7. When to report a bully?


7.1: How do you know when it's harassment?

The EEOC definition included “petty slights” or “simple teasing” as not being harassment. While activities that were “frequent and severe” and “that creates a hostile or offensive work environment” were included in the definition of harassment. (7.1, 7.2

     It is important to bring the topic of harassment and discrimination out into the open. Not talking about a victimization situation is usually only easier for the non-victims and is leaving the victim at worse risk of bullying. And less social support for the victim is associated with greater risk for their developing mental health problems. (7.Perspectives on Bullying, a book

7.2: Psychological problems in the bully might be part of the issue.

Other workers might be intentionally trying to intimidate or cause emotional pain in other workers with their joking or other activities, in which case the definition of harassment might be appropriate. 

     Sometimes emotional harassment is more subtle and may be difficult to recognize if the person is charming. Manipulative people can do very well in the competitive business world and their charm may lead to promotions but it can also be a sign of a more severe level of psychopathy, sociopathy, or narcissism.    

     Recognizing the warning signs [11, 12] and leaving the job, (or a relationship [13]), may be healthiest and safest if the person is a manager in a position of power over you, or “document, document, document” if you hope to win a case with a charge of workplace harassment. It will be a case of your word against theirs, usually, and if the other person or people are in a position of power or have more influence then the story may not matter as much as having actual evidence. [14

  • 11 Ways to Spot a Psychopath at Work: [11]
  • How to Work for a Narcissistic Boss: [12]
  • Hostile Work Environment - How to Document and Prove - 2017: [14] - an article by forensicsnotes.com, a web service for virtual document storage that provides time-stamps to help make documents support a legal case. Free trial accounts available: [15

7.3: If harassment is severe then document events to prove the case.

Proof is needed when making claims about another person or group of people or it might be considered slanderous or libel. 

     We are comfortable with who we are, not only on the surface but deep down in our habits and instincts, and we like to protect those values and habits. People who tend to pick on others or blame them for their own problems may be most comfortable with other people who tend to always agree with them. Attachment styles learned in early childhood can affect how we relate to others and who we feel more comfortable with as adults. [16]  

     Suggesting other ways to look at a situation or claiming that a situation is wrong, may make the person or group feel like you aren't taking their side so therefore you must be against them. There is a tendency to see things as all good or all bad rather than that life and people are a mixture. 

  • However, retaliation against someone who files a harassment or discrimination case is also illegal according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website. [17]  

7.4: An example of documentation in a case of discrimination.

A former government agent, Chuck Spinney, shared an account of an attempt at retaliation against him at his place of employment in an interview about his work history. 

     Documentation of annual and midpoint performance evaluations can be a way for managers to keep a paper trail that they would need to help prove that an employee is not meeting job expectations and support a case that the employee should be rightfully dismissed from their position. 

     However, unfairly rating the evaluations in order to ease an unwanted employee out of a position is an illegal abuse of power. Chuck Spinney states that the method is occasionally used within government agencies according to the interview with Bill Moyers:

  • See near the middle of the written transcript or video when Mr. Moyers asks about the reaction of Mr. Spinney’s superiors when he was on the cover of Times magazine: [18]  

7.5: Harassment and discrimination are similar but different.

Harassment and discrimination, or sexual harassment [2] and sexual discrimination, [19] are different legally, but may involve similar issues. Harassment based on a person’s sex might be by a member of the same sex and involve negative joking and be considered sexual harassment if it met the EEOC criteria for severity. Sexual discrimination might be involved if an appropriately skilled applicant is not hired for a job because of their gender or appearance. A term that might be more familiar is “sexism,”  which is discussed in more detail in the section What is Sexism?.  

7.6: An example of a Harassment Policy & Complaint Form.

  • Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy for Students and Staff: [20]
  • Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Complaint Form: [21]
  • Policy and procedure manuals and their value in supporting teamwork and clear communication is discussed in the section titled Equal Opportunity Policy.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. 
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert

7.7: Our instincts may be based in actions learned by more distant relatives.

Ethologists, scientists who specialize in the study of animal behavior, spent many hours watching Komodo lizards and other animals in their native habitats and found that certain types of behavior patterns are seen in many species. Behavior patterns can help speed up reaction time and help a frog catch a fly or avoid a predator, and which may help support survival of the individual or the group as a whole.

Our non-verbal brainstem and limbic areas of the brain may lead us into performing behavior patterns that our verbal mind may then try to rationalize in words. Are we truly going to every single store during the middle of the holiday rush in order to get the best deal or to enjoy the holiday spirit? 

- or because our non-verbal self is energized by the thrill of foraging for the best deal? 

Non-verbal behavior patterns that may be based in activity from the brainstem area are listed in the book The  Triune Brain in Evolution. It is an older text on neuroanatomy and animal behavior - the neuroanatomy is out of date although the author, Paul D. Maclean, is still known for having first named the limbic system of the brain which is largely involved in emotions and emotional bonds between caregiver and child or between mates. [22] The examples of animal behavior in the book are likely irreplaceable as animals have lost their natural territories and ability to hunt or graze freely. Behavior patterns would be seen in urbanized territory but they would be affected by competition with concrete and motorized vehicles, and people. 

7.7.1: Increased dopamine levels may affect nonverbal instincts or urges to perform an activity.

The brainstem area of the brain is rich in the neurotransmitter dopamine so conditions, substances, or stages of life that affect dopamine levels may also affect the likelihood of these behaviors occurring or affect how strongly the person feels an urge to perform the behavior. (7.22)  Do holiday lights go up on the day after Thanksgiving because they are pretty or because the neighbor already decorated their house?


There are many beneficial ways to improve the mood too, besides mood altering substances. Holidays and special events with loved ones can cause an increase in positive mood hormones and the stimulating dopamine. Even imaginary ones can help boost dopamine. Fans of stars whether real or animated may enjoy conventions where everyone enjoys and knows about the same topic.   When groupthink (7.39) turns violent however we are in the mob mentality territory of mass hysteria. (7.40) That is rare however, most large crowds are peaceful and a pleasant experience for participants. Festive events can have a very uplifting effect, large crowds generally have a very positive mood and lift spirits. (7.35)

  • An article about religious feelings and dopamine levels: (7.36)
  • The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History, a book to purchase: (7.37), the Table of Contents is available online: (7.38)

7.7.2: Compare Hunter Gatherer cultural similarities with behavior patterns in animal species.

To return to the first point on this page, our human ancestors share common behavior patterns around the world and across history. Compare anthropologist Donald Brown's list of human actions (7.3])  with the list of behavior patterns seen in many animal species, Table 6-1. Special Forms of Basic Behavior,  (p100, 7.22).

  • Going across history and around the world, anthropologist Donald Brown found a long list of cultural similarities in common between many groups of people.   (Human Universals)
    The full list of Human Universals is available online in the appendix of (The Voice of the Species) An odd one stood out to the cannabinoid dietitian research I've been working on. "Sucking wounds" sounds gross for a human universal but it would likely be activating the cannabinoid receptors and stimulating growth factor production and promote wound healing. It is necessary for infants (animal research) to receive maternal licking to stimulate growth factor and appetite. A few references: CB2 receptors activation helps with healthy wound healing and prevents fibrosis (CB2 receptors & fibrosis) 7.3.5: epithelial growth factor receptor is activated by CB1 receptor and TRPV channel activation  (EGFR) (CB2R) maternal licking of infants associated with CB1 activation, lack caused increased fear in male pups later in life (maternal licking)
    It includes: “the existence of and concern with aesthetics, magic, males and females seen as having different natures, baby talk, gods, induction of altered states, marriage, body adornment, murder, prohibition of some type of murder, kinship terms, numbers, cooking, private sex, names, dance, play, distinctions between right and wrong, nepotism, prohibitions on certain types of sex, empathy, reciprocity, rituals, concepts of fairness, myths about afterlife, music, color terms, prohibitions, gossip, binary sex terms, in-group favoritism, language, humor, lying, symbolism, the linguistic concept of “and,” tools, trade, and toilet training.” (pp 271-272, 7.3)  

Table 6-1. Special Forms of Basic Behavior, (p100, 7.22)

  1. Selection and preparation of homesite
  2. Establishment of territory
  3. Use of home range
  4. Showing place preferences
  5. Trail making
  6. Marking of territory
  7. Patrolling territory
  8. Ritualistic display in defense of territory, commonly involving the use of coloration and adornments
  9. Formalized intraspecific fighting in defense of territory
  10. Triumphal display in successful defense
  11. Assumption of distinctive postures and coloration in signaling surrender
  12. Use of defecation posts (or areas away from sleeping areas and trails)
  13. Foraging
  14. Hunting
  15. Homing
  16. Hoarding
  17. Formation of social groups
  18. Establishment of social hierarchy by ritualistic display and other means
  19. Greeting
  20. Grooming
  21. Courtship, with displays using coloration and adornments
  22. Mating
  23. Breeding and, in isolated instances (in reptilian species), attending offspring
  24. Flocking
  25. Migration

(p100, 7.22)- Paul D. MacLean,  The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, (Plenum Press, 1990, New York) National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

  • "Dance," "marriage," "body adornment"  (7.3)  and "courtship, with displays using coloration and adornments"  (7.22) can be the same thing. "Color terms" (7.3)  might be important for "marking of territory" and "ritualistic display in defense of territory, commonly involving the use of coloration and adornments." (7.22) "Nepotism," "kinship terms," and "in-group favoritism" (7.3) might all lead to "Formalized intraspecific fighting in defense of territory." (7.22
  • The holiday decorations mentioned earlier or other yard display may be similar to "Marking of territory" or "Establishment of social hierarchy by ritualistic display and other means."  (7.22) A yard decoration that fits in well in one neighborhood might be considered out of place in another neighborhood and might even lead to the household being considered outsiders, not part of the neighborhood group.
  • "Toilet training"  (7.3) is common among human groups around the world and "grooming" and "use of defecation posts" (rather than the living area or on the trail) (7.22) are common among animal species. Toilet training is also about keeping defecation out of living areas and would help promote group survival. Excess dopamine levels has been associated with excessive grooming behavior in psychiatric patients. Estrogen may modulate the effect and help protect females from more severe schizophrenia symptoms.“(for a review see Leung and Chue 2000, (7.23)). The findings summarized in this review suggest that estrogens may act as a protective modulator in compulsive behavior and schizophrenia by enhancing the vulnerability threshold for psychosis through the downward regulation of dopamine neurotransmission.” (p122, 7.24
  • "Hoarding" (7.22) behavior has also been associated with the dopamine system. (7.25 , 7.26)  Although low serotonin levels may be involved in humans with symptoms of hoarding. Increased anxiety and difficulty making decisions about parting with things seems to be part of the problem for humans with obsessive hoarding, as well as denial that the tendency had become a problem. (7.27)  Remember it's okay to leave a few holiday lights for someone else to buy.

The limbic area of the brain is associated with several non-verbal behavior patterns having to do with bonding and caring for offspring.

Six types of general behaviors have also been observed in many species that may occur as part of the other behavior patterns.

  • Table 10-1. General ("Interoperative") Forms of Basic Behavior: 1) Routinizing, 2) Isopraxic, 3) Tropistic, 4) Repetitious, 5) Reenactment, 6) Deceptive. (p 143, 7.22)

  1. Routinizing, there is a tendency to like following routines. 
  2. Isopraxic behavior is the tendency to behave the same way as other members in a group.
  3. Tropistic (from the Greek word tropos which means "a turning," page 145) is used in biology to describe behaviors that seem to be elicited or "turned" on or off by an external signal such as the colorful pattern seen on another member of the species - the same bright color might elicit the response even if it seen on an inanimate object instead of another member of the species.
  4. Repetitious, there is a tendency to repeat usual behavior patterns. 
  5. Reenactment is used to describe the repetition of a more complex series of behaviors than the typical routine. The more complex route might have been life saving once and it then may have became part of the daily routine even though the danger was no longer present. 
  6. Deceptive behavior has been observed by Komodo lizards when they hunt deer. The large lizards will hide along the trails used by deer and wait for the deer to happen along - no chasing necessary. (7.22)

  • "Lying" (7.3) and "Deceptive" (7.22) behavior are similar things. 
  • The Golden Rule is a moral statement represented in some way in many religions. Roughly, "Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself." It represents equity (7.28) and "concepts of fairness" and "distinctions between right and wrong." (7.3) Stephen L. Anderson makes the point in a philosophical discussion The Golden Rule, Not So Golden Anymore that the Golden Rule is represented in two forms around the world, one with the positive grammatical form of “Do good unto to others…” and one in the negative “Don’t do bad unto others…”. The author suggests that the positive phrasing is suggesting a more actively helpful attitude while the negative phrasing is a more neglectful benign attitude that might allow ignoring others in need. (7.28

Considering the discussion of our instincts both versions of the Golden Rule may be represented in our hunter-gatherer and evolutionary history. Stephen L. Anderson may be correct about the Golden Rule being less golden - it has a silver version and a golden version. The Girl Scouts of America share a song with the line “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver (new friend) and the other is gold (old friend).” (7.29)

  • The positively phrased “silver” version “Do good…” is making new friends and represents the neighborly “Good Samaritan” who helps all in need. It is supporting the instincts of “Distinctions between right and wrong,” “Empathy,” “Reciprocity,” and “Concepts of fairness,”  (7.3) and may represent evolutionary instincts towards friendliness seen in the behavior pattern, “Greeting.”  (7.22)
  • The negatively phrased “golden” version “Don’t do bad…” is keeping faith with the old friends and is supporting the instincts of  "Nepotism," "Kinship terms," and "In-group favoritism" (7. 3) but which in times of scarcity might also support the instincts of “Hoarding” and "Formalized intraspecific fighting in defense of territory." (7. 22)

New friends and old friends are both important but our instincts may favor protecting family members first.


7.7.3: Friends and family may be identified as “‘insiders” by sharing rituals and customs. 

We learn to trust others or to not trust as easily when we are young and dependent on caregivers. “Rituals” (7.3) that we learn when we are young may be part of what helps us identify who is an “insider” and who is an “outsider” based on who participates in the ritual - such as the ritual of putting up holiday decorations in your yard. (7.30

      As we have more people with neurological differences working and living in our businesses and communities the more aware “neurotypical” people, people with average communications styles, need to be that those with differences may not be able to speak or hear, or otherwise communicate normally. They may be startled or made uncomfortable by festive lights or noises. Efforts to try to speak louder or more aggressively may just cause the person with differences to get silent and scared or to start acting out in some way that might lead to escalating a situation that likely need not have occurred in the first place.

  • A video by Jason Mothorpe shares an insider perspective on what it is like to be on the autism spectrum: You don't know autism: (7.31)
  • Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum: (7.32)
  • 20 Tips for Working with Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders: (7.33)
  • An example of how an amusement park is meeting the needs of those with neurological differences, with "Quiet Rooms" and Three Other New Legoland Upgrades for Guests with Autism: (7.34

Read more on how early childhood and attachment styles can effect an adult’s tendency to trust others in the section Trust is learned early

Continue Reading: 8. Trust is learned early.

Instinct & Policy; Resources

Table of Contents

A woman is looking at a laptop computer, a bottle of water, pile of books & a phone are on the desk.

  • Chapters and Glossary section summaries & links, and a link for the book version of this site, Instinct & Policy: Effective Care and Best Practices for Promoting Health and Preventing Harassment and Discrimination. 

Table of Contents

7. Links & References

A counselor listening to a person whose hands are showing  in a gesture of open sharing.

Links and Reference footnotes for

Chapter 7: When to Report? How?.  

7. Links & References.pdf

Glossary & Resources

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  • Definitions of terms and the resources & therapy techniques from the various sections gathered in one location for convenience with some additional topics and material for background detail not covered elsewhere.    

Glossary & Resources