When you think of a classic bully, odds are you think of that cliche high school offender. Maybe it’s someone from the football team bullying a member of the band or the chess club. Maybe it’s a larger child bullying a smaller one.

While the cliches exist for a reason, there are a few things to remember. First, not all bullies fit these patterns. Don’t assume they all will. Second, bullies don’t magically disappear after high school. You still find them in college. You find them in the workplace. You could be 80 years old and still find people who bully others.

It’s not an age issue. It’s a personality issue. So, why does it happen?

A feeling of powerlessness

In many cases, a bully feels powerless in some way. Maybe they don’t think they’re good enough at their job to get ahead on their own. Maybe a student has a hard home life. Either way, they seek to put others down and prop themselves up to overcome this powerless feeling. They’re always worried about being powerless, so they keep up the behavior.

Similarly, they could be very insecure. They’re worried about what others think of them. This insecurity leads to the aggressive behavior.

They have always been rewarded

This is often the case with adult bullies. They have gotten rewarded for bullying throughout their lives. It helped them get their way when they were a child. It helped them stand out in college. It helped them land that job they wanted as an adult.

In short, this behavior worked — or, at least, they think that it did. If they always get what they want when walking all over others, they’re not going to stop. They’re going to keep using this tactic, either consciously or unconsciously, to keep getting what they want.

Seeking control

Finally, a bully is often someone who is trying to control something else. They may be trying to control their life and their circumstances. They may be trying to directly control other people. It may be both.

Either way, the only way they know how to get control is to aggressively take it from other people. They seek out more passive individuals whom they think they can overwhelm and intimidate. Then they bully these people into submission. Each time that it works, they feel just a bit more in control than they were before.

Your options

As noted, bullies show up everywhere. Maybe you’re getting bullied and harassed in the workplace. Maybe your child is getting bullied in the classroom. No matter where it happens, it can have a massive impact on your life and you need to know what options you have.