Once a Bully Always a Bully

bullying 2 Bullying and harassment continues to be a problem in school settings, 1 in 7 students are either being bullied or are the bully. These statistics have also crossed over into the senior setting. The incidence of bullying and harassment continues to be a problem in nursing homes, assisted living and independent living environments. The seniors living in HUD subsidized housing are no exception.

Once a bully always a bully.

If someone was bullying at a young age, they will be bullying when they are seniors. I recently read an article.  It goes like this, “I had dinner with two male friends the other night and they said this girl in the building terrifies them, they said that she’s dictatorial, demanding, critical — classic bully behavior.” Where do you think these people were at when they were discussing this?  In a school auditorium, at a high school senior prom? No, they were in a senior HUD building!

bullying3Bullies can be men or women.

Woman use words and say mean things. They also tend to fight dirty and will do things behind your back or say something about you to someone so you can over hear it.

Men are more forward. They will get right in your face and may become violent. Who are the bullies causing the abuse and harassment in your building?

They can be;

  •                 Other Residents
  •                 Staff
  •                 Resident’s relatives
  •                 Or even management.

Often it is a combination of these people.

Bullying is defined as being;

The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.  Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets.

Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior, body language, personality, reputation, lineage, strength, size or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing.


  • Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behavior intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is intentional behavior which is found threatening or disturbing.
  • Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary from state to state.

Elders living in subsidized residences frequently are subject to abuse, harassment, and bullying by other residents and/or staff. Residents in these out-of-control buildings are constantly under siege from bullying, causing them to suffer from stress and related conditions such as depression, high-blood pressure, stroke, and possibly suicide. Often they feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Factors in HUD housing that contribute to the problem;

  • Failure of HUD and other sponsoring agencies to address the issues.
  • Absence of good managerial supervision and/or adequate, appropriately trained staff;
  • Management relying on maintenance personnel or groups of residents for information and advice, rather than investigating the problem themselves and dealing with it.
  • Failure of social service agencies and their staff to carry out their responsibilities and intervene to stop bullying, even when required by law and professional obligations;

workplace bullyingThere are some things you can do as manager

You need to educate both your staff and the residents. You might want to ask one of the local social services groups to come in and present on the topic.

Managers can also work with the staff/residents by:

  • Telling staff/residents not to get emotional. Bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people. Stay calm and rational to diffuse the situation.
  • Help them to understand they should not blame themselves. Don’t lose your confidence or think you are incapable or incompetent. They are usually beating you at a mind game.
  • Encourage residents to start a support group. Let staff/residents know they should not be afraid to tell friends and family about what is going on. It is ok to let others know what is going on.
  • Keep a note book and write things down, dates, times and who is doing the bullying. If the bully sends you any emails or notes, keep them. They can help support your case in the future.
  • Managers should let Staff and residents know that their door is open and they would be willing to help.
  • Manages talk to the staff and residents about seeking professional help. Sometimes you are bruised so badly and need outside help.  There is nothing wrong in asking for professional help

As the manager, if you suspect that bullying and harassment is going on, you need to address the problem.  Sometime letting people know what is going on can stop or at lease slow things down. Don’t expect to change the bully. Real behavior change is difficult and it takes time. You have no control over a bully’s willingness to accept that they have a problem and to work on it.  But you do have an obligation to maintain a safe setting for your residents.  It the bullying continues, you may have to evict the bully. Which means you need to maintain good documentation to be able to support your eviction.

What does bullying do to health?Depression

Bullying can cause serious health issues. Many, if not all, of these symptoms are consequences of the high levels of stress and anxiety bullying causes in the victim.

Here are a few issues that can occur;

  • Shattered self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem, loss of self-love, etc.
  • Hypersensitivity, fragility, isolation, withdrawal
  • Uncharacteristic irritability and angry outbursts
  • Tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly and over trivial things
  • Sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks
  • Bad or intermittently-functioning memory, forgetfulness, especially with trivial day-to-day things
  • Poor concentration, can’t concentrate on anything for long
  • Skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and shingles.
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Frequent illness such as viral infections especially flu and glandular fever, colds, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections (stress plays havoc with the immune system.)

You need to understand that bullies usually do not see that they are doing something wrong.  If you do see or hear about someone in your building being the bully or bullying someone one, it is your responsibility to do something.

Have a great day!


Next week:  I continue to receive a lot of questions about the Service and Comfort animals.  So I am going to send out the most frequent questions and answers.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Blog, Blogs, HUD, My Adventures in Affordable Housing

Leave a Reply