When a target of bullying voices about what they have been subjected to, someone is usually equipped with one of these myths in the attempt to suggest that the bullying was normal behavior. Instead of normalizing bullying abuse, know the truth behind bullying. Today we debunk five popular myths about workplace bullying.

Myth #1: Victims are weak

It can be hard to not think of the archetypal vision of a bully. We imagine a big and strong bully on the playground physically or verbally attacking a smaller more vulnerable victim. In the case of workplace bullying, this is simply not true. Bullying in the workplace can happen to age, no matter their age or size, from VIP directors to new employees, anyone can be a target.

Targets usually do have some form of vulnerability, like financial or family issues, but just because they are vulnerable does not mean they are weak. More often than not, targets of workplace bullying are popular, sociable, and even experts in their field.

Myth #2: Bullies are always male.

The stereotypical workplace bully is often a male boss who either sexual harasses women in the office or tries to intimidate female or subordinate male targets. While these types of a bully do exist, you don’t have to be an authoritative male to do it.

In 1973  G.L. Staines, T.E. Jayaratne, and C. Tavris coined the term “Queen Bee Syndrome”. The term refers to when women of authority treat subordinate women worse than males simply because of their gender. One study revealed that 70% of female executives were bullied by another female. There was a strong consensus among the women of the study that the bullying underdeveloped their professional growth.

Myth #3: Bullies work alone.

It’s not unreasonable to think that bullying is a solo act. Some would think that a group that bullies would easily be detected, but this is not always the case. When bullying becomes a group activity, it is known as mobbing. This is when a group of people come together to isolate the target. Compare to one-on-one bullying, mobbing can have a greater impact on the psychological well-being and career of an employee.

Myth #4: If you ignore or downplay a bullying situation it will go away eventually.

If management decides not to acknowledge a bullying situation, two things can happen; the target will either leave the company or decide to file a lawsuit. Bullying in the workplace can lead to high turn-over. If bullying isn’t addressed then it will continue in the future. If the target decides to sue, it will leave the company with a tarnished reputation and a hefty settlement price.

Myth #5: It’s not bullying, it’s just tough management.

Bullying and management have nothing in common. The main objective of management is to motivate and encourage employees to reach goals and perform the right tasks. Meanwhile, the objectives of bullying are gaining dominance and control of others through the abuse of power. Bullies like to use the word management to excuse and conceal their unacceptable behavior.

Learn more about Jason Walker PsyD, PhD, by visiting JasonWalkerResearch.com