school.

Children with an ASD can find using chat forums and email a less intimidating way of socialising and so you may not want to discourage your child from using them completely. But be aware that bullying can happen via the internet and mobiles. If your child does not seem as keen to get onto the computer as they used to be, bear it in mind as a possibility.

What you can do

Some children find it easier to write the incidents down or draw a picture. Ask siblings what they know and keep a diary of the incidents.

Once you have spoken to your child, make an appointment to talk to the school. Schools are now either legally required to – or its is strongly suggested that they – have an anti-bullying policy. If you are not happy with the response you get from the class teacher, make an appointment to talk to the headteacher.

When you see the teacher, it would be useful to have some suggestions of what you would like the school to do.


pin Suggest making a map of the child’s world and identifying the areas where your child feels most and least vulnerable, including a map of the school and the route your child takes to and from school and identify potentially difficult areas. Bullies are more likely to bully a child in less supervised areas of the school or playground. Ask the school to make sure there is a greater staff presence in those parts at specific times. Your child might prefer to stick to areas that are staffed, like the library.

pin Arrange some additional social skills training for your child to help them learn to recognise when someone is being nice or nasty to them.

pin Teach your child what to do if they are upset by an incident. Perhaps give your child a list of rules of what to do and a reminder to stick in their school diary of which teacher or teachers they should go and see.

pin Work on boosting your child’s self-esteem at home. Praise for specific pieces of work, an achievement book or board with photographs and pieces of work can act as a reminder.

pin Make contact with other children with an ASD. Knowing that there are other children that have similar difficulties and experiences may make them feel less isolated.

pin Ask the school to identify a number of ‘buddies’ in the playground. Some schools will also have a ‘friendship’ bench where children can sit, if they need someone to talk to or play with.

More information

~ If you are not happy with the way the school has dealt with the bullying and have already been in contact with the head, then there are a number of other steps you can take. Call the NAS Autism Helpline: 0845 070 4004 or email: autismhelpline@nas.org.ukfor more advice. The NAS has a range of information sheets, including ones on bullying, social skills and social stories, also available from the NAS Autism Helpline.

Girls Bullying Girls

The following article comes courtesy of Autism Asperger’s Digest magazine January – February 2006.

No Bully Zone

The ASD Male’s Survival Guide to High School

By Jerry Newport

Adolescence – for many kids with autism spectrum disorders just the mention of the word makes them double over with anxiety, stress and even fear. Socially it’s a time when the ‘group mentality’ of elementary school dissolves and alliances and rival factions grow in and among peers. It’s a highly volatile time as hormones play on delicate emotions, and blow insignificant daily experiences into giant-sized issues. The good news is that High School is not the rest of your life – it’s a temporary span of time that will end. The bad news is that you have to go through it. Personally, I remember high school as four of my happiest years. If some of my advice works, maybe you will too.

To start, assess the ‘damage’ you’re currently experiencing from going through middle school. It’s a very difficult, awkward three years for any boy, and even moreso for a male whose autism may have rendered him clueless when it comes to social interactions and ‘fitting in’ with the cliques and groups that form during those years.

Many of you have been teased or even bullied during middle school. As you go through high school that should happen less frequently because many of the bullies will quit school or graduate before you do. But not always, so don’t view ‘waiting it out’ as your sole solution. The reality is that you need to learn how to deal with the situation. That may include avoiding these peers, coming up with a survival plan and/or be willing to report them every time they bully you. They are out of control and have no excuse to do this to you. They, not you, are wrong. I admit this is a complicated situation; you need help in handling it, so don’t try to go it alone. Enlist the support and advice of teachers, your principal, your parents, your friends. (There’s lots of great suggestions in the article “How to Stop Bullies” written by Dan Grover, and available online at www.WrongPlanet.net in their Articles section of the website. Check it out.) Idealistically, you should be able to be as fat as you want, or dress eccentrically, or discuss PhD-level quantum physics over lunch, or do any of the other things that make people targets for bullies. But we don’t live in an ideal society and a little common sense – a little social sense – is definitely needed.

How you are treated by others in high school depends a lot on how you treat yourself. There are lots of different ways your peers use to define themselves as unique: clothing styles, hairstyles, hobbies, verbal talk. But, there is no excuse for being a slob. “Dirty” or “smelly” aren’t acceptable versions of any style. Just a couple of minutes more each day of attention paid to what you wear and your grooming habits, will go a long way in making friends and not being a bully target. And as far as nutrition goes, if it comes from your nose, it doesn’t belong in your diet!!

You also have a right to fight back when you’re being bullied, but you need to know when, where and how to do that. More than anything else, learn how to avoid having to fight if you can help it. I know several young autistic men who joined self-defense classes and NEVER got bullied again! It wasn’t because they fought back. It was because once they learned how to defend themselves, they walked like people who can do that – with confidence, not hunched over in fear. The bullies decided to look for easier targets. A self-defense class may be a good idea for you if bullying was a regular problem in middle school. Plus, it’s great exercise and you might even make a few friends there.

It is just common sense to not give bullies any more reason to pick on you than you think they have. Don’t isolate yourself – it makes you an easy target for them – and if that means joining some game in the gym that really doesn’t interest you, isn’t that better than being picked on while alone on the sidelines?

You may not have any friends yet to hang with. Most high schools sponsor all kinds of clubs – especially the larger schools. You must have at least one interest and there is probably a club that includes that interest. Join it. That’s how I made my first real friends, by being part of various activities. Your chances of making friends are much higher in clubs or on teams because you start with a common interest among you. Remember though that being part of a group requires you to practice certain social skills, like sharing, conversing, being polite, inquiring about the ideas of others. Ask fellow group members what they enjoy most about being in the chess club. Don’t try to show everyone how much smarter you are than them. That’s a sure way to turn people off, fast!

My favourite activity was the band. We practiced every day and I found that band instilled in me a lot of social skills too. You can’t play your instrument when you want to – you have to read the music and play the correct note at the right volume at the right time. You have to pay attention to how the sound you make blends in with the rest of the band to make the desired music. Those abilities carried over into personal relationships too.

The quick coordination of body and mind required by team sports is difficult for many of us and some sports don’t even make sense to some of us. But, exercising your body is good sense for many reasons: for your health, to keep in shape, and to alleviate stress and anxiety. So take advantage of school-sponsored opportunities to do this. Sports like track and cross country are great for improving endurance and helping you relax and focus in the classroom. You can be part of an athletic team without the confusion of basketball, baseball, soccer or football, sports full of people in motion.

I was not good at those types of team sports but I found a way to be part of them without playing: I was a manager for the basketball team and its statistician. I was the person who kept track of all the stats during the game and called the local newspapers to report the game scores. I also made sure we didn’t lose any uniforms or basketballs on road trips. Sometimes, I even got to share a seat on the team with a cheerleader. Heck, a lot of guys in my class would have paid for that seat!

Driving class can be fun, too, but it may not be for you. Driving is a serious endeavour and many people with ASD have sensory or attention issues that impair their ability to drive. Can you concentrate all of the time, even under stressful conditions? Can you control your impulses if you lose your temper and not use a car as a weapon? Is your field of vision (ie peripheral and depth) compromised in any way that would affect your driving? Many autistic people never drive and shouldn’t. But if you can gain self-control and discipline, learning to drive will expand your world, just as it did for me.

High school offers some fun and easy ways to improve your chance with girls, too. Usually the chorus is loaded with females and begging for male voices. Art clubs and drama clubs are largely female dominated too. They are fun activities and no one expects that you be an expert before you join. Most of the people in them can’t sing, act or paint any better than average people. They have fun trying, though, and so can you.

You’ll undoubtedly meet a girl you like, and that’s great. Don’t ‘rule out’ getting to know her if she already has a boyfriend or claims to. She may be willing to be a friend, and a couple of good female friends may eventually help you find a girl-friend, if they like you. Just don’t let them take advantage of you. Don’t loan them money or run errands for them, or do anything else that seems out of line with a friendship. And, don’t worry about hearing the word “no” from girls. All men hear that from different women at various points in their lives. If you ask a girl out and she says “no”, and she isn’t interested in being a friend either, respect that and move on. You don’t want to be known as a stalker, no matter how attracted you are to a girl.

I was a wallflower during high school, but not a complete one. I didn’t even ask a girl out until my senior year, but at least I started. It is important to try dating if you ever want to find a mate for life. The longer you wait, the more self-conscious you will be and less likely to even attempt it. Dating is an art, not a science, and it’s not easy at first for anyone. Practice and experience makes you more comfortable with it and more able to enjoy the social time you do have with a suitable companion.

The book, Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson (featured in the Sept-Oct 2005 Digest) contains a lot of good social advice from somebody of high school age. I also recommend books by adults who remember their high school years and how they handled them. Stephen Shore, Liane Holliday Willey, Sean Barron and Paul McDonald are all people on the autism spectrum whose experiences may help you if you read their books.

Oh, academics; I almost forgot. You are in school to learn too. The one piece of advice I have is this: Do your best in all your subjects, not just your favourite ones. I didn’t really like English but I gave it my best effort because my father urged me to. He was right. I would have never tried writing otherwise. I discovered that I liked poetry and then joined the poetry club. It took some extra effort in a class I didn’t even like to make that personal discovery.

My one regret is that I didn’t take some classes that would really have helped me in living independently in the future. It took me years to learn to cook, for example. I lost hundreds and hundreds of dollars paying for car repairs done by people who took the auto mechanics class I never took! Now that I own a home, I wish I knew more about some of the basics of home repair and house decorating – things I could have learned in high school too. If you have any space in your schedule for an elective class, consider taking one that will teach you a practical skill for adult life, rather than just college or work preparation.

In closing, I have to mention one more aspect of high school. You may feel tempted to try some things to fit in. Peer pressure is very real and kids with autism feel strong urges to fit in. Some kids begin smoking cigarettes or experiment with drugs to be accepted into a group or to “feel cool.” I did both; not in high school but in college. Trust me, neither is a good idea. There are all sorts of healthy, interesting activities to try instead. Lung cancer is not cool, nor is being arrested for using illegal drugs. Just say no.

High school was four years of fun and exploration of different interests for me. It can be a positive experience for you too. Even if it isn’t, remember: it doesn’t last forever. Once you graduate, you’ll probably lose touch with all but a small handful of people you knew in middle and high school. Keep those years in perspective and look towards your future. The older you get, the more your true self will emerge, and the better your chances of being appreciated for who you really are. Through the high school years, make the most of the experience and look forward to being older and wiser.

Jerry Newport lives in Arizona and is the author of the book, Your Life is Not a Label: A guide to living fully with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and co-author of Autism-Asperger’s & Sexuality: Puberty and Beyond (both published by Future Horizons).

traffic light
In an excerpt from “Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence – Living with the Ups, the Downs and Things in Between “
Edited by Liane Holliday Willey Foreword by Luke Jackson, Dennis Debbaudt writes…

“No one wants to get labeled a snitch yet no one should be persecuted for having a disability. In today’s dangerous world, important information must be reported to those in charge. For the AS student to come to understand the differences between bullying and innocent teasing, educators should be encouraged to teach the subtle distinctions between the two by role playing through the gray areas of reporting an incident to (a) get help, (b) stop bullying or torment and (c) recognizing when they are just being innocently teased. Classmates should be identified who are willing to be trained to help explain to the AS student what should be reported and what shouldn’t and act as communication go-betweens or buffers between the AS student, other students, and school authorities.

Many schools in the US now have police officers assigned as resource officers. Parents and educators should talk to police proactively to establish guidelines for reporting bullying, taunting and torment. Ask how teasing should be reported. Involve law enforcers to develop reporting procedures, and role-playing activities that are designed to explain the differences between reporting real dangers and tattling. Clearly differentiate the differences between what should be reported such as robbery attempts, threats or planning of violent acts and trivial acts such as innocent name calling.

A school-based anti-bullying campaign is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law (United States Department of Education 2000). Parents encounter the ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘they just have to get used to it’ excuse for bullying from educational system administrators who often lack awareness of anti-bullying statutes or the will to put into place anti-bullying curriculum and policies. Yet the same educational system through campaigns such as Silence Hurts engages in procative efforts that encourage students to come forward, identify and report information about students who may be planning violent acts. Are anti-bullying campaigns any less important? At your child’s next individual education plan (IEP) meeting ask school administrators what anti-bullying curriculum is in place at the school. If none exists, ask through the IEP that an anti-bullying curriculum or awareness campaign be instituted immediately.

Barbara Doyle MS, a Springfield, Illinois based special educator and clinical consultant, is a teacher’s teacher who preaches the need to educate AS students early and often about life in general to ensure that they develop the necessary life skills to recognize and deal with security and risk. In her workshop Teaching Ten Important Lifetime Goals To All Children she suggests that all children need to accomplish goals that result in safe and productive lives. She presents guidelines for identifying and addressing these essential life goals, such as targeting the elimination of dangerous or potentially dangerous behaviour, who to touch and how to be touched appropriately, respectful use of other’s property and knowing who to ask for help, how and when (Doyle and Iland, 2001).

To prevent bullying and to teach students with AS to report appropriately, Barbara Doyle (Doyle and Iland, 2001) writes:

Every student with ASD needs to receive systematic instruction in understanding who and what in the environment is dangerous. This systematic instruction is more than just talking about it! If students with ASD could learn all about danger from hearing the topic discussed, they would know all about it by now! Here are some instructional strategies:

  • Make board games for individuals with AS to play with typical peers. On three by five cards, simply write a series of situations that could come up in the lives of youth. Pair a student with Asperger Syndrome with a typical partner. Using a spinner or other board game devices, a student pair selects a card, reads it aloud and then discusses if it is something that should be reported to authorities or not. The players can earn points for each logical response. Some sample cards could be:

* A boy tells a girl he wants to take her out on a date.

* A boy tells a girl to leave the school with him.

* A girl invites another girl to smoke pot in the bathroom.

* Several boys push a student and tear his jacket.

* A student says a teacher is dressed in an unfashionable way.

* A girl shows another girl some mace that she has in her purse at school.

* Some teens tell another student that they will be ‘waiting for him’ after school to beat him up.

  • *Make a list of the people in each environment who are the right ones to report to if bullying or dangerous behaviour is observed. Set up role-play situations in which the student with AS sees a ‘pretend’ dangerous situation and then reports it to a key figure on the list. Teach the student with AS to ask to speak to the authority figure in private and to speak quietly when making the report. Let the identified adults know that the individual with AS has permission to come quietly to them.


  • *Go into the community with students with AS. Sit and watch human behaviour. Discuss what should be reported and not reported. Identify authority figures in each environment. Speak with authority figures and introduce the individual with AS to them. Include the shopping mall stores, restaurants, the movies, ice cream shop, sporting events, etc.

  • *Identify students who have been previously implicated in bullying. PROVIDE SUPERVISION when known bullies are within proximity of students with AS regardless of their ages especially in large, moving groups such as lunchrooms, outdoor areas and gymnasiums. Bullies recognize the naivete and vulnerability of students with ASD and target them without mercy, later claiming to have been teasing or ‘just kidding.’ It is ridiculous to think that ‘all’ students are kind and nice to students with Asperger Syndrome. Students with AS are mentally and physically assaulted by fellow students every year in our country.


  • *Teach typical students to recognize and assist students with AS. Many high school and college students respond very well when they are taught about autism spectrum disorders and how to be of assistance. One student said, ‘I had watched him be bullied before but did not know that I could do something about it. From now on, I will.’

  • *Provide instruction to all adults in the environment. One physical education teacher allowed a child with AS to be hit over and over again by a ball thrown by other students. This teacher later said he mistakenly thought that the student with AS would learn to ‘defend himself’ if the student was left alone to handle it and not be babied. This teacher was under-educated.

  • *Watch videotaped movies with individuals with AS. Stop the tape periodically and check to be sure that the individuals observed and understood the meaning of what was said and done. Teach them to try to predict what might happen next to the characters in the movie. Sometimes rewind the tape to find the ‘clues’ that the character should have observed to be able to better predict what was going to happen next. This type of activity is a far more valuable ‘social skills training’ activity than learning how to say please and thank you or hold one end of a jump rope!

  • *Role-play bullying situations with trusted comrades playing the part of the bully. Teach the individuals with AS to ‘see it coming’ and get away quickly. Teach them to seek the company of others. Teach them to use anti-bullying techniques such as speaking forcefully and drawing attention to themselves. Teach them how to seek assistance in every possible place they may find themselves in the community including public bathrooms.

  • *Enroll students with AS in carefully designed self-defense classes. Many young people with AS have learned the martial arts. They have surprised many of us by NOT using these skills until and unless it is absolutely necessary. All good martial arts training include teaching to recognize and avoid dangerous situations.

bullying ain't cool

NAS “B is for bullied”

Autistic children can be particularly vulnerable to being bullied at school. This report demonstrates the devastating impact this can have on children and their families, yet simple strategies and adjustments can make a huge difference. This report is based on the largest ever survey on education and autism in the country and is part of the make school make sense campaign.


On Being Bullied/Being a Bully


“Asperger Syndrome and Bullying: Strategies and Solutions”

Author: Nick Dubin

Foreword by Michael John Carley


DVD “Being Bullied: Strategies and Solutions for People with Asperger’s Syndrome”

Nick Dubin


“Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying – Practical Solutions for Surviving the Social World”

Authors: Rebekah Heinrichs & Brenda Smith Myles



“Why is Everybody Always Picking on Me:

A Guide to Handling Bullies

Author: Terrence Webster-Doyle


Article and Worksheet

“Helping Autistic Children Cope with Bullies”


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Adults with either autism or Asperger’s syndrome may encounter bullying if neurotypical people target their different style of social interaction.

Workplace bullying, like childhood bullying, is the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, and even physical abuse. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because unlike the typical forms of schoolyard bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace therefore takes a wide variety of forms, from being rude or belligerent, to screaming or cursing, destruction of property or work product, social ostracism, and even physical assault. According to Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, and Alberts[1] , researchers associated with the Project for Wellness and Work-Life workplace bullying is most often “a combination of tactics in which numerous types of hostile communication and behavior are used” (p. 152).

Gary and Ruth Namie define workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three.”.[2]. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik[3] expands this definition, stating that workplace bullying is “persistent verbal and nonverbal aggression at work, that includes personal attacks, social ostracism, and a multitude of other painful messages and hostile interactions.”

Workplace bullying is also referred to as mobbing, although mobbing can also mean any bullying by more than one person. Other psynonyms include “emotional abuse” at work, “social undermining, and general workplace abuse. According to Pamela Lutgin-Sandvik[4], the lack of unifying language to name the phenomenon of workplace bullying is a problem because without a unifying term or phrase, individuals have difficulty naming their experiences of abuse, and therefore have trouble pursuing justice against the bully. Unlike the term “sexual harassment,” which named a specific problem and is now recognized in U.S. law (and many international laws), workplace bullying is still being established as a relevant social problem and is in need of a specific vernacular.



Statistics[5] from the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention show that one in three employees personally experiences bullying at some point in their working lives. At any given time, 1 out of every 10 employees is a target of workplace bullying. Nearly half of all American workers (49%) have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker.

Although socio-economic factors may play a role in the abuse, researchers from the Project for Wellness and Work-Life[1] suggest that “workplace bullying, by definition, is not explicitly connected to demographic markers such as sex and ethnicity” (p. 151). Because one out of ten employees experiences workplace bullying, the prevalence of this issue is cause for great concern, even as initial data about this issue are reviewed.

In terms of gender, the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007) states that women apear to be at greater risk of becoming a bullying target, as 57% of those who reported being targeting for abuse were women. Men are more likely to participate in aggressive bullying behavior (60%), however if the bully is a woman, her target is more likely to be a woman as well (71%).

Race also may play a role in the experience of workplace bullying. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007), “the comparison of combined bullying (current + ever bullied) prevalence percentages reveals the pattern from most to least: Hispanics (52.1%), African-Americans (46%), Whites (33.5%) and Asian-Americans (30.6%). The reported rates of witnessing bullying were African-Americans (21.1%), Hispanics (14%), Whites (10.8%), and Asian-Americans (8.5%). The percentages of those claiming to have neither experienced nor witnessed mistreatment were among Asian-Americans (57.3%), Whites (49.7%), Hispanics (32.2%) and African-Americans (23.4%).”

Health effects of bullying

According to Gary and Ruth Namie, as well as Tracy, et al.[6], workplace bullying can harm the health of the targets of bullying. Organizations are beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs to the organization in terms of the health of their employees.

According to scholars at the Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University, “workplace bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational, and social costs.” Stress is the most predominant health affect associated with bullying in the workplace. Research indicates that workplace stress has significant negative effects that are correlated to poor mental health and poor physical health, resulting in an increase in the use of “sick days” or time off from work (Farrell & Geist-Martin, 2005).

In addition, co-workers who witness workplace bullying can also have negative effects, such as fear, stress, and emotional exhaustion[3]. Those who witness repetitive workplace abuse often choose to leave the place of employment where the abuse took place. Workplace bullying can also hinder the organizational dynamics such as group cohesion, peer communication, and overall performance.


Bullying and personality disorders

Robert Hare and Paul Babiak discuss psychopathy and workplace bullying thus[7]:

“Bullies react aggressively in response to provocation or perceived insults or slights. It is unclear whether their acts of bullying give them pleasure or are just the most effective way they have learned to get what they want from others. Similar to manipulators, however, psychopathic bullies do not feel remorse, guilt or empathy. They lack insight into their own behaviour, and seem unwilling or unable to moderate it, even when it is to their own advantage. Not being able to understand the harm they do to themselves (let alone their victims), psychopathic bullies are particularly dangerous.”

“Of course, not all bullies are psychopathic, though this may be of little concern to their victims. Bullies come in many psychological and physical sizes and shapes. In many cases, “garden variety” bullies have deep seated psychological problems, including feelings of inferiority or inadequacy and difficulty in relating to others. Some may simply have learned at an early stage that their size, strength, or verbal talent was the only effective tool they had for social behaviour. Some of these individuals may be context-specific bullies, behaving badly at work but more or less normally in other contexts. But the psychopathic bully is what he is: a callous, vindictive, controlling individual with little or no empathy or concern for the rights and feelings of the victim, no matter what the context.”


Workplace bullying and the law

Each state has its own legislation.In Queensland there is no law against workplace bullying although anti-discrimination and stalking laws could be used to prosecute if appropriate.In Victoria, legislation comes from Worksafe Victoria. if bullying endangers a worker’s health causing stress or any other physical harm, a corporation can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work.[8]


The Canadian Province of Quebec introduced legislation addressing workplace bullying on 1 June 2004. In its Act representing Labour Standards “psychological harassment” is prohibited. The Commission des normes du travail is the organization responsible for the application of this act.[9]

Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act 1979, “all employers must take every precautions reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of their workers in the workplace. This includes protecting them against the risk of workplace violence “[10]. The Act requires establishment of Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees for larger employers.

Under the act, workplace violence is defined as “…the attempted or actual exercise of any intentional physical force that causes or may cause physical injury to a worker. It also includes any threats which give a worker reasonable grounds to believe he or she is at risk of physical injury”[11][10]. Currently, as the Act is written, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act does not specifically cover the issue of psychological harassment [10].

On Dec 13, 2007 MPP Andrea Horwath introduced for first reading a new Bill, Bill-29, to make an amendment to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Bill-29 is proposing “to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace” and will include protection from psychological abuse and bullying behaviors in the workplace in Ontario. [12]

The Canadian Province of Saskatchewan made workplace bullying illegal in 2007 by passing The Occupational Health and Safety (Harassment Prevention) Amendment Act, 2007. The act broadened the definition of harassment, as defined in the The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993, to include psychological harassment.[13]


In Ireland, there is a Code of Practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of bullying at work.[14] The Code notes the provision in the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 requiring employers to manage work activities to prevent improper conduct or behaviour at work. The Code of Practice provides both employer and employee with the means and the machinery to identify and to stamp out bullying in the workplace in a way which benefits all sides.


Workplace bullying in Sweden is covered by the Ordinance of the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health containing Provisions on measures against Victimization at Work, which defines victimisation as “…recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace community.”[15]

The act places the onus on employers to plan and organise work so as to prevent victimisation and to make it clear to employees that victimisation is not acceptable. The employer is also responsible for the early detection of signs of victimisation, prompt counter measures to deal with victimisation and making support available to employees who have been targeted.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, although bullying is not specifically mentioned in workplace legislation, there are means to obtain legal redress for bullying. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997[16] is a recent addition to the more traditional approaches using employment-only legislation. Notable cases include Majrowski v Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust wherein it was held that an employer is vicariously liable for one employee’s harassment of another, and Green v DB Group Services (UK) Ltd, where a bullied worker was awarded over £800,000 in damages. In the latter case, at paragraph 99, the judge Mr Justice Owen said:

“…I am satisfied that the behaviour amounted to a deliberate and concerted campaign of bullying within the ordinary meaning of that term.”
Bullying behaviour breaches other UK laws. An implied term of every employment contract in the UK is that parties to the contract have a (legal) duty of trust and confidence to each other. Bullying, or an employer tolerating bullying, typically breaches that contractual term. Such a breach creates circumstances entitling an employee to terminate his or her contract of employment without notice, which can lead to a finding by an Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal, colloquially called constructive dismissal. An employee bullied in response to asserting a statutory right can be compensated for the detriment under Part V of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and if dismissed, Part X of the same Act provides that the dismissal is automatically unfair. Where a person is bullied on grounds of sex, race or disability et al, it is outlawed under anti-discrimination laws.

It was argued, following the obiter comments of Lord Hoffman in Johnson v. Unisys in March 2001,[17][18] that claims could be made before an Employment Tribunal for injury to feelings arising from unfair dismissal. It was re-established that this was not what the law provided, in Dunnachie v Kingston upon Hull City Council, July 2004 [19] wherein the Lords confirmed that the position established in Norton Tool v Tewson in 1972, that compensation for unfair dismissal was limited to financial loss alone. Unfair dismissal compensation is subject to a statutory cap set at £60600 from Feb 2006. Discriminatory dismissal continues to attract compensation for injury to feelings and financial loss, and there is no statutory cap.

United States

In the United States, comprehensive workplace bullying legislation has yet to be passed by the federal government or by any U.S. state government, but since 2003, many state legislatures have considered bills.[20] As of October 2007, 13 U.S. states have proposed legislation; these are:[21]

New Jersey (2007)
Washington (2007, 2005)
New York (2006)
Vermont (2007)
Oregon (2007, 2005)
Montana (2007)
Connecticut (2007)
Hawaii (2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)
Oklahoma (2007, 2004)
Kansas (2006)
Missouri (2006)
Massachusetts (2005)
California (2003)
These workplace bullying bills have typically allowed employees to sue their employers for creating an “abusive work environment,” and most have been supported by the notion that laws against workplace bullying are necessary to protect public health.

Although most U.S. states operate under the 19th Century doctrine of at-will employment (which, in theory, allows an employer to fire an employee for any reason or no reason), American workers have gained significant legal leverage through discrimination and harassment laws, workplace safety laws, union-protection laws. etc., such that it would be illegal under federal and the laws of most states to fire employees for a whole host of reasons. These employment laws typically forbid retaliation for good faith complaints or exercising legal rights, such as organizing a union. Discrimination and harassment laws enable employees to sue for creating a “hostile work environment,” which can include bullying, but the bullying/hostility must be tied in some way to a characteristic protected under the discrimination/harassment law, such as race, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.


1 Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, and AlbertsNightmares, Demons and Slaves, Exploring the Painful Metaphors of Workplace Bullying, 2006
2 Namie, Gary and Ruth Workplace Bullying Institute Brochure
3 Lutgen-Sandvik, Pamela Take This Job and . . . : Quitting and Other Forms of Resistance to Workplace Bullying
4 Lutgin-Sandvik, Pamela, The Communicative Cycle of Employee Emotional Abuse, 2003
5 Bully Busters Workplace Bullying Defined
6Namie, Gary and Ruth The WBI 2003 Report on Abusive Workplaces
7 Hare, Robert and Babiak, Paul, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work Harper Collins, 2006
8 Worksafe, Victorian Workcover Authority
9 Commission des normes du travail
10 Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act 1979 Ministry of Labor, Ontario, Canada
11 Workplace Violence Ministry of Labor, Ontario, Canada
12 Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada
13 The Occupational Health and Safety (Harassment Prevention) Amendment Act, 2007 in Saskatchewan
14 Republic of Ireland – 2007 Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work
15 Ordinance of the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health containing Provisions on measures against Victimization at Work AFS 1993:17 Official English translation
16 Protection from Harassment Act 1997
17 Judgments – Johnson (A.P.) v. Unisys Limited, Uk Parliament – Publications
18 Johnson v Unisys Ltd [2001 IRLR 279 House of Lords], Case Summaries, Equal Opportunities Commission, UK
19 Dunnachie v Kingston upon Hull City Council 2004
20 Said, Caroline (2007-01-21). Bullying bosses could be busted: Movement against worst workplace abusers gains momentum with proposed laws. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.
21 Workplace Bullying Institute


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