Don’t just report bullying, have a strategy

Bullying isn’t a one off event. It’s a pattern of harassment that involves multiple incidents over a period of time. You can’t report it once and be done with it. You must have a angerstrategy for what you are going to do IF reporting it doesn’t work.

Reporting bullying is important. I encourage everyone who is being bullied to start keeping a documentation log so that they can report what is happening to them more effectively (see:

The thing is, reporting a bully isn’t enough. It’s important, but it’s only one part of an effective anti-bullying strategy. If your entire strategy consists of reporting it, you are going to fail, and in the case of bullying, failure isn’t an option!

I understand the attraction of reporting it once and hoping someone else will make the bully stop for you. Most of us just want to be as far away as possible from our bullies, and for good reason. The problem is that reporting it once isn’t going to be enough to get it to stop. Most bullying problems require more work than that.

So, what does an actual anti-bullying strategy consist of? Well, for starters, it involves being realistic about what it is that is happening. Bullying is a pattern of behavior over time. Knowing this means that your strategy has to be designed to take place over time too.

It involves more than one tactic. Reporting is one tactic. Another might be having something you can say to shut the bully up in real time. There isn’t any one strategy that will work. It’s the combination of things you do, over time that gets bullying to stop. Again, you need a strategy and not just assorted tactics.

The good news is that we know from behavioral science what extinguishing a behavior looks like and we can use that information to get our bully to stop. Here is what typically happens in the bully extinction process.

1) The bully bullies
2) Victim does not reward the bully
3) Bully gets more aggressive
4) Victim continues to not reward and reports the actions of the bully
5) Bully gets more aggressive
6) Victim continues to not reward and continues to report the actions of the bully.
7) Bully freaks out and blows out
8) People in charge of getting bully to stop suddenly realize just how bad the bully has been behaving and step in and remove the bully (suspension)

Any strategy you design needs to take into account the fact you are going to have to confront the bully multiple times and report them multiple times until they either stop or are forced to stop. Is this ideal? No. It would be better if you could report once and be done with it. But we live in the real world, and in the real world, this is what works to get it to stop.

If you need help developing a strategy, consider getting my book: The Bully Vaccine (

Or treat yourself to a premium membership at this site to get access to the Bully Vaccine Toolkit which includes the book and 2 ½ hours of video lessons and worksheets (

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  1. Pingback: Have a horribly abusive boss? Here’s what not to do. | The Bully Vaccine Project

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