Bullying particularly when habitual and involving an imbalance of power. It may involve verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed persistently towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target."
Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, while some U.S. states have laws against it.
Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more 'lieutenants' who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.
Rankism can take many forms, including
- exploiting one's position within a hierarchy to secure unwarranted advantages and benefits (e.g. massive corporate bonuses);
- abusing a position of power (e.g., abusive parent or priest, corrupt CEO, bully boss, prisoner abuse);
- using rank as a shield to get away with insulting or humiliating others with impunity;
- using rank to maintain a position of power long after it can be justified;
- exporting the rank achieved in one sphere of activity to claim superior value as a person;
- exploiting rank that is illegitimately acquired or held (as in situations resting on specious distinctions of social rank, such as racism, sexism, or classism.